News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters remembers a stellar artist

The year 2020 has been a year of loss in the folk and country music communities. Iconic artists like John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, Charlie Daniels, Justin Townes Earle and others have gone up the trail — some at the end of a long ride and others far too soon.

Last week, Texas singer-songwriter Hal Ketchum died at the age of 67 from complications of dementia. He had battled an array of health problems for a couple of decades.

Ketchum hailed originally from Greenwich, New York and moved to Austin in 1981. As it was for his fellow New York State native and frequent tour-mate Jerry Jeff Walker, Texas was musically simpatico and became his fertile native soil.

Blessed with an exceptional and distinctive voice and a presence that made him own any song he sang, along with songwriting chops that stood up with the great Texas songwriters, Ketchum had significant commercial success in the early 1990s, with songs like “Past The Point Of Rescue,” “I Miss My Mary,” and “Small Town Saturday Night.”

His career was derailed by acute transverse myelitis — similar to multiple sclerosis — but he continued to battle through and was able to get back on the stage. One of the stages he graced was Sisters High School Auditorium in two Sisters Starry Nights concerts.

Starry Nights co-founder, Jeri Fouts, who knew Ketchum and his family well, recalls:

“We’ve been lucky to work with some of the best in the business at Starry Nights over the years, and Hal’s performances in 2002 and 2009 are among those that I treasure the most. He had the soul of a poet and one of the most expressive, beautiful voices I have ever heard. It was a joy to witness his brilliance up close and to see him mesmerize audiences and touch so many hearts.

“He was a kind and generous man who was always ready to lend a helping hand to causes he cared about, as he did when he donated his time in support of our schools. He felt very much at home here in Sisters — he loved staying in Camp Sherman on the Metolius River, encouraging the student performers and visiting with locals at Bronco Billy’s after the shows. He felt a special connection to our community and the people he met here. The Starry Nights family sends our deepest condolences to Hal’s family, friends and fans and are thankful that his spirit will live on through his music.”

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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