Where do you go after Yukon?
It is a question iconic Whitehorse musician Hank Karr asks in one of his most popular songs.
After more than 45 years of calling the North home, it would seem nowhere.
The Saskatchewan-born Karr remembers fondly his first days in Whitehorse.
It was March 1964 and Karr, then 26, was up from Vancouver to fill in playing music at the Whitehorse Inn for two weeks on his way through to Alaska.
Familiar with Alaska and a fan, Karr says he was “green” when it came to Whitehorse and, admittedly, he was a big-city boy.
Still, it wouldn’t be long before Karr would return to the Yukon and quickly become a regular fixture at the Whitehorse Inn.
Listening to Karr recall his early days in the territory, it is easy to understand why the North was so appealing for a young musician.
“There was music six nights a week and, no matter the venue, there was always a great crowd of friends out,” says Karr, pausing during our phone conversation to reminisce about those first years.
“Everybody knew one another and it really felt like a house party, if you can believe it – so many good people, so many good friends.”
After touring around parts of North America and living in Vancouver, Karr says it’s the people that made him fall in love and settle down in the North.
“It was very easy to meet folks,” recalls Karr. “I made some very close friends and they all seemed to genuinely love the music that we played.”
On Friday, June 18, Hank Karr will take the stage at the Yukon Arts Centre for a show entitled Old Friends.
The name is fitting as Karr will be joined by most of the musicians he first played with in his Whitehorse early days, which includes Ray Park, Ed Isaak and Red Lewis, to name a few.
Karr says the evening promises to feature an eclectic mix of music styles.
“There’ll be some blues, some country, some comedy and even some pop.”
Karr also promises some of his classics including the popular Northern ballads that he says he is most proud of.
The personable country crooner says one aspect of the evening he is most excited about is getting to collaborate with members of The Gold Fever Band and The Canucks.
“Normally we don’t get to do that, but for this we’re all going to play together and just jam,” explains Karr. “Of course it’s a well-rehearsed jam as we have been working together for this night, for some time.”
For Karr, who has been strumming a guitar since he can remember, getting to keep playing music with such close friends, for close friends, is the biggest treat.
“It’s wonderful and I don’t think anything will ever come between us,” says Karr. “We all still love to work and to perform and that’s a great thing.”
Karr says on top of band mates there are even some groupies from his early days that he expects to see out for the Old Friends show.
“Some of them have aged, and I guess we have too,” jokes Karr. “But they are still there and I wouldn’t mind seeing them up out of their seats boogying.”
Just another good-old house party, if you will, for Hank Karr and some old friends.