Matthew Ward: 2nd Chapter Of Acts and Pioneering CCM

Thursday 8th February 2007

Jesus music pioneer MATTHEW WARD speaks to Mike Rimmer.

Matthew Ward
Matthew Ward

In the '70s and '80s Matthew Ward was part of one of the most successful Christian vocal groups ever. The very popular 2nd Chapter Of Acts were pioneers of Christian music who plied their musical wares across churches, theatres and arenas in America and beyond. Formed with his two sisters, Nellie and Annie, the siblings' vocals blended in a natural way that can only be achieved from shared genes. From its beginnings in the American Jesus Movement to their final tour in the '80s, Matthew has a wealth of observations, stories, ministry and experience to share.

We meet face to face in a Nashville hotel to chat about his new autobiography, My Second Chapter, and Ward is affable and friendly. Before we can sit and chat, I have to fight my way through a small knot of well wishers and admirers keen to have a quick word and I can see my allotted time with him ticking slowly from my grasp. Presently, we sit down and I begin by asking why he wanted to write an autobiography at this time of his life.

"Yeah I know," he chuckles, "I'm not old enough probably to have one yet! You know, I just started writing. It wasn't intended to be a book that would be published. I was just writing memoirs for my family. A friend of mine got wind of what I was doing. He worked at WaterBrook Press at the time. I let him read some of it and he was like, 'No, this needs to be a book. You need to finish this and think about going in this direction. This is how you should do it.' I signed a deal with them and got assigned an editor and so forth and it just became a process. So I finally got done with it."

In the process of writing the book "properly", it got chopped by the editors and Ward admits he has some regrets about that. "There are some things that I wish they wouldn't have taken out. The book ended up being a little 'Christian' to me because it's a Christian publisher and that's their market, you know? So they took out a couple of stories where I got a little colourful, you know, before I was a Christian. Gone! I probably had about 130,000/140,000 words and it's been hacked down to about 70,000."

He sums it up with four words. "It's a plain read." And so it is. I spent a merry couple of days reading the account of his life and I missed the other 70,000 words because I love detail and because there are quite a few places where events are skipped. However the book is amusing, very readable and totally interesting. For fans of Christian music My Second Chapter gives a strong, behind the scenes view of one of the most influential of American CCM groups.

Some of Ward's earliest recording experiences were with the mainstream record label MGM who had signed the group. One of their earliest recordings was a short, snappy pop tune "Jesus Is" which featured a stunning vocal from a 13 year old Ward. "It was actually recorded on my 13th birthday," he says.

At the time, MGM's label boss Mike Curb liked clean cut pop acts and as was the fashion of the time, it didn't feel as though singing songs that included the name of Jesus were out of bounds. A young, unsaved Keith Green tried out for the label but was turned down and Larry Norman was signed to MGM and released his classic 'Only Visiting This Planet' through them.

Ward remembers, "Pat Boone was pretty instrumental in getting us in the door with MGM. So our first record deal was with MGM. We never did finish a whole album with them though. We cut about eight songs, some of which the public have never heard. Pretty cool songs though." But it was The Osmonds who were the huge success at MGM with worldwide hits. "Yeah," says Ward, "The Osmonds, they did real well."

I've always theorised that it could just as easily have been the Ward family group that broke big rather than the Osmond brothers and then perhaps the world might have been saved from those toothsome grins and Little Jimmy's "Long Haired Lover From Liverpool" and it would have taken a little longer for us in the UK to discover what a Mormon was!

Ward isn't so sure. He says, "I doubt that it ever would have been just because part of the issue was I don't think they quite knew what to do with us because we weren't singing about pop issues. We were dealing with cultural issues and Christian thematic situations that I don't think a secular company like that had a niche for yet. They didn't have a Christian division of their label. When you look at it now every Christian label is owned by a secular company so it's kind of come full circle but it wasn't that way back then."

As you discover in the book, Ward has strong opinions on the current Christian music situation and isn't afraid to step on a few toes here and there. He also spends a great deal of time letting you into his personal world, particularly into his family and upbringing. There, you discover that Ward was orphaned at a very young age. He says simply, "I lost my mother when I was 10 and I lost my dad when I was 12 years old. That's really where the group 2nd Chapter Of Acts came from. There were still kids living at home and they had to go somewhere. So all of us went to live with brothers and sisters. My sister Nellie and I went to live with my sister Annie and her husband Buck Herring in Los Angeles. That's really how the group got started."

Matthew remembers his eldest sister Annie playing the piano at their new home. "We'd come home from school. Annie was self-taught and Buck bought her a little upright piano. We would just come home from school and pull up chairs around the piano and see what she was up to and see what God was giving her. We liked a lot of what she was doing. Nellie and I would just start singing with her. We didn't know what we were doing but we just kind of fell into natural parts. That part was really easy - doing harmonies. It was always easy for me to hear a harmony. And that's really how the group got started. It was just a time of healing around a piano."

