LISTEN: Hal Ketchum’s Best Songs and Biggest Hits
Few '90s country hitmakers were as easy to enjoy as singer and songwriter Hal Ketchum. While "Small Town Saturday Night" steals the bulk of his 21st century country airplay, the New York-born country singer was a dynamic vocalist with a broad catalog of hit songs and satisfying deep cuts.
"Past the Point of Rescue" is essential listening, but so, too, is his final 1990s charting song, a cover of Todd Rundgren's "I Saw the Light." We included both on this list of Ketchum's best songs and biggest hits.
The list focuses on his charting songs, courtesy of Billboard's records of his country airplay. Ketchum was enjoying regional success in Texas prior to signing with Curb Records for his 1991 Past the Point of Rescue album, however. A decade in the Austin, Texas, area produced songs for the Threadbare Alibis album and sharpened his songwriting and stage acumen to make him a true country force once he landed in Nashville.
In total, Ketchum's smooth, everyman voice was captured on 11 studio albums, including nine on Curb and his final 2014 independent album, I'm the Troubadour. Songs including "Stay Forever," "Sure Love" and "Mama Knows the Highway" were hits from his time on Curb, and each is included on this list of Hal Ketchum's best songs.
"Past the Point of Rescue" (Mick Hanly) — No. 2 in May 1992
"Small Town Saturday Night" (Pat Alger, Hank DeVito) — No. 2 in August 1991
"Hearts Are Gonna Roll" (Hal Ketchum, Ronny Scaife) — No. 2 in May 1993
"Stay Forever" (Benmont Tench, Hal Ketchum) — No. 8 in May 1995
"Mama Knows the Highway" (Pete Wasner, Charles John Quarto) — No. 8 in August 1993
"Sure Love" (Gary Burr, Hal Ketchum) — No. 3 in January 1993
"I Saw the Light" (Todd Rundgren) — No. 36 in May 1998
Ketchum toured until early 2019, when his wife revealed that his dementia had progressed to the point where it was no longer possible for him to perform. It was the second time he'd retired, as he also did so in 2008, before returning to the studio and stage in 2014.
Ketchum's battle with Alzheimer's/dementia was a quiet one until he publicly announced he was finally done in 2019. "Because of his love for his fans, he continued performing as long as it was possible," wife Andrea wrote that year. The news came a year and a half before Ketchum died on Nov. 24, 2020, at the age of 67.