Two weeks: that’s all Hank Karr came for, and that’s when his love affair with the Yukon began.
But, as a clock chimes (his wife, Pam, likes clocks), the Saskatchewan-born singer/songwriter rewinds just a bit, to an earlier time — to his musical journey “before Yukon”.
“I guess it really started in about 1955 … when I was 18 or 19.”
Karr says he was inspired by the Grand Ole Opry, back when he was “strummin’ at it” with a little trio in Vancouver called The Golden Rockets.
“I admired Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Ferlin Husky, Buck Owens and George Jones, but my first ‘thing’ was Hank Snow.”
A clock provides the metronome, playing backup rhythm for Karr’s soft-spoken story.
He grew up listening to country music.
And even though he sings some ballads, “If I try anything else,” he says, chuckling, “it still sounds country.”
A cuckoo clock sounds as Karr fast-forwards to the year his Yukon journey began, in 1965. He came for just two weeks, to work at the Whitehorse Inn. And then, like so many others, he fell in love with the Yukon and made it his home.
Karr enjoyed doing radio shows in the ’60s.
In 1966,he recorded his first album, Stealin’ My World; then, in 1967, Paddlewheeler.
“I owe all of my recording to the CBC,” Karr says, including a debt of gratitude to producer Les McLaughlin.
“The big joke in Ottawa was, ‘You’re finally gonna make a real album instead of extended plays’.”
Karr smiles broadly as he recalls his delight and pride in representing the Yukon at Expo 67 in Montréal.
Yukon splendour inspired the lyrics of After Yukon, Karr’s most requested song.
It’s not uncommon, Karr says, for people to say, “You played for my Mom and Dad’s wedding.”
“The biggest thing is that people say they can understand all of the lyrics.”
Karr’s thankfulness extends to those who have never grown tired of listening to him, after all these years.
“I owe it all to Yukon and the people of Yukon.
“They still want to hear it.”
He pauses a moment or two, while the “metronome” continues.
“I can’t be more grateful. It couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
“A lot of people say, ‘How come you don’t go to Nashville?'”
His smile broadens a bit before he discloses the answer he gives to the folks who ask that question.
“This is my Nashville.”
Karr’s kitchen table is covered in albums, the musical history that has unfolded with the passing of time.
His Yukon journey continues …
And where will he go “After Yukon”?
Karr grins and shoots one finger skyward, his eyes squinting in obvious delight.
“Heaven’s where I’m gonna go!”