Beloved and accomplished singer, songwriter, and performer Hal Ketchum is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and has officially retired from touring. This was the news that was confirmed by Ketchum’s wife, Andrea on Sunday (4-14) afternoon.
“I know everyone is wondering why there are no future tour dates, and speculations as to the reason,” Andrea said in a statement. “Our family would like to share the cause for this. Unfortunately, Hal is suffering from Alzheimer’s/ Dementia. He has been battling this for some time now, but because of his love for his fans, he continued performing as long as it was possible.”
Originally from Greenwich, New York, Hal Ketchum moved first to Austin in 1981 where he began playing small clubs and recorded his first album for the small label Watermelon Records. He later moved to Nashville to pursue a country career further, and was a successful performer throughout the early 90’s. His debut album on Curb Records Past The Point of Rescue was certified Gold, and along with his second record, 1992’s Sure Love, Ketchum charted three #2 singles, and seven Top 10’s. Hal’s music was a little more songwriter based at the time, making him less Garth Brooks, and more Steve Earle. He had another hit with “Stay Forever” off his 1994 record Every Little Word. It was also in 1994 when he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
But four years later, a diagnosis of acute transverse myelitis—a very similar ailment to multiple sclerosis—sidelined the singer and songwriter, causing him to lose use of the entire left side of his body. Ketchum had to relearn basic tasks, including how to sing and play the guitar again, and recovered enough to continue to record for Curb until 2008 when he retired to his cabin in Wimberley, TX, near Austin.
But then in 2014 at the age of 61, Hal Ketchum surfaced once again and began working with Austin, TX-based label Music Road Records, releasing his first album in six years called I’m The Troubadour, and began to play shows more frequently.
“I wasn’t really planning on doing another album,” Ketchum said at the time. “The whole Nashville scene is extremely competitive. You’re as good as your last record. People are always showing you spreadsheets on how much money you owe for videos and tour support and everything else. I think there’s a certain level of resentment that comes with that.”
Lately Hal Ketchum’s tour schedule has slowed down dramatically, which has many fans showing concerns.
“Dementia is an exhausting and confusing illness and now it’s time for Hal to stay home with loved ones,” Hal’s wife Andrea says. “Hal is otherwise healthy and happy, enjoying time with his family and friends. We all deeply appreciate how much love that you all have for Hal and how much his music means to you! Also, a heartfelt thank you to all the incredible musicians that have joined him on this journey, with more than special love to Kenny Grimes, without whom, this last year of shows would not have been possible.”
Tracie Ferguson, the long-time booking agent for Gruene Hall in Texas tells Saving Country Music, “Hal both began his career and ended his career with shows at Gruene Hall. As a young carpenter, he built our fence around the beer garden and even put up our basketball post. He went from playing in our front room for free, to Nashville, and sold millions of records. At the height of his popularity, he still came back almost yearly to play a Gruene Hall Reunion concert. We are all very saddened to hear that he is suffering from this disease. We wish him all of the love in the world, and will miss him very much.”
Plans are in the works to somehow honor Hal Katchum at Gruene Hall.
Hal’s wife Andrea said in conclusion, “Please know that I do read all of your comments to Hal and that we will continue to check in from time to time. Lots of love and appreciation to you all from Hal and the entire Ketchum family.”
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