It didn't hurt them that Buck Herring was a record producer. Ward laughs, "No, it didn't hurt! He was an audio-engineer/producer. He was kind of 'up and coming' at the time. It definitely helped get us into the studio and get some real top players that really liked Buck and made it so it was at least affordable for us to go in there and do it. So that worked out."

The book includes the famous story of how Barry McGuire "discovered" the group. "Yeah that was fun," remembers Matthew, "He came over one night. He got wind of my brother-in-law doing some producing and found out he was a Christian. So Barry looked him up. He had names of three people in LA. Buck was one of them. So he came to visit Buck and in that meeting we met Barry and Buck said to us, 'Hey why don't you sing some songs for Barry?' I mean, you get to see Barry's eyes sort of glaze over. He's like, 'How many times have I heard this? Oh, the family's gonna start singing.' But we started singing and he was very impressed with what he heard. Long story short, we ended up doing a record with him and 2nd Chapter did all the background vocals on his first album."

That album was the McGuire classic 'Seeds'. As a result of the success of the album, the group toured as backing vocalists for McGuire and had their first opportunity to be involved with the nascent Christian music scene including working with a young Phil Keaggy. He recalls, "We ended up hooking up with Billy Ray Hearn at Myrrh. That's when we really got signed to our first Christian label. And then when Billy Ray left Myrrh and started Sparrow we went with him. Then some years later we started our own label."

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Reader Comments

Posted by Richard Alan Edwards in Dahlonega, GA @ 22:58 on Apr 9 2017

Dear Christian friends, I want to just say Amen to all of your comments about 2nd Chapter of Acts. Their songs had an immense impact on me as well. Thanks to the Lord for his ministry through them. I am 63 and still listen to their music. However, I would love it if they could re-unite one more time in several locations across the country to minister to us again. Thank you.

Posted by Michael Burke in Bradenton, FL @ 15:06 on Aug 25 2013

Hey Mike,
Thanks for this wonderful interview with Matthew Ward. I gave my life to Jesus in the early 70's and I am so thankful to God for immersing me in the awesome music and revival that rushed through America during that time. God called me to music ministry during that time and we formed a CCM band "Living Free" who toured and recorded original Christian music throughout the 70's later to become "Image". In the 80's everyone went their separate ways to get "serious" about their careers. Disillusioned, disappointed and divorced I found myself on a very dark path all the while holding my two sons, Matthew and Daniel close to me. I knew God had called me to music ministry and I look back at all those years and how He was always there and never let me down. God is faithful!! Five years ago I rededicated my Life to Jesus and it is amazing what He has done. We released a new record "Winds of Time" in 2012 with some of the original members of the band and my sons played on some of the tracks. My wife and I are so excited about what God is going to do in the near future. 2nd Chapter of Acts and Matthew Ward were a huge part of the foundation God started in my life and I agree with Matthew that something big is on the horizon.

Posted by Rev. Tonny Marshall in Sacramento, California @ 03:23 on Sep 27 2011

My comment is to my brother Matthew Ward:

I was born again on July 11 1979, In NTC/RTC Naval Recruiting, San Diego California, and shortly afterwards, was exposed to your music, and that Anointed voice you have. Being a vocalist myself, I was just taken with how God used your voice, and amazing enough, he began to use my voice as well, as I dedicated my life to him, he used me to sing at the chapel on base, upon request by my pastor, and while serving on ships in the Navy. I was moved to tears when I first heard what the spirit did with Psalms 61 when you were with your sisters in concert Live. You sat down to the Piano and what I heard from that point on, was just amazing to me.
I wanted to share with you how your words touched my spirit in those days and Gods hand in your lyrics guided me through life and death conditions while serving my country.
You need to know that I praise God for you, and all that you were obedient to in the Service to our Lord, and I want to have the chance to write to you, and to one day meet you before God Calls either one of us home. I want nothing other than to meet my brother in the Lord to communicate with him and share with him my testimony. In the name of our Lord Jesus.
May God continue to bless you in your ministry.

Posted by Pat Winfield in Louisville KY @ 20:33 on Aug 26 2009

Listening to 1997 "My Redeemer" today.
2nd Chapter & your music played a big part in my Christian growth. I worked at a few of the concerts as a volunteer years ago.
Today just wanted to thank you for the 'gift' you have shared with us through the years. It is still blessing me today and lifting my spirit and worship. The value of music is sorely underestimated by many.
Thanks again to you and your family.

Posted by Jenny Wells in Eugene, OR @ 04:20 on Dec 7 2008

I learned of the 2nd chapter of Acts when I was about 13. I am 44 now. My best friend and I sang "Prince song" at school chapel - we were attending a private church school. Over the years my two sisters and I had a very similiar experience, only we were singing all of Annie Herring's music around the piano while I was playing! A lot of church members at the time did not appreciate the "tone" of the music, but looking back I see the songs as being right on target, in line with God's word. From Keith Green to Matthew Ward to Pam Mark Hall - I loved them all and so much of how I have grown as a Christian I can point to their teaching in their music. Larry Norman also. I am so glad God blessed us with Matthew, Annie and Nellie.

