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Like Adco, Arvis, Gateway, Island, Jalyn, Lee, Lucky, Mills, Perry, Ruby or Roy, Ark Records is one of those labels out of the Buckeye State well worth investigating if it's obscure but quality Country, Gospel, Bluegrass & Rockabilly you're after.

Ark Records was founded in Cincinnati in the early '60s by Roy Shepard and Bob Lanham, both of whom enjoyed a number of releases on the imprint. Roy Shepard had previously recorded a few sides for Starday (SEP #134). Not surprisingly, Sheplan was the name of their publishing house. It is unclear if it started with the '200' series since I've seen records listed in the '100' series but they might come from another Ark label, presumably out of Texas, or from Ark's own subsidiary label called Tela-Star (please see bottom of discographical listing below).

The Baker Brothers.

Like with other indies, Ark Records has a rich Sacred Country music catalog. Roy Shepard himself, The Upchurch Brothers, The Country Gospel-Aires, J. D. Jarvis and even Jimmy Murphy (more on him later) all had wonderful Gospel outings.
Though not exactly a 'Sacred' record, the '45 by The Baker Brothers (Bob & Jesse) featuring 'Make Me A Pallet On The Floor' (#284) is in a close vein and is a gem ; their soft Hillbilly harmonies are supported by a sparse backing of guitars and bass, showcasing some real nice acoustic picking. A fiddle is added to the flip, 'The Mine Explosive', which, incidentally, is called 'The Mine Explosion' on the front of the rare paper picture sleeve which can be seen at left, courtesy of Big Al Turner. The back carried the following info : 'The Baker Brothers are well known for their duet singing throughout the South East and Central part of the USA. They started playing the guitar and singing at the age of eight. They are from Mt. Vernon, Ky., Rockcastle County, where Jesse is employed as a policeman and Bob as a salesman. In the 40's, The Baker Brothers appeared in the Mid-Western states with The Kansas City Ramblers. They were with radio station WIBM in Jackson, Michigan, for some time. In 1945, they were with the Home Folks Party at WKBV in Richmond, Indiana. They also traveled two years with Al Jones' X Bar X Rodeo. At the present, they appear on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance on Saturday nights and on the Rockcastle Hootenanny Jamboree held every Friday night in the Big Renfro Barn with The Rockcastle Ramblers.'

Courtesy Debbie Eldridge (Hall).Bluegrass is well represented, of course, and its influence permeates through other Country recordings. One typical example is the excellent Texas Slim single (#309), coupling 'When I'm Old & Gray' with 'Look What You Gone And Done To Me' ; the banjo break in the latter is really outstanding. Rockabilly collectors will look for discs by Dusty Keith (#294) or Harvey Hurt (#296) although boppers like Bill Lanham's 'T For Texas' (#202) are now also in vogue. Another blockbuster of a single is Nelson Young's cover of 'Burning Bridges' (# 310). Doye O'Dell had the original on that ballad but it was Jack Scott who had a huge hit with it on Top Rank in 1960. Young, already noted for brilliant rockabilly sides on Lucky and Ruby, rocks it up in frantic fashion.
Another gentleman who had three fine outings on the label is the late Gene Hall who passed away on October 11, 2010. Says his daughter, Debbie Eldridge : 'He actually was supposed to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, but allowed Loretta Lynn to perform before him at her request. But it was the last show of the night and he didn't get to perform. Unfortunately, he had to get back to Ohio to his work and family and couldn't afford to go back again. Basically, he chose his family first after that'. The boppin' 'Monkey On The Moon' (#240) is currently much in demand.

There's one item which will no doubt appeal to all kinds of collectors : it's Jimmy Murphy's
first release on the label (#259). 'I Long To Hear Hank Sing The Blues', co-written with
Jimmie Skinner and Estel Lee Scarbrough, is an atmospheric delight, featuring Murphy's (12-string ?) guitar. As once pointed out in UK's 'Roll Street Journal', it's not a tribute to Hank Williams in the strictest sense of the term but it's a way for Jimmy to voice his admiration for the late, great Country star. Murphy's sound has always been unique, beginning with his RCA Victor sides from the early '50s through his manic Columbia classics like 'Grandpaw's A Cat' (#21569) and 'Sixteen Tons Rock And Roll' (#21534). The flip, 'Swing Steel Blues', is a short steel guitar instro by Paul Smith, a touch reminiscent of 'Sweet Georgia Brown'. Incidentally, Paul Smith plays rhythm guitar on Murphy's Ark recordings (all dating from 1963).
Jimmy Murphy's second and last Ark release was in the Gospel Country style for which he, too, had great affection. He would soon re-record 'Wake Me Up Sweet Jesus' and 'My Feet's On Solid Ground' for Bob Mooney's REM label.

