Al Oster is credited with recording one of the first Alaskan rock'n'roll songs, "Midnight Sun Rock," which he self-released in the late 1950s... A native of Saskatchewan, Oster spent much of his life in British Columbia, before moving up to the Yukon in 1957, where he established himself as a regional country performer with a strong tilt towards historical-folkie material. He recorded several albums in the 'Sixties, and moved back to Canada in 1975, and continued to record over the years. Here's a quick look at his work...
Al Oster "The Yukalaska Spell" (Cattle Records, 1987-?) (LP)
These two LPs on the German reissue label, Cattle Records, draw on Oster's old Klondike Records albums of the 'Sixties... This first collection focuses almost exclusively on regional (Alaskan) pride and gold rush stories...
Al Oster "The Yukon Balladeer Sings" (Cattle Records, 1987) (LP)
This second set gathers the rest of Oster's classic recordings, including his rockabilly hit, "Midnight Sun Rock," as well as "The Ballad Of Soapy Smith," about a colorful saloon keeper who legend says wanted to invade Canada, and "The Alaska Earthquake," a harrowing description of the cataclysmic 1964 temblor that measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale.
Al Oster "Yukon Gold" (Klondike Records, 1960) (LP)
Al Oster "Northern Ballads" (Klondike Records, 1967) (LP)
Al Oster "Alaska Star 49" (Klondike Records) (LP)
The Yukon Stars "The Yukon Stars" (CBC Radio International, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Edward Farrant, Gilles Vaudeville & Len Ewert)
On this album, two stars of Canadian country's '60s scene joined together as the "Yukon Stars" to play an October 25 gig at end of the '67 Expo, held in Montreal. Al Oster was a well-established artist, with a couple of hit singles and several CBC radio programs under his belt, while Hank Karr had been playing local shows up in the Yukon for years, though this album really helped him break through into a national solo career. Karr sings on Side One, generally sticking to a jovial set of contemporary-sounding Buck Owens-influenced honky-tonk with a pretty sharp band behind him. The songs are mainly covers, though there is one original, "A Minute Or Three" credited to Karr's real name, Henry Karhut. It's a harrowing and highly detailed account of the cataclysmic earthquake that trashed Anchorage in March, 1964... a nice slice of Northern history there! Sounding quite a bit like Hank Snow on Side Two, Al Oster sticks closely to folk-ish regional pride material, including several Yukon-related songs he wrote, some historical ballads and slightly more questionable material such as Hank Thompson's "Squaws Along The Yukon" which doesn't really hold up that well in our modern-day PC culture. In "Buckets Of Steel," Oster memorializes the last of the big gold-dredging operations, as Canada's gold boom wound to a close after the biggest mills and mines were no longer able to turn a profit. A strong album, showcasing two different strains of deeply authentic Canadian country.
Al Oster "Alaska Purchase Centennial: 1867-1967" (Alkon Records, 1967) (LP)
Hick Music Index