by Alison Bonaguro
Grand Ole Opry member and singer-songwriter Hal Ketchum died on Monday (Nov. 23) due to complications from dementia. He was 67 years old.
His wife Andrea shared the tragic news on Facebook on Tuesday morning. “With great sadness and grief we announce that Hal passed away peacefully last night at home due to complications of Dementia. May his music live on forever in your hearts and bring you peace,” she wrote.
She’d shared his diagnosis with his fans back in April, saying, “Because of his love for his fans, he continued performing as long as it was possible. Dementia is an exhausting and confusing illness, and now it’s time for Hal to stay home with loved ones. Hal is otherwise healthy and happy, enjoying time with his family and friends.”
Ketchum’s very first single “Small Town Saturday Night” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s country radio chart in 1991. He returned to the Top 5 multiple times over the next few years with singles such as “Past the Point of Rescue,” “Sure Love,” “Hearts Are Gonna Roll,” “Mama Knows the Highway,” and “Stay Forever.”
Born on April 9, 1953, in Greenwich, New York, Ketchum grew up with a father who played banjo, though Ketchum gravitated toward drums and played in a R&B band as a teenager. He worked as a carpenter in Texas while honing his songwriting and guitar-playing skills, then moved to Nashville in 1986. He landed a deal with Curb Records, which went on to release nine of his albums, occasionally in partnership with another label.
His 1991 album, Past the Point of Rescue, reached gold status the following year. For the project, Ketchum re-recorded “Five O’Clock World,” a 1965 hit for the Vogues that was written by Ketchum’s co-producer, Allen Reynolds. (Reynolds and Jim Rooney shared production duties on Past the Point of Rescue and subsequent albums Sure Love and Every Little Word.)
Ketchum joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1994. Between 1991 and 2006, he charted 17 country singles. He wrote or co-wrote his singles “I Know Where Love Lives,” “Hearts Are Gonna Roll,” and “Stay Forever,” among many others.
Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.