Two choice singles will round out this short overview of Ark Records. One is by another legendary performer who was already active at the beginning of the '50s with records on London, Columbia and Imperial, where he had the honor to cover 'Hound Dog' (#8186) in March 1953 : Billy Starr is his name. 'Steppin' Out' (#285) had been previously recorded elsewhere but his Ark re-cut is a great bopper in its own right. The flip, 'The Old Town Got Lonesome', is a superior Buck Owens-styled Country song.
Last, we'll mention Tom Howard whose single appears in the '5000' series ; it's a haunting mid-'60s production which should not be overlooked by Country collectors. 'I Hope Your Coffee's Cold This Morning' moves effortlessly, punctuated first by a piano solo, then by a terrific steel guitar break,
Ernie Hagar-style ! The other side, 'We Belong To Someone Else', is a simple, tuneful, pleasant ballad.

As you can see, the records had different label colors - at first, it was black with silver lettering, then red and silver, then it became blue and silver. Roy Shepard, who passed away in 1981, designed the labels himself. A few came with picture sleeves, e.g. #284 and #290. They were often Rite pressings, therefore not always of audiophile quality (contrary to popular belief) ; but, as collectors say, the music itself more than compensates !

© PAUL VIDAL * Privas, France * April 2003 - April 2014

[Thanks to Dave Barnes, Andrew Giamber, Bill Holtzapple, Roy E. Owens, Jeff Porterfield, Michel Proost, Willem Agenant
and, especially, to Big Al Turner who provided me with more than two thirds of the listing]

