A while ago, I heard Hank Karr celebrated yet another birthday and the news brought back a flood of memories relating to years gone by. Karr, like a great number of longtime Yukon entertainers, has truly become a legend in his time.
I was born and raised back east, in an era when Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and ‘cowboy’ music captured the attention and imagination of most young boys.
In fact, it inspired me to come west as a young man with a firm desire to become a cowboy. I eventually arrived in Whitehorse back in 1949 with a small pack of belongings and a black cowboy hat, eagerly anticipating the adventures that would surely follow. I was not to be disappointed.
In reflection, it occurs to me that folk and country music was a strong motivating cause of my eventual settlement here in Yukon.
I can recall artists in those earlier days, such as Ed Isaac, Ray Parks and a host of other country music entertainers, who performed mostly in the several bars around town.
Hank and his group spent many of those years entertaining at the old Whitehorse Inn Lounge.
It has occurred to me that the contribution Hank and a great many other country/folk singers, musicians and instrumentalists, professional and amateur, have made has had a very direct impact on communities across Yukon.
We all recognize that bar patrons are consumers of alcoholic beverages, so as the evening and the music unfolds, one’s inhibitions tend to break down a bit, and it isn’t long before customers are engaging in conversations with strangers, or perhaps looking for someone to dance with.
As well, Hank would often invite members in the audience to come up and sing a song or play an instrument. In this forum of informality, very often new and lasting bonds of friendships were made, some even resulting in marriage.
So I leave the rest to your imagination. Suffice to say that each and every one of these country music performers has done much more than give us satisfaction and enjoyment.
In fact, they have played a very important role, directly or indirectly, in the overall development of Yukon to date.
Accordingly, I am taking the liberty at this time to speak for a large number of Yukoners and pay tribute to Hank Karr and his great many fellow country music performers, past and present, for helping to keep so many of us together, as a community of common interest, in good times and bad, for so many years.
Donald E. Taylor