Jarrell McCracken, 1927-2007

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Monday 12th November 2007

Word Records founder Jarrell McCracken dies aged 79

ONE OF the key record executives in the development of Christian music, Jarrell McCracken, the founder of Word Entertainment, passed away on 7th November in Waco, Texas. McCracken was born in Wartburg, Tennessee, on 18th November 1927. While obtaining a master's degree in religion from Baylor, he provided radio play-by-play calling for football and basketball games.

According to company lore, McCracken and two fellow Baylor students started Word Records in Waco in 1951 after the 23-year-old recorded a fictitious football match between the forces of Good and Evil, with Jesus and Satan coaching the two teams. 'The Game Of Life', as McCracken's recorded game became known, was presented at area churches on Sunday nights and became popular enough for people to request copies. Soon McCracken began producing additional gospel music, hymns and choir musicals on his new label.

By the '70s Word Records had moved into Christian pop music signing such acts as Amy Grant for its Myrrh subsidiary. Word eventually comprised of a label group, music publishing, distribution and church resource divisions. McCracken sold part interest to American Broadcasting Co in 1974, and remained president of the company until 1986. In 2004, it became a Warner Music Group/Curb Records property based in Nashville.

Later in life, McCracken founded Bentwood Farms, which managed some of the most valuable Arabian horses in the world. McCracken, who had long suffered from Alzheimer's disease, remained active in Waco's Seventh And James Baptist Church throughout his life. His funeral was be held there on 10th November. He is survived by his wife, Judy Murray McCracken, and two children. CR

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