& The Mountain Quartet
200 My imagination/O Sinner Man/Walk Around Me, Jesus
Be Good To Mommy/The Lord Is My Shepherd/Going Up
Dan JOHNSON 201 CP 6773 Four Forseman Riding Fast (sic)/City Of Light/The Love Of God
CP 6774 Our Little Family Alter/Two Masters/He'll Never Forget
Note :
First issued on a black label, then reissued on the red & silver label.
Bill LANHAM 202 CP 6944  T For Texas
CP 6943  Stone Heart
Hermon BRUCE 203 Prophecy Of The Lord/Jesus Stopped By One Day/I've Found A Way/From The Garden To The Cross
The WEST QUARTET 204 Storm Clouds Around Me
+ other titles
The UPCHURCH BROS with Terry **
205 CP 7001 Ain't No Grave/My Soul's Been Satisfied/He'll Set You Free *
CP 7002 Song Of Songs/Some One Will Love Me/I Remember How Mother Prayed ** 
Brother J. D. JARVIS 206 7058   Along Life's Way
7059   Friends Take Up The Cross
Roy SHEPARD 207 Blue Days And Nights
With You On My Mind
Betty BLEVINS 208 CP 7134  Worried Gal Blues
CP 7133  Blues Stay Away From Me
The COUNTRY GOSPEL-AIRES 209 Battle For Heaven/No Teardrops In Heaven/I Just Dropped By/I'll Be Happy In Heaven/We're Building A Mansion + 1
Red TURNER 210 Mother Left Her Bible/Gonna Rise Up/Song Of Songs
You Can Lean On Jesus
J. D. JARVIS/Ralph KING 212 7475 Spaceship Song
7476 Tragedy Of Sandy River
George BROCK 213 7415 Memories Of Dad
7416 Help Me Be A better Christian
& The Whitewater Valley Boys
214 7481 That Lonely River
7482 Are You Walking In The Light ?
The ZIRKLE BROS 215 Bugle Call From Heaven/Tell My Friends/Invisible Hands/Jesus Wept/Where The Seasons Never Change + 1
& The Hymn Trio
217 7691 Path Of Sin
7692 The Gospel Train
Roy & Becky SHEPARD 218 7789 Air Mail To Heaven
7790 Hear Me Jesus
Adam COLWELL 219 CP 7791 Open The Door
CP 7792 Dreaming Of You
The COUNTRY GOSPEL-AIRES 220 7867 Paul & Silas/Some One Will Love Me In Heaven/Jesus Saviour Pilot Me
7868 Hear Jerusalem Mourn/By Way Of The Cross/Rank Strangers
The CUMBERLAND COUNTY TRIO 221 CP 8345 Shadow On The Sea/Each Day I'm Living
CP 8346 I See A Cross Today/I've Found The Way
Delbert & Betty BAKER 224 CP 8333 Sheep On A Hill/One Lost Sheep
CP 8334 On The Other Side/When The Harvest Is Past
Note : ARK EP 224 also issued on A-B EP 224
& Son Anthony
226 CP 8523 Keep Me Humble/Praying
CP 8524 Must Jesus Bare The Cross
(sic)/House But Not A Home
& The Hymn Trio
227 CP 8525 Filthy Sea Of Sin
CP 8526 Land Of Tomorrow
Delbert & Betty BAKER 228 Guided Men/Rock Of Ages/Window Of Heaven/Ready To Go Home/Dreaming Of A Log Cabin/God Laid His Hand On My Heart
Note : This record appears to have been reissued on the DEL label, located at 1136 Dale Avenue, Franklin (Ohio). Info courtesy of Big Al Turner.
Old Joe CLARK 229 CP 8569 Old Age Won't Kill You/Willow Garden/Keep My Skillet Good & Greasy
CP 8570 Fly Around My Pretty Little Pink/Pig Home In The Pen/Mountain Dew
The COUNTRY GOSPEL-AIRES 232 Road To Glory/House Of Gold/He Took Your Place/Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/Voice Of My Savior + 1
Gene HALL 233 7362  Yes By George
7363  Why Do I Love You
& His Ship Mates
234 8653  Tears
8654  Since You Hurt My Feeling
236 8907  An Angel Was Born The Night My Mother Died
8908  There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I
Harley GABBARD 237 8937   Uncle Bill's Still
8938   Divorced But Not Free
& The Hymn Trio
238 CP 8939 The First Christmas
CP 8940 (No End) To The Road Of Sin
Gene HALL 240 8991  It Hurts To Know
8992  Monkey On The Moon
Estel LEE
& The Burns Bros
241 8993  Mother, Where Is Your Daughter Tonight ?
8994  Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wild Wild Women
Leon TURNER 242 CP 9002  That's The Reason I'm Leaving Town
CP 9001  That's What It Takes
The PELFREY BROS 243 CP 9010  Ohio Prison
CP 9009  You Broke A Vow
Johnny BLUE
& The Pelfrey Bros.
244 9007  Lonesome Mountain
9008  New Angel In Heaven
The CHAPEL BELLES 245 How Great Thou' Art + other titles
The ZIRKLE BROS 246 Now Is The Time To Be Saved + 5 other titles
Bill LANHAM 247 CP 9175  Mary's Little Boy
CP 9176  We're Not Supposed To Understand
The COUNTRY GOSPEL-AIRES 248 A/CP 9271 God Gave His Only Son/Memories Of Dad/Heaven
B/CP 9272 Xmas Time Again In The Mountains/The World Can't Stand Long/Family Reunion
The SONS OF THE BLUE-GRASS 249 Preach Pray Sing & Shout/I'll Find Him There/Uncle John Who Didn't Shout/Lord Keep Your Hand On Me 
250 Streets Of Gold/Walk The Streets Of Glory/Swing Wide Those Gates/Home Of The Soul/In My Savior I Believe + 1
Howard DAVIS 251 1000 A Lightning
1000 B Oh My Love
CP 9377 How Can We Thank Him/You Never Told Me To Wait/Reunion In Heaven
CP 9378 Satan's Jewel Crown/Just Suppose/Lonely Wanderer
& The Hymn Trio
253 First Easter Day/Banks Of Jordan/Mother Went Walking/Valley Of Sin/Mountain Church/Jacob's Vision
Herman CROUCHER 254 9714  House Of Gold  
9713  When God Comes And Gathers His Jewels
The SONS OF THE BLUE-GRASS 255 Way Of Prayer/You Must Believe/Waited Too Long/Happy In My Soul Today/Tell All About My King + 1
Larry WEALDEN & Glenn CRASE 256 CP 9763 Stairway To Heaven/A Sinners Cry/I See Jesus
CP 9764 I'll Receive My Reward/My Mother Dear To Me/You've Got To Love You Neighbor
Bill EVANS 257 9793  This Is Jesus 
9794  I Saw A Man
Jimmy MURPHY *
Paul SMITH **
259 CP 9867  I Long To Hear Hank Sing The Blues *
CP 9868  Swing Steel Blues
Jimmy MURPHY 260 CP 9865  Wake Me Up, Sweet Jesus
CP 9866  My Feet's On Solid Ground
'The Calvary Duet'
261 Stranger On The Road/Wings Of An Angel/Jesus Answers My Prayers/Now Is The Time To Pray/Mother's Bible + 1
& The Rocky Mountain Boys
262 10039  Remembrance Of Brother Earl Brown
10040  Missing Sub
The ZIRKLE BROS 263 10069  They're Expecting Me Home
10070  The Highest Mountain
Jimmie KING 265 10336  Pretty Little Baby  
10335  L.O.V.E. 
& The Rocky Mountain Boys
266 10355  The Orbit Song
10356  Farther On
Lefty Herman CROUCHER 268 10413  Without You Darling
10414  My Defeated Heart
Brother Herbert GIBSON 269 10411 I'm Going Up To Heaven
10412 When God Spoke To Me
Archie POE 270 CP 10471 Honey' Come On Home  
CP 10472 And I Just Don't Care
George BROCK 271 Jesus Of Nazareth/Springtime In Heaven + 2
272 10560 Waltz Of The Calvera
10561 Ball Room Was Empty (sic)
The VAUGHN SISTERS 274 10595  He'll Take Away Your Heavy Load  
10596  He's Already Done What He Said He Would Do 
Mac WHITE 276 10677  Drop My Heart Easy  
10678  Me And My Window Cried 
Rodney RAINS 278 10713  Big Nick  
10714  Yellow Moon 
& His Blue Grass Gospel Singers
280 10807 Education From On High/The Time Of His Coming
10808 Today Is The Day Of Salvation/In Herit The Kingdom
'The Calvary Duet'
281 10809  Great Gilded Hall/Forgive Me Lord
10810  A Soul Winner For Jesus/Born Again
(Bob & Jesse)
284 10899  Make Me A Pallet On The Floor
10900  The Mine Explosive
Billy STARR 285 10901  Steppin' Out
10902  The Old Town Got Lonesome
Old Joe CLARK 286 10897  Sleep On Irene
10898  A Free Little Bird
DALLAS STAMPER & his Spiritual Rhythmettes 288 A/CP 10957 Since God Gave Back Your Sight/I'm On My Way To Heaven/
Mighty Close To Heaven
B/CP 10958 These Mansions I Can Claim/Give Me Faith/I Am
The MARSH FAMILY SINGERS 289 A/CP 10963 Hide Thou Me/I Can't Fail The Lord
A/CP 10964 Goodbye World, Goodbye/(I'm Feeling Fine Cause I've Got) Heaven On My Mind
George BROCK
& The Traveling Crusaders
290 God Gave Me A Crown/You're Dying Too/Give Your Heart To Jesus/Memories Of Dad/Prepare For Judgment + 1
(Faye & Darna)
291 10995  If I Were You
10996  I Serve A God
(Gospel Quartet)
292 10999 I Want To Walk Just As Close As I Can/At The Home Coming Day
11000 He Knows What I Need/Lord Teach Me How To Pray
& The Casinos
293 11159  I Want To Take You Out
11160  When I Flirt
Dusty KEITH 294 11187 Fool Over You
11188 Hold Me Baby
(Background voices - The Casino's)
295 11199 Hand Her Over
11200 I'll Come Back
Harvey HURT 296 11216  Stayed Away Too Long
11215  Too Much In Love
& The King's Highway Quartet