Posted by Jessy in So. Cal. @ 04:44 on Jul 19 2008

Matthew Ward is one of two of my favorite True Christian Artist. His voice is terrific! He stand so far above the numerous groups he was mentioning in "company collection" of "money makers" that are out there selling albums instead of truly trying to reach souls and Proclaim the Word of God. Thank you Mr. Ward for beign such a blessing to me and my life Sir. I look forward to more of your music!! Thank You Jesus for blessing your people with such a tremendous singer.

Posted by Angelina in OCALA, FL @ 03:38 on Feb 25 2008

I really was blessed by your interview with Matthew Ward. The LORD has led me recently back to my roots in Christian music in the past few years in the past few months has led me to brother Matt. Truly his words are so true for I am feeling so much of what he shared, about what has happened in the ministry of music... Matthew and his sisters truly were Worshippers of God.
Thank you for this interview.

Posted by Panayioti Gianaros in New York City @ 05:30 on Jul 29 2007

I grew up listening to Love Song, Phil Keaggy, and of course 2nd Chapter. It was amazing if someone told me when I was a teenager that one day I would go to the same church that Matthew Ward was attending. Well I just visited in 2001 and he gave his concert of a new album at that time. He gave all of us a free CD actually. And what impressed me is this man's meekness, gentleness, and attitude of worship of Jesus.

That was a highlight of my time in Colorado actually, even though I also attended an RC Sproul conference there.

When will any members of the 2nd Chapter of Acts come to present a program for us Christian culture starved New Yorkers??

Posted by Keith Mohr in Franklin, TN @ 06:41 on Feb 17 2007

Wonderful interview Mike. I met Matthew one time.. when I was in the group Harvest. I was in a recording studio in Lindale, TX.. Matthew was producing the Harvest record called "Mighty River." I walked into the control room and Matthew had his feet up on the recording console. He asked me who I was, and I told him I was working with Harvest.. He passed some wind and said.,. "I'll give you a year and you'll be gone".. and wouldnt you know it.. he was right. I called Matthew the "gassy prophet," because he called that one! Its good to hear he is doing well.

And yes.. I agree.. the Lord is calling His minstrels.. those who are commited to the call and dedicated to service. The age of christian idols is almost over. There is a new wind blowing.. Its called INTERDEPENDENCE.. This is where artists who are not signed to a record contract come together to serve one another and help one another in their music missions.

The work I am doing with is a part of this new movement. And it all started when I was in Lindale, TX back in 1991. God is moving! The industry as we know it is crumbling. The old stadium is being torn down and a new game is being played.

Watch the coming changes.. labels as we know them will not be the same in the next few years..

Reply by Patricia Wilson in Newberry, S.C. @ 03:48 on Jan 27 2009

Hey Keith,
Remember me, from the Harvest concerts and stuff? I just wanted to say hi and tell Cheryl hi for me too. Would love to hear from you.
patricia Wilson

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Posted by Verne Bullock in Brighton, Colorado @ 14:27 on Feb 11 2007

I became a christian thru the ministry of The Salt Company, in LA, in 1970. I met Annie, Buck, Nellie and Matthew one morning when a girl I had met at Hollywood Pres, invited me to go meet some friends of hers "waiting on God to do a music thing with them." Our drive into the Hollywood Hills ended at Annie and Buck Herrings home, where sitting around in their kitchen, we got to know each other a little...

What Matthew says is so right on...and I can't wait to see him again. I heard he lives in Colorado Springs, CO now, and we have a mutual acquaintence, It won't be long, and we will be face to face again...

The Lord is up to something, just like Matthew said. Two weeks ago, I attended the 70th birthday party for Don Williams, the pastor under whose ministry, The Salt Company began in Los Angeles. All of my friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who came to know Jesus then, were together again, in the same building, and it was more than just a birthday party, I think and hope it was the birth of the next movement...finishing the work that was started in the 70's revival, calling the elect together again, and anointing us for service, on the streets, in the Starbucks coffee shops of the world, surrendering ourselves to Christ, letting Him do His work.

For by Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to Him be Glory forever...

Thanks for the article....come to Colorado and let me give you some more information Mike...I'd love to talk to you...Verne

Reply by Angelina in OCALA, FL @ 04:06 on Feb 25 2008

Brother Verne,
Amen to your comment and brother Matts word that the Lord is doing something in his people.I to was Saved in the 70s have been experiencing the same draw back to my first love. And that God will finish what he started in the 70s. Like Matt said in the streets through His church.

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Reply by Traci in Brighton @ 19:19 on Mar 1 2007

I enjoyed reading your story. Wondering if you might be able to direct me in some way. My daughter (6 years old) is definately a child of God. She would like to become an active part of Christian Music and I am just not sure where to go with this. I told her I'd check on the intranet today ~ and that's when your story showed up.

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