#026 – Yukon Music Balladeer Hank Karr Sings from the Heart

Like so many others who came up to the Yukon for just two weeks, Hank Karr quickly realized that Whitehorse Yukon would be the place he’d grow his roots down deep, and “stay a while”. That decision came quickly, when he first travelled from Ketichcan Alaska to Whitehorse Yukon in the mid 1960’s to play his guitar and sing on the stage at the local Whitehorse Inn.  Sixty plus years later, he’s still doing what he loves to do. Singing, writing music, and performing on one of his many guitars more than a half century later. Hank Karr has long become a staple of the Yukon music scene and is adorned be countless people locally and internationally.

Click here or on the above “Stealin’ My World” album picture to listen to “Less of Me” from Hank’s 1967 album.

Hank Karr pays tribute to his predecessor Al Oster, who was also enamoured with the magic of the Northern landscape, the lives of the common people he surrounded himself with, and the rich history and character of the Yukon. This quickly became a palate of themes and stories ripe for the picking. Both Oster and Karr were prolific melody writers and accomplished wordsmiths who could weave characters into a song within minutes. 

Oster went on to recorded Karr’s first album in the 1960s, and the two of them would perform together in the Canadian Pavilion during Expo 67 in Montreal. CBC recorded the Expo 67 performances and later put them on an LP called The Yukon Stars. The Whitehorse Star newspaper reported that in their January 26th 1967 paper that, ” The Yukon is allowed to have its own pavilion at Expo ’67. During the Expo, Al Oster and Hank Karr entertained fair goers for weeks”

Karr remained a fan of Oster’s writing long after he moved “outside” of the Yukon, and  Karr continued to perform several of Oster’s songs during his concerts, and eventually, recorded much of his material over the years, presenting it as only Hank Karr could. With a Baritone/Base voice, and a performance stature that rivals any professional musician around the world, Karr was a natural from the moment he picked up his chosen instrument.

Hank continued well in the his later years both as a solo performer and as front man with The Canucks Ltd. consisting of members Ed Isaak, Red Lewis, and Ray Park. The Canucks arrived in the territory in 1963 for a residency at the Whitehorse Inn for three months and have stayed ever since, performing for more than 58 years. Their last show was on September 23rd 2021 at the Mac Bride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon.

With no intention of ever leaving the Yukon, Hank wrote the song “After Yukon” and its become both a local and international anthem that captures how much the Yukon means to those who live here, or have visited.

The Yukon’s best loved balladeer sings “Paddlewheeler”, the story song in praise of the river boats that once plied the Yukon River. This song and 10 other video selections are contained on the DVD HANK KARR’S YUKON BOOK OF MEMORIES, available at Yukon Books.com.

Click here or on the the picture above to read CBC reporter Mike Rudyk’s story about why Yukoner Mike Craigen decided to collect stories and photos of Karr’s 50-plus year career with the intention of turning it into a collection of stories and pictures of Hank’s life in the Yukon.

Local legend and singer Hank Karr will swap his cowboy hat for a top hat this year, as he and his wife Pam take up their duties as “Mr. and Mrs. Yukon.” 

“The cowboy hat I think would have done [it],” Hank said, laughing. “I’ll deal with it.”

Every year, the Yukon Order of Pioneers selects a couple to represent the organization as ambassadors at the Sourdough Rendezvous festival and through the rest of the year — and this year, it’s the Karrs.

Hank is no stranger to the spotlight as he’s been performing regularly since the 1960s. But Pam said she’s always been more comfortable sitting in the back watching.

Hank wasn’t sure Pam would agree to be Mrs. Yukon, but it turned out she didn’t need much convincing.

“Should be interesting. Should be fun,” Pam said.

To read more of this article by CBC reporter Sandi Coleman, click here or on the picture above.

The Yukon bristles with people who eat, live and breathe music and it’s through their efforts, talents, and commitment, that we enjoy the vibrant musical culture here in the north. Both Hank Karr and Duncan Sinclair were honoured for their commitment of promoting music in the Yukon at The BreakOut West festival in 2017. For more detail on this story, please click here for an article by CBC reporter Dave White or the above picture.

To purchase one of Karr’s  CDs, DVDs, or Books, please visit the local Maximilian’s Gold Rush Emporium on Main Street, Dawson City or Mac’s Fireweed Books in Whitehorse. Orders can also be placed online or through most digital music download sites.  Simply search Hank Karr on Google and you’ll find several options available.

To listen to this full podcast and many others, please click on MyAmazingYukonLife.com where you’ll find each weekly podcast link along with show notes and pictures related to each of the episodes. You can also download each episode from Buzzsprout or wherever you get your podcasts from. While you’re there, hit the subscribe button and leave me a comment on what you’d like to hear next on the show.

You’re also invited you to help me build the knowledge base for future shows by becoming a member of My Amazing Yukon Life Facebook Group. This is where our personal stories come together as we build upon the collective memories of one another to record and preserve personal stories of the Yukon’s rich history and colourful life adventures. 

 I hope you enjoy this podcast and I thank you for joining me as a “M.A.Y.L. carrier”, as we proudly deliver our amazing Yukon life stories to the outside world.  


 “Trapper Dan your Renaissance Man”

Daniel Halen

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