"Until I started playing the Opry, I didn't realize how powerful it is. The first time I played it I felt a real power -- the power of heritage, of tradition, of the written word. It's a great forum."
- HAL KETCHUM
Hal Ketchum and his daughter, Ruby Joy, on the Opry stage.
Hal Ketchum on the Opry stage in 2001.
Hal Ketchum has witnessed firsthand just how far-reaching the world famous Grand Ole Opry can be. He recalls being backstage at an Opry performance, where he met a couple of fans from the country of Sri Lanka, halfway around the globe. They explained that they knew of his music and of the Opry because of their ability to access both online. While the Internet has certainly played a part in helping the New York-born singer-songwriter's career flourish, his own knowledge of the Grand Ole Opry was limited, until he played the show for the first time, after his 1991 breakthrough hit, "Small Town Saturday Night."
"There is an indescribable place on that stage where it feels like you are a part of history, a very fine history," says Hal. "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."
Through his father, Hal knew the music of country legends Marty Robbins and Patsy Cline. As a youth, he even joined Buck Owens' fan club. Hal started playing drums at age 15, though he later switched to guitar. Although he enjoyed music, he spent nearly 20 years as a carpenter and furniture builder before getting his break in the music business.
In 1981, Hal left New York for Austin, Texas, and honed his songwriting skills in that town's clubs. He released 10 of his songs on a 1986 album called Threadbare Alibis. At the same time, he began making trips from Austin to Nashville.
Hal eventually signed a publishing contract that led to a record deal with Curb Records. In 1991, the single "Small Town Saturday Night" launched him to stardom. Radio & Records magazine named it the No. 1 Single of the Year, and Music Row magazine called it the year's breakthrough video. The song also helped Hal's debut album, Past the Point of Rescue, achieve gold status.
By the time Hal joined the Opry, he had an impressive catalog of hits, including "Past the Point of Rescue," "Sure Love," "Mama Knows the Highway," and "Hearts Are Gonna Roll." Hal also had a hit with a cover of "Five O'Clock World," a 1965 pop hit for the Vogues that had been written by Hal's producer, Allen Reynolds.
An established painter, Hal's work has been shown in Santa Fe, New Mexico's esteemed Pena Gallery, where he had a successful art show opening in 2002. He also is a master carpenter who likes to make toys. He is a true artisan and a musician's musician. In addition to his music and art, Hal writes short stories. He continues to tour all over the world.
“There is an indescribable place on that stage where it feels like you are a part of history, a very fine history.”