American Country Music Artist Hal Michael Ketchum is Dead

Hal Michael Ketchum
Hal Ketchum at the SiriusXM Studios on Nov. 12, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

Hal Michael Ketchum Death – American country music artist, Hal Ketchum has passed away, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019. He died from dementia.

Hal Ketchum was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called acute transverse myelitis, an ailment of the spinal column, which left Ketchum without the use of the left side of his body.

Ketchum’s death was announced in a statement from his wife, Andrea Ketchum, on Facebook on November 24: “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.”

Ketchum was born in Greenwich, New York. At the age of 15, he began performing in clubs as a drummer with a rhythm and blues trio. In 1981, Ketchum moved to Austin, Texas, where he began to visit Gruene Hall, a small dance hall near his home. This influenced him to try his hand at singing and songwriting, and by 1985 he was playing at small Texas clubs. Ketchum was a finalist in the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Singer-Songwriter Contest in 1985 and was named one of six winners in 1986. In 1986, Ketchum recorded 11 of his self-penned songs under his full name Hal Michael Ketchum. This album, Threadbare Alibis, was released in 1988 on the Watermelon Records label.

Ketchum then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and signed a record deal with Curb Records. In 1991, Ketchum released his Curb debut album Past the Point of Rescue. Four singles were released from the album: “Small Town Saturday Night” was first, achieving a peak of number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. After it came Ketchum’s own composition “I Know Where Love Lives”, which charted at number thirteen. Also peaking at number two was the title track, written by Irish musician Mick Hanly and originally a hit single in Ireland for Mary Black in 1988. The last single from the album was a rendition of The Vogues’ “Five O’Clock World”, which Ketchum took into top 20 of Hot Country Songs in 1992. Allen Reynolds, a producer best known for his work with Crystal Gayle, Garth Brooks and Kathy Mattea, produced the album with Jim Rooney. Among the musicians contributing to the album were Mattea, Gary Burr, and Richard Bennett, as well as Bruce Bouton, Chris Leuzinger, and Milton Sledge of Brooks’ studio band The G-Men. Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly rated the album “A-“, stating that “Literate and tuneful, Past the Point of Rescue balances poetic love songs with a squint-eyed look at teenage rebellion, romance, and psychological intrigue, all delivered with a tenor that throbs with passion and conviction.” Past the Point of Rescue was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for U.S. shipments of 500,000 copies.

He released the album Sure Love in 1992. The album’s title track charted at number three on Hot Country Songs, followed by “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” also at number two and “Mama Knows the Highway” at number eight, while the last single “Someplace Far Away (Careful What You’re Dreaming)” was less successful on the charts.

In 1994, Ketchum released the album Every Little Word. Five singles were issued from the album. Ketchum wrote the first two singles, “(Tonight We Just Might) Fall in Love Again” and “That’s What I Get for Losin’ You”, with former NRBQ member Al Anderson. These peaked at numbers 20 and 22 on Hot Country Songs in 1994, respectively. After it came Ketchum’s last top-ten hit “Stay Forever”, which he wrote with Benmont Tench; the title track and its B-side, “Trail of Tears”, both fell short of the top 40. Ketchum was also inducted as the 71st Member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1994.

Two years later came a greatest-hits package titled The Hits. This album included the non-charting single “Hang In There Superman”. Ketchum did not appear on the charts again until 1998, when he reached number 36 with a cover of Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light”, from his next album, also titled I Saw the Light. Awaiting Redemption, followed in 1999 without a charting single.

He covered “If I Never Knew You” with Shelby Lynne for The Best of Country Sing the Best of Disney. In 2001, Ketchum released Lucky Man. This album included only one charting single in the number 40 “She Is”. King of Love followed in 2004 with only the number 60 “My Love Will Not Change” to its credit. One More Midnight, released only in the United Kingdom, produced a number 47 country hit in the United States with “Just This Side of Heaven (Hal-Lelujah)”, although the album never was released in the United States. His most recent United States releases are Father Time in 2008, and I’m the Troubadour in 2014.

In total, Ketchum had 15 top 10 singles and sold five million albums. After he moved to Texas in 2010, he played in theaters and spaces including The Birchmere and Eddie’s Attic. He played his last show at Gruene Hall.