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Benson Music Group
aka The Benson Company, The New Benson Company,
Benson Music, The Great Circle Record Company,
the Benson Music Group was shut down in 2000 by
Provident Music Group, 741 Cool Springs Blvd, Franklin, TN 37067.
Updated, expanded and reformatted April 2, 2012.

HISTORY: THE BEGINNINGS
The John T. Benson Music Publishing Company was founded in 1902.
In the early sixties, Benson launched its first record label, Heartwarming Records, a Southern Gospel label in Nashville to showcase it’s copyrighted music. Artists in the coming years included the Rambos, Henry and Hazel Slaughter, Sego and Naomi, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Speer Family, the Hemphills.
Impact Records —a little more contemporary and inspirational—was added in the late sixties. Artists included the Bill Gaither Trio, the Lanny Wolfe Trio, Doug Oldham, the Imperials.
News articles in Billboard in the early seventies indicate that the Tempo label was also a part of Benson in the early seventies.
The contemporary Greentree label was added in 1976 with artists that included Andrus, Blackwood & Company, Reba Rambo, Sharalee Lucas, Tim Sheppard, Phil Johnson.
Bob MacKenzie
Bob MacKenzie
joined the Benson company in 1966 as creative director and produced almost every album released by Benson. MacKenzie utilized some of Nashville's finest musicians and studios to improve the quality of the recordings, and later took masters to London to add orchestrations, many notably arranged by Rick Powell and Ronn Huff.
MacKenzie left Benson in 1975 to partner with Bill Gaither to form Paragon Associates.

THE EIGHTIES
In 1980, Benson Music was acquired by the Zondervan Corporation of Grand Rapids, MI for $3.6 million.
At the same time, Zondervan formed a partnership with Paragon Associates to jointly operate Benson, which was renamed The New Benson Company. Bob MacKenzie of Paragon was named President. Zondervan owned 51%, Paragon 49%.
In 1980, the New Benson Company roster included eight labels: New Dawn, NewPax, Paragon, Benson, Greentree, Milk & Honey, Heartwarming, and Impact.
Artists included Re’Generation, Paul Mickelson, Paul Johnson, Robbie Hiner, Don Francisco, Farrell & Farrell, Gary Paxton, Truth, Gary McSpadden, Ronn Huff, Grady Nutt, Jeannie C. Riley, Terry Bradshaw, Larnelle Harris, Phil Johnson, Dallas Holm, Sharalee Lucas, Tim Sheppard, Wayne Watson, Christine Wyrtzen, Twila Paris, Speers, Hemphills, Kingsmen, Slaughters, Rambos, Doug Oldham, Danny Gaither, David Ingles, Lanny Wolfe Trio, Sandi Patty, Gordon Jensen, Cruse Family.
In addition, Benson was distributor for Lamb & Lion, Triangle, StarSong, Refuge.
By 1983, Benson was not doing well financially, so Zondervan decided to buy Paragon’s interest in Benson. That ended the business partnership between Bob MacKenzie and Bill Gaither, but the two remained very close friends.
In early 1984, the company’s name reverted back to The Benson Company and was wholly-owned by Zondervan. Wayne Erickson replaced MacKenzie as President of Benson.
Bob Jones was brought in to head the Zondervan music group in late 1984. Jones found that both Singspiration, the music division of Zondervan for many years, and Benson had print music functions and their own labels; they were competing against each other. He moved Benson’s publishing arm to Singspiration, and Singspiration’s labels to Benson. Now one had the records; the other, the publishing.
Next he brought in Bill Traylor to replace Wayne Erickson, and named Traylor as executive vice-president and general manager of Benson. And then he consolidated music sales by creating the Zondervan Music Sales Division.
Sandi Patty and her husband /manager, John Helvering , were close friends of Wayne Erickson. Although Sandi had just signed a new contract with Benson, Zondervan, aware of that relationship, let her have her contract back. The loss of Sandi Patty was significant as she reportedly was accountable for 25% of Benson’s sales volume.
In 1988, Zondervan was purchased by Harper & Row for $56.7 million.
THE NINETIES:
The following is contributed by Greg Seneff who was Director of Legal Affairs at Benson for a number of years in the ‘90s. Currently, Mr. Seneff's The Seneff Law Office in Nashville, TN represents Christian recording artists, independent record labels, film and video production companies, publishers, etc. Mr. Seneff has also served as General Counsel for both the Gospel Music Association (GMA) and the Christian Music Trade Association (CMTA) and was Director of Business Affairs at EMI Christian Music Group. He is an adjunct professor, contributes to magazines, serves on the board of a non-profit ministry, conducts seminars for industry conferences.
Greg Seneff
In 1992, after a sales slump with layoffs and unsuccessful hopes for a buyout, Zondervan, which had been acquired by HarperCollinsPublishers  (formerly Harper & Row) in 1988, decided to exit the music business. Benson was sold in November 1992 to Music Entertainment Group, Inc. (MEG) which was overseen by two long-time music industry executives, Wes Farrell and Steve Fret.
Mr. Farrell entered the music business as a songwriter at the famous Brill Building. He wrote hits such as "Hang On Sloopy" made famous by the McCoys, the Wayne Newton classic "Danke Schön," co-wrote a song the Beatles recorded on their first U.S. album entitled Boys, as well as numerous other well-known hits of the 1960’s & 70’s. Mr. Farrell was tapped to be the producer of many of the Partridge Family albums.
Mr. Farrell founded The Wes Farrell Organization which had a very large publishing catalog. He worked with a number of music stars including Neil Diamond, whom Mr. Farrell signed to his first publishing agreement. He formed his own record company, Chelsea, to release Wayne Newton’s first top-10 hit, "Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast."
Mr. Farrell scored several motion pictures, including the Academy-Award-winning Midnight Cowboy (1969), and at one time was married to Frank Sinatra’s daughter, Tina. Mr. Farrell was the chief executive and president of Music Entertainment Group.
Steve Fret, Wes Farrell, Jerry Park
Steve Fret, Wes Farrell, Jerry Park
Mr. Fret worked in a number of positions for major record labels, assisted in the sale of the Chappell publishing catalog to Warner Brothers and worked at SBK, the original label for Vanilla Ice and Wilson Philips.
When Jerry Park, who was president of Benson when MEG purchased it, left the company, Steve Fret became the acting president. Mr. Park went on to act as the Executive Vice President and Group Publisher for the Nelson Christian Books Group.
After Mr. Farrell died of cancer at the age of 56 in 1996, Mr. Fret continued the management of MEG, including the Benson Music Group, as president.
In 1997, Music Entertainment Group sold Benson Records to Zomba Music Group.

THE REST OF THE STORY
At the time of purchase by Zomba, Benson Music Group owned some 46,000 music copyrights and over 18,000 master tapes.
In 1997, Benson Music Group became a part of Provident Music Group which was created by Zomba as an umbrella for its Christian labels.
Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing was established as Provident’s publishing arm.
In 1999, Benson switched to being a new artist-focused label. However, new artist releases did not sell as much as anticipated and in January 2001, the Benson label was shut down by Provident.
In September 2002, German media giant Bertelsmann AG acquired Zomba which then became a unit of BMG, Bertelsmann’s worldwide music business.

Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing
was moved into BMG Music Publishing.
In 2007, BMG Music Publishing, which included Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, was acquired by Universal Music Publishing Group from Sony BMG.


CREDITS:
Billboard. Google Search. Google Books.