News / Calgary

Calgary character Jay Marshall dead at 66

Bassist, bottle picker and entrepreneur was well-known in the downtown

Jay Marshall was known for his roller skates, playing the upright bass and singing karaoke.


Jay Marshall was known for his roller skates, playing the upright bass and singing karaoke.

Maybe you saw Jay Marshall outside the Stampede Grounds, dressed as a cowboy and playing the shell game with tourists.

Maybe you saw him roller-skating on Stephen Avenue.

He was famous among skateboarders, punk rockers, bottle pickers, police and just about anyone who spent time in downtown Calgary.

He died on Tuesday morning in Foothills Hospital. Marshall had been suffering from prostate cancer. Friends believe he was 66 years old.

Marshall never had official ID according to friends, and they were never sure if any of his backstory was true.

“It was always sort of a shtick with him,” said friend Jay Slinger. “You’d never get a real straight, honest answer.”

Another close friend, Joan Smart, said Marshall always said he was from the US Virgin Islands, and that he had served in the US Military.

She said he loved to gamble, but he was also good at it. He would charm people with his sleight of hand at the shell game. She said most didn’t mind losing a few bucks to Jay, since he put on a good show.

Megan Kirk, co-owner of Tubby Dog, said Marshall was a performer and a busker, rather than a panhandler.

“He was a hard-working dude who made money in strange ways,” she said.

Marshall had an upright bass, and played in a few bands. He was also known for singing karaoke at bars along 17th Avenue, and he was a big fan of the punk rock scene. Friends say he never had to pay cover at live shows.

Aside from his shell game, he worked odd jobs at skate shops or collected bottles. He had many regulars who would save their bottles for him.

Lee Moore at Smilin’ Buddah Tattoo would drop his empties off to Marshall every few weeks.

“Usually he would rope me into driving around with my truck. We would spend a whole Sunday going from place to place, picking up bottles.”

Sgt. Chris Ogwald with the Calgary Police Service worked the downtown beat in the 2000s. He remembers Marshall’s big smile and his roller skates.

“Every interaction was positive and we never got any complaints from citizens regarding him,” said Ogwald. “He never bothered anyone or got in anyone’s way. He will be missed.”

An informal memorial for Marshall will be held at the Ship and Anchor Pub in coming weeks.  

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