EIGHINGER: 'Grrrreat' and familiar voice lost with passing of Lee Marshall

Posted: Apr. 29, 2014 7:38 pm Updated: Jul. 23, 2014 9:15 am

America has lost one of its great voices.

For more than 40 years, most of us welcomed Lee Marshall into our homes in some fashion. Many of us probably imitated him without even knowing his name.

If you have recently heard one of those "Tony the Tiger" commercials for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, that was Marshall's deep baritone voice telling us those famed sugar-coated corn flakes were "Grrrreat!" He had been the voice of Tony for about a decade.

Marshall was one of the nation's favorite announcers, one of those anonymous personalities who only our ears recognized. Although his age was not released in information pertaining to his death on Sunday, Marshall was known to have been in his mid- to late-60s, judging from details pertaining to his early life.

Marshall entertained us on hundreds of national television and radio commercials, plus motion pictures and TV shows. He was the "spokesvoice" for many national ad campaigns, ranging from Anheuser-Busch to Kia, and was a frequent voiceover on cartoons ranging from "The Justice League" to "Veggie Tales." Marshall also was known for his TV and movie narrations.

My first brush with Marshall's familiar voice came in the late 1960s and early 1970s while living back in Ohio. Little did I know, but Marshall, despite the richness of his deep, mature-sounding voice, was less than 10 years older than me.

One of the nation's premier AM rock stations when I was in my formative years was CKLW out of Detroit/Windsor, Canada, which blanketed much of the Midwest with its 50,000-watt powerhouse signal. CKLW, at 800 on the dial, was the KMOX of pop music. CKLW's disc jockeys were legendary, and so was its news anchorman -- Lee Marshall -- with his "20/20 news updates."

Marshall also carved out an equally legendary career in the world of pro wrestling. He became a familiar voice for the World Championship Wrestling, American Wrestling Association and World Wrestling Entertainment sports entertainment productions.

The high points of his career in pro wrestling came when he was a ring announcer for Wrestlemania and became a key component of the WCW Monday Nitro TV productions.

Marshall became known as "Stagger Lee" during his WCW days and helped create one of the most memorable announcing teams in squared-circle history when he worked with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Tony Schiavone. Marshall's "Weasel" jokes directed at Heenan -- the "bad guy" among the three -- were the stuff of legends.

Marshall also earned a footnote in pro wrestling history when he inadvertently became involved in brawl outside the ring during a battle royale and was repeatedly kicked in the head by the Barbarian and Meng. All in a day's work for a pro wrestling announcer.

Within hours of the announcement of Marshall's death, many of the pro wrestling websites were flooded with notes and condolences from fans who remembered Marshall and that incredible voice.

Rest in peace, Stagger Lee. You were grrreat.


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