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When asked about the proper term to describe his condition, Marshall gets straight to the point. "I prefer 'gimp'," he says candidly. "People use politically correct terms to hide the truth, and I think all this P.C. stuff is bullshit. I'm not offended by what a person says or thinks. I had to give that up a long time ago. If you get offended by a word that somebody calls you, you've got a lot more to overcome than I do." He recalls only one term that got under his skin: While having a beer at a Nashville bar, another local musician called him a "gimmick." Still, Marshall claims, "It didn't really offend me. It just pissed me off."
By the same token, Marshall is quite aware of his unusual musical chops and understands that they could be used to his advantage. "A record company could look at me and see me as profitable because of my disability," he admits. "And when I first started playing, I thought, 'Wow, I could be somebody famous.' But that way of thinking really doesn't work for me." Then he jokingly contradicts this statement. "Remember that album by Def Leppard--Hysteria?" he asks, grinning. "It sold about 12 million copies, and their drummer had only one arm. I'm thinking that maybe if I took up drums, I could sell 24 million copies!"
Jamie Alonge certainly believes that Marshall is capable of such an achievement--or anything else he sets his mind to. A Denver musician who owns a ticket agency, Alonge met Marshall over the phone while Jeffrey, who'd moved to Colorado a few months after his brother had relocated here, was making plane reservations. "Jeff was heading back to Nashville, and he mentioned that he played bass," Alonge elaborates. "So I told him to call me when he got back to town." He did, and Alonge and Marshall struck up a friendship on both a musical and personal level. In Alonge's view, "Jeffrey is the most amazing bass player I've ever seen, and his sound is the most unique I've ever heard. He's also a very wise man." Marshall is equally complimentary of Alonge. "He's one of the best songwriters and musicians I've ever heard. He's also one of the most beautiful people a friend could ask for."
For now, the players are putting their collaborative musical projects on hold. The reason? Marshall is taking a break from his job at Alonge's company (he processes data with his toes) in order to tour the West in a hearse a friend of his recently purchased. "Life's too fun to waste it," he asserts. "I want to be one of those people who experiences life." During his travels, Marshall intends to support himself by playing on the street. "Music is my passion--it's what I was put on this earth to do. And I really love the art of being a street musician. It's beautiful. It's pure."
A moment later, Marshall asks a visitor to place his harmonica rack on the floor by his head so that he can practice a musical skill he'll use on the streets--playing harmonica and bass at the same time. As his toes tap out a bass line, Marshall leans his head into the harp rack and blows a spare, earthy blues. His eyes are gleaming. But after he's finished, he shrugs off any and all compliments. "I don't consider myself an inspiring person," he says. "I'm just this guy who plays music.
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