Meet the judges of the 2021 Mississippi Songwriter of the Year competition


Three legends in the music industry will serve as judges for the 2021 Boswell Media Mississippi Songwriter of the Year competition.

Mississippi native Charlie Ross and Muscle Shoals musician/historian Johnny Belew will return to judge the show for the fifth straight year. Also returning to the judges panel, for the fourth year in a row, is Neshoba County native Marty Gamblin.

Charlie Ross was most visible in the late ’60s when he was the lead singer (and bassist) of Eternity’s Children, a Mississippi-based pop vocal group. Ross started out in music as the lead singer of the Phantoms (aka Nolan Branton & the Phantoms), a top local band based in the Mississippi Delta.

They evolved into Eternity’s Children, which enjoyed some local and regional success with their brand of sunshine pop, highlighted by the lead singing of Ross and Linda Lawley. Ross released his first solo single, “Laughing Girl” (credited to Charles Ross III), while still a member of Eternity’s Children. Following the breakup of the original lineup in 1970, Ross moved on to a solo career, releasing various singles, mostly in a country vein. He also recorded a solo album, The High Cost of Loving, cut at Muscle Shoals Studio, and charted a few country singles — most notably “Without Your Love (Mister Jordan).” He has also worked for RCA records for over 40 years. In the years since, he has been a radio host and digital communications entrepreneur, in addition to running his own production company.



Muscle Shoals musician/historian and local “Shoals” icon Johnny Belew will join the panel of judges once again for this year’s competition. Belew has been a staple in the Muscle Shoals music scene for over 15 years.

Besides helping stage and cater countless concerts and benefits in the Shoals area over the years, he serves on the board of the Shoals Earth Day. Belew is a board member of the Music Preservation Society, which oversees the W.C. Handy Music Festival every July. He is also the co-chair of the W.C. Handy Music Committee.

The title of “tourism ambassador to Colbert County” that he earned from tourism officials in 2015 is one of his dearest accomplishments. Belew loves seeing young folks perpetuate the music tradition in the Shoals.

“I get super excited when I see young people coming out to perform. I have the utmost respect for all the iconic musicians here, but when I see young people, I just get really, really excited. It lets me know that Muscle Shoals music is in good hands for years to come,” Belew said.



With a career in the entertainment business in Los Angeles and Nashville spanning almost 40 years, as a manager, Marty Gamblin has represented such artists as Alan Jackson, Bryan White, Dorothy Moore, Ruby Lovette, Pearl River, South 65 and has worked with Country Hall of Famer Glen Campbell and numerous others.

As a music publisher, Marty’s company was named one of Billboard’s Top 10 Publishers and had sixteen number one singles including ASCAP’s Song of the Year two years in a row for “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” and “Chattahoocee.” His writers have had recordings by such artists as the Temptations, Ray Charles, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney, Vince Gill, Leann Rives, Kenny Rogers, Cher, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, LL Cool J, Fleetwood Mac, just to name a few.

Marty not only worked with his own staff writers but also represented the catalogues of such hall of fame songwriters as Gene Autry, Jimmy Webb, Jerry Fuller, Clyde Otis, and Jim Weatherly.

Additionally, Marty has his very own marker on Mississippi’s Country Music Trail.


The 2021 Mississippi Songwriter of the Year Competition is set for Saturday, June 19 at the The Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience in Meridian.

Tickets are available now at

Doors open at 5:30 pm. The show begins at 7:00 pm.

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