Marshall Chapman grew up a member of one of the most well-known families in Spartanburg County, SC (the Chapmans owned the local cotton mill) and loved both athletics and music. In 1957, the young Chapman was taken to the Carolina Theatre in downtown Spartanburg to see Elvis Presley perform, and it changed her life forever.

A natural athlete, she placed second in the South Carolina Junior Girls' golf tournament, and once outscored the entire opposing team while engaging in a spirited prep basketball game. When she arrived at Nashville's prestigious Vanderbilt University in 1967, where she would major in French, it was the music, not athletics, that captured her soul. Outlaw country music was beginning to sweep Music City, and Marshall found herself performing at the Exit/In with the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Billy Joe Shaver. Her education by book was overshadowed only by her honky tonk education. She graduated from Vanderbilt in the spring of 1971.