|Parent company||Curb Records|
|Distributor(s)||Word Distribution (US CBA and general markets)|
|Genre||Gospel/contemporary Christian music|
|Country of origin||United States|
Word Records was founded in Waco, Texas, in 1951 by Jarrell McCracken, Baylor business major Henry SoRelle and radio and television executive Ted Snider. The label's name is based on a 16-minute spoken word recording written and narrated by McCracken, the first recording released by the label, entitled "The Game of Life". The 23-year-old KWTX sportscaster in Waco had read an article by Jimmy Allen, a former athlete who became a Baptist preacher, and based his recording on the article which also is called "The Game of Life". The event is based on a full length match between the forces of Good and Evil with Jesus Christ and Satan coaching the two teams. McCracken was familiar with play-by-play broadcasting, having created virtual baseball games for radio broadcast based on wire reports. McCracken originally presented his "The Game of Life" presentation on Sunday nights at various churches around the central Texas area. Everywhere he presented "The Game of Life", he got requests for copies. Eventually, he had a short run of records pressed to offer at churches where he spoke. The fictional radio station in the recording has the call letters "WORD", so that was printed on the label of the custom record. After being asked by a friend when he was going to release a follow-up, McCracken then decided to pursue the label on a more serious level.
Subsequent records focused on other spoken word recordings, but Word soon branched out into southern gospel music. Early employees for the label included Tom Norfleet, Kurt Kaiser and Ralph Carmichael.
The label struggled initially until Marvin Norcross became an equity partner. By 1954, Word had become a publishing house as well.
Several subsidiary labels were started over the years: Canaan Records in the sixties, Myrrh Records (1972) and DaySpring Records in 1977, and Rejoice Records in the eighties. Two of these labels no longer exist today in their original form. The Myrrh Label was resurrected in 2005 as a praise and worship record label: Myrrh Worship. Canaan Records was also re-opened in early 2007 with Dave Clark at the helm.
In 1983, Chris Christian signed a distribution deal to move his label Home Sweet Home Records from Benson Records to Word Records, today it is still active and remains under the independent ownership of Chris Christian.
Light Records was distributed in the 1970s by Word Records before being sold to Ralph Carmichael in the 1980s.
Distribution deals with other labels in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s allowed Word Records to rise to the top, virtually housing a who’s-who in Christian music. They distributed, promoted, and advertised the biggest names in contemporary Christian music. Artists such as Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, Russ and Tori Taff, Benny Hester, Paul Smith, The Imperials, Petra, Helen Baylor, Sandi Patti, Kenny Marks, Wayne Watson, Carman, The Archers featuring Steve Archer, White Heart, Gaither Vocal Band, Bill Gaither Trio, Point of Grace, Love Song, Sweet Comfort Band, The Nelons, Happy Goodman Family featuring Rusty Goodman, Florida Boys, Guardian and other artists.
In 1992, Capital Cities ABC sold Word to Thomas Nelson, Inc. for $72 Million, and Nelson made two major changes—developing the present swirling W logo for book products which was unveiled in 1995, and also moving its headquarters from Waco, Texas, to its present headquarters in Nashville. Nelson split the record label and book publishing arms in 1996 when the labels were sold to Gaylord Entertainment. In an agreement with Gaylord, Thomas Nelson continued to use the "Word Publishing" name for its book imprint until 2002, at which time it became "W Publishing Group" and retained the swirling W logo. A highly controversial ad campaign introduced at the CBA convention in 2002 created litigation, settled later.
After Colin Reed took over Gaylord Entertainment in 2001, the hotelier made corporate changes at the company, including the ousting of longstanding president Roland Lundy, and sold off the Word Entertainment group to then-AOL Time Warner in 2002. In 2002, former Atlantic Records Christian division manager Barry Landis briefly took the position of president of the label group division. Word went through a period of restructuring, closing their Los Angeles music publishing office, absorbing Myrrh Records, Squint Entertainment, and Everland Entertainment into the Word Label Group, and reducing in-house staff. Curb Records also gained a stake in the company during this time. In 2004, the company was sold again as part of Time Warner divestiture of its music division, selling it to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman to form a newly independent Warner Music Group.
In March 2016, it was announced that Mike Curb acquired 100% of Word Entertainment (excluding the print music division) from Warner Music Group. The print music division (Word Music and Church Resources) - excluding Word Publishing - was subsequently acquired by The Lorenz Corporation in February, 2017.
