Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Small Town Saturday Night: Hal Ketchum of Greenwich

Before I went in to the office this afternoon to pack up more of my office, my mom & I were chatting in the kitchen. We were talking about the price on concert tickets, & my sister wanting to go see Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds in New Orleans, but tix are pretty expensive. Not to mention my daughter wants to see Little Mix when they tour with Demi Lovato next year & One Direction should be announcing US Dates for 2014 (cha-ching)! Anyway, we got talking about the Michael Bolton concert she & I & the afore mentioned sister saw at SPAC. To this day it is the only time we have seen Celine Dion in concert (& she was Michael's opening act!).

At the office, I was boxing up the files from my 2 filing cabinets & noticed one on Hal Ketchum. I put it aside thinking "Blog post!" Back at home I flipped through the slim folder of clippings & a photocopied newsletter & noticed an ad for the Hal Ketchum & Emmylou Harris concert at SPAC- August 1, 1994. Another clipping was of the SPAC calender for that same season & Michael Bolton's picture was staring back at me. That concert mom & I were talking about a few hours before was on August 27, 1994.

Reading though the folder & a handful of websites, it is intriguing to me that Hal "made it" at such a mature age. He was playing drums locally by 14 or 15 years old, left for Austin, TX in his late 20s & played that scene a bit while honing his songwriting skills while working as a carpenter. An independent release paved the way for Past the Point of Rescue to be released when he was almost 40!

Hal Ketchum's sophomore and debut releases on cassette

Hal became the 71st member of the Grand Ole Opry on January 22, 1994, a few months short of his 41st birthday, joining the ranks of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton & Marty Robbins. I was kind of surprised that Alabama & Glen Campbell are not members. To quote the Opry
There's no magic formula, no secret code that grants access to one of the most coveted invitations in all of music... But the Opry doesn’t simply pass out invitations to the biggest stars with the most hits. Opry management looks for a musical and a generational balance. Opry membership requires a passion for country music's fans, a connection to the music’s history. And it requires commitment – even a willingness to make significant sacrifices to uphold that commitment.
 I don't know what the Opry saw, or heard, but for me it is Hal's clear, rich vocals & thoughtful, intelligent lyrics .

What Hal says about those early years, playing the local scene in Washington County (from the bio on his website)
It was a great lesson in sociology because the bars would move the pool table over in the corner and put a three-quarter-inch piece of plywood on top, and that would be my drum riser. At 15 years old I'd get to sit up in the corner of these joints and just watch the evening progress. Friday night everybody would get paid from one of the local pulp mills, and they would wander in and be very generous during the first set. Then by halfway through the second set they're dancing with one of the girls. And by the third set they're fighting. I learned never to stop playing during a fight. That was an important part of my education.

Ketchum stated the 1994 show with Harris at SPAC was
an important show for me. I saw so many shows at SPAC when I lived in Washington County: Santana; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Creedence Clearwater Revival. I saw Sarah Vaughan bring down the house at the Newport Jazz Festival. But never, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be performing here.*
Washington County residents were even offered discount tickets the day of the show, according to the Post-Star article. Guess that is what the Opry meant about caring about the fans!

I leave you with a live version of "I Know Where Love Lives" from 2007 I found on youtube.

*"A Dream Come True for Hal Ketchum." The Post-Star. Glens Fall, NY. (July 31, 1994) C2.

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