Arthur Marshall was born on a farm in Saline County, MO, and moved with his family to Sedalia when the boy was three or four years old. Scott Hayden was Marshall's schoolmate throughout their formative years and at Lincoln High School. In 1896 Scott Joplin stayed with the Marshall family for a few months while seeking lodgings of his own. The two friends excelled under his tutelage, and began to compose their own music with plenty of coaching from Joplin. As soon as they could get away with it they were performing at the local clubs, which at that time included the Maple Leaf and Nellie Hall's. They also provided musical entertainment inside certain sporting houses. Parental disapproval was assuaged by the quantity of tips earned late at night. This was in 1899.
Marshall had originally been classically trained, and now under the influence of Joplin he was blossoming into a fully developed ragtime artist. He also studied music theory at the Methodist George R. Smith College for Negroes, as Joplin had before him. It was around this time that Joplin and Marshall played piano in the city's parks while the public danced. Marshall later claimed that "rags were played in Sedalia before Scott Joplin settled there, but he got to making them really go." Marshall recalled Joplin's left hand playing a bassline that "swung exceedingly well." The two men collaborated on a piece for which Marshall composed themes and Joplin the trio, or middle section. When John Stark published it in 1900, he used a photograph of his regular shoeshine boy on the sheet music's cover, and called the selection "Swipesy Cakewalk" because of the apparent "cookie swiping" expression on the child's face.
From 1900 to 1902, Marshall toured with McCabe's Minstrels, playing piano accompaniments for the acts and during intermissions. He also worked the cymbals in street parades under the leadership of Bunk Johnson. In 1903 he was pianist at Tom Turpin's Rosebud Saloon and for the Scott Joplin Drama Company in St. Louis. He played at St. Louis' Spanish Cafe for a while at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904, making $12 a week until, according to Rudi Blesh, "the noisy band at Hagenbeck's Animal Show across the Pike drove him out and an Iberian orchestra took his place." Marshall moved to Chicago in 1906, playing at the Lewis Saloon, Charlie Baskett's Eureka Saloon & Winter Garden, and at the reportedly disorienting Mirror Restaurant. Having survived a brief and unhappy first marriage, Marshall now married his soulmate, Julia Jackson. He wrote a two-step and called it "Kinklets." When Joplin came and stayed with him, Marshall orchestrated Joplin's latest bit of work, "Ragtime Dance." He also collaborated with Joplin on a beautiful thing called by the name of "Lily Queen."
Marshall's last steady gig in Chicago was at the La Salle Hotel, run by the most notorious white slave smugglers in the continental United States. Marshall published "The Peach," "Pippin Rag," and a truncated title called "Ham and -- Rag" in 1908. He returned in 1910 to St. Louis where he spent six years working at Tom Turpin's Eureka, then at the Moonshine Gardens. In 1914, Marshall devised an arrangement of Turpin's "Pan-Am Rag." Then in 1916 Julia died while giving birth to their third child. Her husband suffered terribly from the shock and loss. A nervous condition set in, causing sudden weight loss and involuntary spasms of the left hand. Marshall withdrew from musical activity, moved to Kansas City, remarried, tended a garden, and raised chickens for years. In 1950 he managed to publish three pieces left over from the heyday of 1907-1908: "National Prize Rag," "Silver Arrow," and a slow drag called "Missouri Romp." He even enjoyed a bit of a comeback during the 1950s, playing piano for an entirely new public. Two more rags were brought out in 1966: "Century Prize" and "Silver Rocket." "Little Jack's Rag" was published posthumously in 1976. Arthur Marshall passed away on the 18th of August 1968.