Opry inductee Larry Karn celebrated at concert

Members of bands Double Barrel and Down Yonder pose with Ben Lentir, fifth from left, to help commemorate the induction of Larry Karn, to his left, into the Great Northern Opry. The ceremony is to take place on the first weekend of November in 2019. photos by Warren Schlote

TEHKUMMAH – The roster of the Great Northern Opry is soon to be graced with another of Manitoulin Island’s favourite musicians, Larry Karn, who recently played at a celebration to mark this milestone at the Tehkummah Triangle Senior Citizens’ Club.

“I’m with a pretty elite group of people in the opry; that’s why I wonder, ‘why me?’” said an enthusiastic Mr. Karn shortly after coming off the stage after he and his band Double Barrel performed a crowd-pleasing set. 

This nomination came in part from Ben and Crystal Lentir, who are the district representatives for Manitoulin Island in the Northern Ontario Country Music Association (NOCMA). They are members of the nominating group and Mr. Lentir said Mr. Karn was the name that was most frequently mentioned in this year’s discussions.

“NOCMA was formed to honour musicians like ourselves who may never be able to make it in the ‘big time,’ and to honour Northern Ontario’s smaller communities,” said Mr. Lentir.

When Mr. Lentir showed up at Mr. Karn’s house earlier this year, he figured they had gathered there for a bit of music. However, Mr. Lentir had a binder with him and he figured something bigger might be in the works.

When asked about his reaction to receiving such an accolade, Mr. Karn stared off for a moment before turning back with a humble smile on his face, not saying a word.

“It was a total surprise,” he said. “I never saw this coming. It’s a great honour, though I don’t really deserve it. I play lots, but that’s just because it’s fun.”

Mr. Lentir said that reaction is a common one when celebrating Manitoulin’s best musical talents.

“Everybody says the same thing, ‘why me?’” said Mr. Lentir. “We look at their background in music, what they’ve done for the community and their dedication to music.”

Dedication would certainly seem to be an appropriate term for Mr. Karn’s musical career to date. He remarked that his band Double Barrel was partially formed about 40 years ago when he, Barry Williamson and Jeff Pyette began to play together. They had taken breaks to raise their families and at other times when life got in the way, but always regrouped back together in the end.

Double Barrel, in addition to the above three musicians, also consists of Jeff Gilmore and Greg Wilkin. They performed a number of classics for the gathered crowd at the hall, which was nearing capacity close to a half hour before the show’s start time.

“That was a huge surprise, that we filled all the chairs—plus!” said Mr. Karn.

Mr. Lentir ensured the crowd was engaged and up to the task of cheering on the band and the new Great Northern Opry inductee. They played songs by John Denver, The Band, Don Williams, The Judds and several more audience-favourite artists. 

Double Barrel was sure to insert a few references to the venue, such as substituting the phrase ‘Tulsa Time’ for ‘Tehkummah Time,’ and describing the township as “country music central.”

Mr. Karn’s ‘favourite sister’ Judy came up to sing the tune ‘Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days),’ then his remaining three sisters also stood up to perform together.

“Mom and dad will be really happy they didn’t waste that money on your music lessons,” quipped a sister.

The family element was even more pronounced when Mr. Karn’s two young granddaughters rose to their feet several times, beaming big smiles while they danced to the beat.

Following a brief intermission, the audience was treated to another performance, this time by Island band Down Yonder. For the $15 price of admission which went to support the costs of the bus tour to Sault Ste. Marie, there was ample music to be had.

Attendees were invited to sign a banner commemorating Mr. Karn’s achievement and the Lentirs wished him all the very best for having reached this milestone.