Happy Birthday Hal Ketchum: Relive the Late Country Star’s Best Moments

by Jim Casey

Hal Ketchum was one of the many country stars we lost in 2020, so let’s celebrate some of his best moments on what would have been his 68th birthday on April 9.

Hal Ketchum, 67, passed away on Nov. 23, 2020, from complications of dementia. The New York native burst onto the country music scene with a string of Top 10 hits in the early 1990s. While he never recaptured his early-career momentum, Hal developed a passionate fan base. He continued to release new music and tour (he was a crowd-favorite in Europe) over the next two decades. Hal retired from touring in 2019 after his dementia became too much of an on-stage challenge, keeping a low profile until his death in November 2020.

‘Small Town Saturday Night’

Hal released his debut single, “Small Town Saturday Night,” in April 1991. Penned by Pat Alger (“Unanswered Prayers” and “The Thunder Rolls”) and Hank DeVito, the tune peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in August.

Hal’s signature hit served as the lead single to his debut album, Past the Point of Rescue. He dropped a black-and-white video for the tune that featured clips of the 1938 Western, The Terror of Tiny Town.

Hal’s Debut Album

Hal released his major-label debut album, Past the Point of Rescue, on May 7, 1991. Hal dropped more than a dozen albums over his career, but Past the Point of Rescue is the only one to be certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of 500,000 units. The album reached No. 6 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and spawned four Top 20 hits: “Small Town Saturday Night” (No. 2), “I Know Where Love Lives” (No. 13), “Past the Point of Rescue” (No. 2), and “Five O’Clock World” (No. 16), which was a Top 5 hit on the pop charts for The Vogues in 1965.

Top 10 Success

Hal released his sophomore album, Sure Love, in September 1992. The 10-song offering was buoyed by three Top 10 singles: “Sure Love” (No. 3), “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” (No. 2), and “Mama Knows the Highway” (No. 8).

While Hal continued to score Top 40 singles through 2000 with “She Is,” his final Top 10 hit was “Stay Forever” (No. 8) in 1995.

Hal Joins the Opry

Hal became a member of the Grand Ole Opry on January 22, 1994.

“There is an indescribable place on that stage where it feels like you are a part of history, a very fine history,” said Hal Ketchum to the Grand Ole Opry. “And I really like that a lot. I felt the magic of the Opry the first time, and, so, I came to it in amazement.”