A native of Philadelphia, Marty Gamblin began his long career in the music business through booking bands while still in high school. He later worked closely with Mississippi songwriter/performer Jim Weatherly, and ran Glen Campbell’s publishing firm, from which he helped launch the career of Alan Jackson. Gamblin was the founding executive director of the Mississippi Arts Entertainment Experience (The MAX) in Meridian.
Marty Gamblin exemplifies that much of the important work in country music takes place behind the scenes. Born Lamar N. Gamblin, Jr. on August 21, 1944, here in Philadelphia, he listened to the Grand Ole Opry as a child, and his parents, Lamar and Louise, also exposed him to country music at the Jimmie Rodgers Day festivals in Meridian in the 1950s and the Neshoba County Fair, where he saw groups including Carl Sauceman and the Green Valley Boys, who played regularly on Meridian TV station WTOK from the mid-’50s through the early ’60s.
Gamblin played trombone in Victor W. Zajec’s award-winning band at Philadelphia High School, and while there and at East Central Junior College, Gamblin booked local R&B groups Foots Baxstrum and the Rhythm Rockers, and Virgil Griffin and the Rhythm Kings at venues in Philadelphia and Louisville. Gamblin left Mississippi State University to work for Jackson-based Vivace Music as a tour manager, promoter and booking agent for artists including Dorothy Moore’s vocal group The Poppies, Jim Weatherly & the Vegas, Tim Whitsett and the Imperials, Tommy Tate, and B.J. Thomas. In the early ’70s, Gamblin worked for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, overseeing tribal community programs and directing the Choctaw Indian Fair, and in 1977 moved to Nashville to open songwriter Jim Weatherly’s publishing company, Rip/Keca music, which later relocated to Los Angeles. During Gamblin’s tenure, dozens of artists recorded Weatherly’s songs, with top ten hits across multiple genres delivered by artists including Weatherly, Ray Price, Charley Pride, Bob Luman, and Gladys Knight & the Pips, whose Weatherly-composed “Midnight Train to Georgia” reached #1 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts in 1973 and received a GRAMMY.
From 1982 until 2002, Gamblin was the president of Glen Campbell Music Group, managing artists including Alan Jackson, Bryan White, Dorothy Moore, Pearl River, and Ruby Lovette, and enjoying sixteen #1 hits through his representation of the catalogs of writers including Jackson, White, Derek George, Carl Jackson, Gene Autry, Jerry Fuller, Jimmy Webb, and Clyde Otis. These included Jackson’s ASCAP songs of the year “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” in 1992, “Chattahoochee” in 1994; Webb’s GRAMMY-winning “Highwayman,” recorded by supergroup the Highwaymen; and Randy Travis’ GRAMMY-nominated “It’s Just a Matter of Time.”
In 2003 Gamblin returned to Mississippi and worked for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and in 2010 became the executive director of the Mississippi Arts Entertainment Experience (The MAX), working with design, content, marketing and fundraising for the world-class facility that pays tribute to Mississippi’s iconic arts and entertainment figures and is intended to inspire future artists. After it opened in 2018, Gamblin continued as the director of its Hall of Fame and Walk of Fame.
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