297 11253 I Know My Lords Going To Lead Me Out (sic)/I Got Happy/What A Wonderful Saviour
11254 Do You Accept A Reward From God/Somebody's Been Praying For Me/
Just Over In Glory Land
Note : ARK EP 297 issue number only given in deadwax
The PASTELS 298 11213  Jungle Run
11214  K-Nif
& The Virginia Mountain Boys
299 11237  End Of My Journey
11238  (New) Cripple Creek
Ray HART 300 11319  You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry
11320  Slipping Around
& The Laurel County Partners
301 A/11295  The Great Beyond/Holding On
B/11296  Childhood Memories/Life Eternal
Nelson YOUNG 302 11317 Home At Christmas
11318 Christmas Time Is Near
J. D. JARVIS 304 I Don't Want To Miss Heaven/When The Angels Carry Me Home/River Of Death/Nites In Molites [sic]
& The Cody Mountain Boys
307 CP 11585 Feeling Lonesome Over You/Life Is But AN Empty Dream
CP 11586 Lonesome For My Dear Old Home/Banjo Swing
George BROCK
& The Traveling Crusaders
308 I'll Not Be A Stranger/Now Is The Time To Pray/Get Ready For The Coming Of The Lord +1
TEXAS SLIM 309 CP 11607 When I'm Old And Gray
CP 11608 Look What You Gone And Done To Me
Nelson YOUNG 310 CP 11609 To Mom & Dad
CP 11610 Burning Bridges
& The Collins Bros
312 Wicked Path Of Sin/This World Is Not My Home/Over The Hills To The Poor House/I'm Traveling On + 2
Gene HALL 313 11835 You Are The Girl
11836 Strange Heart
Roy SHEPARD 1000 17179 Tribute To Dad
17180 I'll Cry Again Tomorrow
Note : Address given on ARK 1000 is 2697 Impala Drive, Cincinnati 31, Ohio.
Tom HOWARD 5002 18597 We Belong To Someone Else
18598 I Hope Your Coffee's Cold This Morning
ARK Records had a subsidiary called TELA-STAR Records (probably inspired by the worldwide Tornados hit from late '62). Here are three of the releases on that label. All info courtesy of, you guessed it... Big Al Turner ! Many thanks again.
Roy SHEPARD 103 9711 I'll Love You Till I Die
9712 Tomorrow I'll Be Coming Home
& The Brown County Boys
106 10109 The Thresher
10110 In A Jiffy
Note : Steel guitar by Ray Wilson