This is a list of artists, past and present, who have recorded for Word Records over the past several decades
- Meredith Andrews
- About a Mile
- Chris August
- Francesca Battistelli
- Big Daddy Weave
- Jason Castro
- Family Force 5 (changed name to FF5)
- Group 1 Crew
- Love & the Outcome
- Dara Maclean
- Point of Grace
- Sidewalk Prophets
- Stars Go Dim
- We Are Messengers
- Jason Walker
- Zealand Worship
- Across the Sky
- Dick Anthony
- The Archers 1975-1980 Light Records, 1990 Reunion Records
- Steve Archer 1983-1988 Home Sweet Home Records
- Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters Canaan
- Helen Baylor
- Charles Billingsley
- Calvin Bridges
- Anita Bryant
- Building 429 (Active on INO Records)
- Shirley Caesar (Word/Rejoice/Myrrh) (1980–1991)
- Bruce Carroll
- Johnny Cash (1986 album Believe in Him)
- The Cathedrals Canaan
- Patrick Ryan Clark
- Ashley Cleveland
- Clay Crosse
- Billy Ray Cyrus (Word/Warner Bros./Curb) (2003–2004)
- Dakota Motor Co 1994-1996 Myrrh
- Bryan Duncan
- O'landa Draper and the Associates 1990-1994 Word, 1996-2001 Warner Music Group
- The Florida Boys Canaan
- Gaither Vocal Band 1980-1985 Dayspring
- John Gimenez
- Happy Goodman Family 1964-1982 Canaan, 1990 Word Records
- Amy Grant
- Bruce Greer
- Guardian 1990-1994 Pakaderm, 1995-1997 Myrrh
- The Hemphills Canaan
- Holy Soldier 1989–1991 Myrrh
- The Hoppers Canaan
- The Imperials 1977-1984 Dayspring, 1985-1988 Myrrh
- The Inspirations Canaan
- Wes King
- The Kingsmen Canaan
- Rachael Lampa
- The Lefevres Canaan
- The Lewis Family Canaan
- Liberation Suite Myrrh 1975
- Mark Lowry
- Kenny Marks
- Babbie Mason
- David Meece
- Rich Mullins Reunion Records
- The Nelons Canaan
- Michael Omartian
- Sandi Patti
- Petra 1974-1977 Myrrh, 1983-1986 StarSong (under Word) 1989-1994 Dayspring, 1995-2000 Word Records
- David Phelps
- Leslie Phillips 1984–1987 Myrrh
- pureNRG 2006-2011 Fervent
- Mark Schultz
- George Beverly Shea
- Sixpence None the Richer
- Janet Lynn Skinner
- Chris Sligh
- Paul Smith 1986-1989 Dayspring
- Michael W Smith Reunion Records
- Thurlow Spurr and the Spurrlows
- Stellar Kart (active on INO Records)
- Russ Taff 1983-1991 Myrrh
- Randy Travis
- Jaci Velasquez 1996-1998 Myrrh, 1999-2006 Word
- Greg X Volz
- Mike Warnke - 1975-1986 Myrrh, 1987-1992 Dayspring
- Wayne Watson
- Kelli Williams
- The Vernon Daily Record, Tue, Dec, 4, 1951, Page 3
- Mount, Daniel J. (2005). A City on a Hilltop? The History of Contemporary Christian Music. p. 50. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- Based on an interview with Jarrell McCracken, May 1997, Waco, TX
- Price, Deborah Evans (2005-04-23). "NEWSLINE: Word Label Group". Billboard Magazine. 117 (17): 8.
- (unsigned) (November 1992). "In the News: EMI Buys Sparrow, Thomas Nelson Buys Word". CCM Magazine. 15 (5): 4. ISSN 1524-7848.
- Milliot, Jim (1996-12-02). "With Word sale, Nelson to focus on core business". 243 (49). Publishers Weekly. p. 12.
- "GAYLORD ENTERTAINMENT COMPLETES PURCHASE OF WORD RECORDS AND MUSIC FROM THOMAS NELSON". Business Wire. 1997-01-07. p. 1071302.
- Price, Deborah Evans (1996-12-07). "Gaylord buys Word's music companies". Billboard Magazine. 108 (49): 6.
- Price, Deborah Evans (2001-12-08). "Sale To Warner Brings Word Into Major Leagues". Billboard Magazine. 113 (49): 8.
- Price, Deborah Evans (2002-03-09). "Word restructures, Woos Landis". Billboard Magazine. 114 (10): 6.
- Rau, Nate (2016-03-02). "Curb Records acquires Word Entertainment". The Tennessean.
- Word Records website
- Word Distribution
- Word Records History with artist roster, Billboard pop performance, photo gallery, more.
- Word Records role in The History of Christian Stand-up Comedy
- Chris Christian Entertainment - Home Sweet Home Records