Born in Detroit and raised in the surrounding area, Marshall played in number of different bands in high school, eventually landing in his first professional combo, ASTIGAFA (an acronym for "A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed for All," cribbed from the back of Sgt. Pepper). Although nothing releasable came of this venture, it surely cemented the basic ingredients of his style that would surface full bloom at the dawn of his solo career. According to Crenshaw, "That band really didn't have a high profile in Detroit, but I was using that time, working alone, woodshedding, gathering information. Around '73, I just stopped listening to the radio and just became immersed listening to old 45s from the '50s and early '60s. It seemed to me that there was more immediacy in those records than the stuff that was on the radio at that time." But just as his ears learned to love echoey mono '50s records, his songwriting influences went in an opposite direction: "One batch of stuff that I really feel that I was strongly influenced by was a lot of the R&B-pop kind of stuff that was around in the early '70s. I just love that romantic kind of R&B kind of sound, all those chord changes in those tunes."
But Detroit was not a musical hotbed by the late '70s, so Crenshaw responded to an ad in Rolling Stone and auditioned for the Broadway musical Beatlemania. Hired as a John Lennon understudy, Crenshaw moved to New York City and quickly found himself in a heady, competitive situation. After serving a six-month "Beatle boot camp" training, he appeared with the show for six months in Hollywood and San Francisco, then finished up his last six months with the production on the road. Though he found the show creatively stifling, it made him sit down and figure out what kind of music he wanted to do and eventually -- after buying a four-track recorder -- started making demos whenever he was home.
Soon Marshall was armed both with demos galore -- dropping them off to any show business connection that might listen -- and his younger brother was playing drums in his trio, which was starting to plug into New York City's burgeoning new wave club scene. About that time Crenshaw hooked up with local scenester Alan Betrock, who had recently started his own label, Shake Records. It was Crenshaw's debut single "Something's Gonna Happen" on Betrock's label that kicked up enough noise to bring major label interest knocking at his door. Signing with Warner Brothers in 1982, Marshall recorded five superbly crafted studio albums before parting ways seven years later to sign with MCA for one album, Life's Too Short. During this flurry of activity, Crenshaw also flexed his acting muscles, portraying a high school bandleader in Peggy Sue Got Married, Buddy Holly in La Bamba and a guest appearance on the Nickelodeon series Pete and Pete. Emerging from a three-year hiatus, Marshall signed with the independent label Razor & Tie label, released a live album (Live: My Truck Is My Home) in 1994 and in 1996, released a new studio effort, Miracle of Science. The 9 Volt Years, a collection of demos and home recordings, followed in 1998, and a year later Crenshaw returned with a new studio effort, #447. ~ Cub Koda, All Music Guide