A saxophone player and vocalist, Hurt was once a singer with the Vincent Lopez band before becoming part of a vocal trio with Bud and Gordon Vandover billed as "Tom, Dick, and Harry" . When the act was dissolved due to Bud Vandover's death in 1943, Hurt became a solo performer with a combination of saxophone and dialect humor.
Hurt's inspiration for the Beulah voice was an African-Amerian woman named Mary who cooked for his family. While he had used this characterization on his radio guest spots, it was Fibber McGee writer Don Quinn who "discovered" Hurt for a widespread audience, casting Hurt/Beulah as the McGees' maid on what was one of the highest rated radio programs.
The widespread popularity of the McGee version of Hurt's character, based as much on the novelty of a white man portraying a black woman as the humor written for the character, eventually warranted a spin-off series. On the resulting Marlin Hurt and Beulah Show, Hurt also played Beulah's boyfriend, Bill Jackson, in addition to Beulah and himself. This CBS series was nearing the end of its first year when Hurt suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 40, bringing an abrupt end to the initial run.