Lee Marshall, Longtime Voice of Tony the Tiger, Dead at 64

05/08/2014 at 02:20 PM EDT

Lee Marshall, Longtime Voice of Tony the Tiger, Dead at 64
Lee Marshall and Tony the Tiger (inset)
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Lee Marshall, the man who provided the voice of Tony the Tiger for more than a decade, died last month in a Santa Monica hospital of esophageal cancer, reports the Los Angeles Times.

He was 64, according to the paper, though some sources list his age as 67.

Marshall's thunderous bass earned him gigs as a wrestling announcer, DJ and voice-over actor. Yet he became best known for uttering just two words while pitching Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal as the iconic spokestiger beginning in 1999: "They're g-r-r-r-e-a-t."

The Los Angeles native is only the second actor to give voice to "Tony" – Thurl Ravenscroft inaugurated the gig for TV commercials in 1952. Marshall began assisting when Ravenscroft was in his 80s and having difficulty with dialogue, and took over full-time after Ravenscroft's death in 2005.

Marshall got his show business start at only 14 when he landed his first radio job at a station in Phoenix. (His booming voice had already developed – he simply lied about his age.)

He later went on to become a well-known DJ at Phoenix station KRIZ – noticed both for his resonant voice and over-the-top stunts – and later at stations in Canada, San Diego and Los Angeles, where he worked for a rap station and also hosted a talk show at Dodgers Stadium.

"If God ever wanted to make a speech, Lee Marshall would get the call," former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once quipped.

Marshall also traveled the country doing ringside interviews with prominent wrestling stars, and voiced cartoon villains – at times to his chagrin.

"I would just once like to be the guy who saves Scooby-Doo," he reportedly complained to his agent, who brushed him off.

"You'll always be the guy who tries to kill Scooby-Doo," his agent replied.

Marshall is survived by his wife, Judie, son Jason Marshall VanBorssum, stepdaughter Eve Borders Ottis and granddaughter Kate.

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