Friday, 11 July 2014

The Real History of ARC Sound Company

Phil Anderson
So much of what has been written about ARC Sound Company Ltd. on the Internet is either false, error filled or derisive, that we felt it was time to set the record straight. ARC Records was a Canadian owned, independent label that was started in April 1958 and was solely founded and owned by Phillip G. Anderson. It was a subsidiary of Arc Sound Company Ltd, also solely owned by Phillip G. Anderson. The company began pressing it's own records in 1959 after initially starting operations by distributing records for several American record companies. Arc started Precision Manufacturing Ltd in 1961 to handle the manufacture and pressing of LPs and 45s for the company. This division was run by Jack Anderson, Phil Anderson's brother.  
Arc Sound was responsible for signing and producing many of the top Canadian recording artists in the 1960s namely Anne Murray, Bill Amesbury, Terry BlackBrothers-in-Law, the Majestics, Stitch In Tyme, Fred McKennaCatherine McKinnon, Harry Hibbs, Billy O’ConnorPat Riccio, Ronnie Hawkins, The Travellers, Ritchie Knight & The Mid-Knights, and the Ugly Ducklings. One of their biggest successes was the Canadian release of "We're Off To Dublin In The Green" by The Abbey Tavern Singers in 1967. The group was an Irish band but became enormously popular in Canada as "We're Off To Dublin In The Green" reached #2 on Canada's CHUM Charts and selling close to 150,000 copies in Canada within the first year of releaseMany of ARC's best selling albums were produced by Brian Ahern, who went on to produce albums for such artists as Anne Murray, Ronnie Hawkins and was the musical director of Singalong Jubilee. In fact, he produced the first Anne Murray album "What About Me" for ARC. Ahern left ARC in the early 1970s and moved to Nashville where he produced more Anne Murray albums and other artists such as Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and Emmy Lou Harris, whom he later married. 

ARC sound formed it's own talent agency, Canint Talent in 1965 to manage and promote new country recording artists on the ARC label. Among the artists signed were Jimmy James, Ned Landry, Artie and the Mustangs, George Pasher and Bert Cuff. Ralph Haring and Ben Wetherby were key personnel involved in this new agency.
Arc Sound also opened another subsidiary in Bay Music and built a separate four track recording studio in 1966 as part of their commitment to recording emerging Canadian talent and recorded many of Canada's finest musicians in that studio. The studio was often booked by recording artists other than ones signed by ARC Sound. Under the Arc label, there were a number of sub-labels namely Yorkville; which carried contemporary artists such as the David Clayton-Thomas, The Ugly Ducklings, the Stitch In Tyme, Ronnie Hawkins, The Secrets and The 5 Rising Sons; and the Caribou label, which carried artists like Harry Hibbs, Norma Gale and the Keefe Sisters. 

In the early 70s, Phil Anderson amalgamated the various divisions of Arc Sound Company into one corporation called AHED Music Corporation Ltd., which stood for Arc Home Entertainment Diversified. AHED began selling musical instruments, namely pianos, organs and guitars, through retail stores called "Mr. Music." AHED ceased operations in 1986 due to the slow Canadian economy and changes in the music industry. Despite some disparaging comments on web sites regarding ARC Sound's business practices, many Canadian musicians owe their early success to this innovative company.


  1. Very cool.
    I purchased an Arc Electric Guitar 2 days ago at an auction and have been trying to find some info on it and was coming up empty until I found this blog! Im so happy that my purchase comes with a very cool Canadian Music History :)

    1. Thanks Kim. Glad you enjoyed reading about Arc's history. The guitar you bought was likely made overseas and imported into Canada with Arc's label on it.

  2. My name is Gary Anderson, brother of Phil and Jack Anderson.
    I'm curious to know where your source of info came from to create this blog?
    I find the info in this blog quite accurate except to correct one small part.
    Phil began contracting out pressing contracts at the beginning. I believe his main supplier at the time was Quality Records, where he was previously employed in management.
    Jack joined Phil in 1961 with the expressed purpose to set up a pressing plant as Precision Manufacturing.
    I don't believe Phil had the contract at any time to distribute Capital Records in Canada. They had their own distributions system in Canada with Quality Records pressing their records in Canada.
    If you have any furrther questions about AHED and it's subsidiaries, I am in contact with both of my brothers at any time.
    I can be reached at

  3. Thanks for your comments Gary. Information for this blog was taken from various sources (some personal accounts and other sources). We can add your corrections to the article.

  4. Interesting, I always like to hear about the early Canadian music scene. Where was the original 4 track studio located?

  5. The original studio was Bay Recording Studio and was located on Cranfield Road in the part of Toronto called East York.

  6. Trying to get posted here is like pulling hens teeth. Annoying.
    Anyhow, I recorded for a company called ARC in the late 70's and early 80's.
    Was it a different Arc?

    1. Hi Sherilyn,
      What was name the group or were you a solo artist? You may have signed with a label with a similar name. Arc stopped putting out their own records in the early 80s as it no longer owned its own recording studio as well as the Canadian music industry mostly turning its back on up and coming artists.

  7. I worked for Arc Sound in my early 20's. Exciting times for me to meet the artists. I was allowed, if I did not speak, to observe a live recording. 😊 I watched as blobs of plastic were transformed/pressed into records. I was secretary for Richard Dinsmore. Ben Weatherby had many stories to tell. I recall Mr. Phil Anderson. . .Always kind with me. I believe he had a house in Scarborough by the Bluffs. Ken Warriner explained to me the meaning of "go down to the pig, and whistle". One Christmas time I was up at reception and people left many boxes of chocolate. . .Of which I partook and my mouth was too full to answer the phones. LOL! I was young and naiive regarding the music industry world and only later did I understand what people meant by uppers and downers to hold on to energy to perform. I was always shown respect and appreciation. Good memories.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories LadyBug. Actually, Phil Anderson's home was close to downtown Toronto in the 1970s.