107 CP 10233 Chained To A Memory
CP 10234 Echo Of Your Footsteps
Note : Steel guitar by Ray Wilson
The MELVETTES 110 10997 Take One Step
10998 Quiet Now
Roy & Becky SHEPARD *
5000 CP 7789 Airmail To Heaven *
9711 I'll Love You Till I Die **
Note : A Side has ARK 218-A in wax / B Side has TELA-STAR 103-A in wax
Big Al Turner and Willem Agenant have also uncovered a couple of albums on that fascinating Ark label !
Apparently, there's another LP by The Country Gospel Aires (Ark LP 102).
The COUNTRY GOSPEL AIRES LP 101 CP 9611 God Gave His Only Son/Prayer Belles Of Heaven/Family Reunion
Paul And Silas/A Few More Seasons/Memories Of Mom And Dad
CP 9612 Thank God For Such A Friend/We’re Building A Mansion/A Shut In’s Prayer/Voice Of My Savior/This Little Light Of Mine/No Tear Drops In Heaven
'The Country Gospel Aires Sing Stranger On The Road'
Side 1
Stranger On The Road/Pretty Wreath For Mother's Grave/Heaven's Light Is Shining On Me/Take This Whole World/Where Will I shelter My Sheep ?/Wings Of A Snow White Dove
Side 2 Mother Is Only Sleeping/Give Me Your Hand/
Everything's Going To Be All Right/A Sinner's Death/Just Suppose/When The Angels Carry Me Home

Old Joe Clark ARK EP, courtesy of Big Al.

NOTE : Some of Jimmy Murphy's Ark and REM sides were reissued on CD by Ace Records in 2002 ('Southern Roots' CHD 714).

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