Walking and singing in a father’s footsteps
Ian Stewart/Yukon News
These days, Michael Averill is walking a mile in his father’s shoes. He plans to walk more than 3,000.
Averill’s father, Garry, was a teacher and musician in Mayo in the 1970s. Garry passed away less than two years ago.
Now, the younger Averill is planning the release of an album of songs he has written in memory of his father.
It’s called I’d Rather Walk, in honour of his father’s preference for walking. This summer he will begin a walking tour of the country, starting in Newfoundland.
Last week Averill visited the Yukon for the first time. He wanted to meet the folks who first recorded his father’s music at the CBC studio in Whitehorse.
But the story goes back further than that.
In the mid-‘70s, Garry Averill was a singer songwriter who did not crave the spotlight.
His music may never have been recorded if not for a friend who introduced him to a couple of producers at the CBC.
Tim Kinvig and Cal Waddington were excited by Averill’s music, and encouraged him to come to Whitehorse to record it.
“If it wasn’t for those guys, he probably would have never done it,” said Michael.
His songs became Yukon-famous, getting airplay on the local radio.
One of the tracks was even used as a theme song for a nationally broadcast CBC show hosted by Peter Gzowski, said Michael.
And his sudden rise to fame earned him a spot in the lineup in the second Farrago music festival in Faro.
But Garry chose not to take his music career further, preferring to return to his quiet life as a schoolteacher. So the story ended there, at least for a while.
Michael was born in 1983, after his parents had left the Yukon for Kelowna, B.C.
As a kid, he was more interested in athletics and video games than music, he said.
He eventually did pick up the guitar, and learned songs from his brother, who could play them by ear.
When his brother moved out, Michael got tired of his existing repertoire and starting learning songs by himself, too.
It was a fun puzzle, something to amuse himself but not to share with others, until his university years when peers pushed him to take it farther.
Michael gave up his permanent address in search of the wandering musician’s life over a year ago. It has already taken him to France, Germany, China and Nepal.
“I feel like I’m finally paddling in the right river and going in the right direction of the flow of the stream,” he said.
Since his father’s death, he has written many songs inspired by Garry. The idea was to put together a family history and tribute album that would weave Michael’s songs with the CBC recordings that Garry made in the Yukon.
But licensing the old recordings proved to be a challenge, and Michael had other projects on the go, so the idea was dropped until another moment of serendipity.
At a show in Edmonton, Michael met Yukon-born musician James Murdoch. His father had been involved with the Farrago festival in its early years.
“We ended up figuring out that his dad was probably the guy that booked my dad at that show.”
Murdoch also said he could get Michael in touch with the CBC guys who would have recorded his father’s music.
So that’s how Michael contacted Tim Kinvig and Cal Waddington, who were just as excited to make the connection as he was.
They had files of memorabilia, including original recordings, photos and fan mail, to share with Michael.
“I wanted to meet them in person,” said Michael. “I was like, ‘Do you guys mind if I come up for lunch?’”
And so Michael travelled with his mother to the Yukon to meet old friends of his father’s and see where he used to live.
“It’s walking a bit of his history but creating a path for myself along those lines and inviting the people that knew him along the way.”
He had lunch with Kinvig, Waddington and Pam Buckway, who also worked at CBC at the time.
They stayed at the Westmark so long that they were subtly asked to leave.
“You know at the end of the night at a nightclub or a bar when they flick the lights on and off? We had that happen.”
Michael also travelled to Faro and played a show at the same venue his father had.
“It was amazing because there were a few people there who knew the songs of my dad’s and were singing along.”
Michael plans to release I’d Rather Walk next month. Licensing issues have stalled the release his father’s recordings for now, but all of the tracks on the album are inspired by Garry’s life.
Michael also invites anyone to join him on his daily walks, wherever he happens to be in the world. You can find out where he will be at http://www.michaelaverill.com.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at