We don’t have to be Greenwich Central School grads or remember Hal Ketchum from teenaged gigs at St. Paul’s Parish Hall, the Oasis, the Curious Cat or Kayo’s to hail him as our voice of small town Saturday nights here.
And while we can’t get to the sold-out tribute-benefit show Sunday near Austin, we can contribute to his medical needs via GoFundMe and stream the show live as his musician friends pitch in to help him fight Alzheimer’s. At Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, “Raised by Wolves: Bound for Glory — A Texas Tribute to Hal Ketchum” sold out quickly.
After playing in the Greenwich area in the Norman Pumpernickel Choir, Ketchum moved to Texas in the mid-’80s (when high school band-mate Bob Warren moved to Saratoga Springs) and began playing a weekly gig Sundays from 4 to 8 p.m. at Gruene Hall.
The Sunday tribute fundraiser there will feature Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, Lee Roy Parnell & Rob Roy, Walt Wilkins, Jesse Dayton, Slaid Cleaves, Waylon Payne, Kenny Grimes, Nico Leophonte, Los Mistiqueros and others.
Warren recalls meeting Ketchum in high school where he, Ketchum and Paul Foster harmonized in the band room on “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” and other soft-rock radio hits. As the Norman Pumpernickel Choir, they played songs by Cream, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival and, of course, the Beatles.
Ketchum drummed and sang, Foster played bass and Warren, guitar. They closed many shows goofing on “Hey Jude.” Warren said, “We stayed on a C-chord for the entire song including the long fade out.”
“Hal always had a little something extra in his voice,” said Warren, “a sweetness akin to that of the Everly Brothers …. the stridency of Paul McCartney when he unleashed. You were thrilled to hear him sing!” Warren said, “His voice can sell a song whether it is mediocre or great. When he writes a great one it is something special!”While Warren formed the Bob Warren Band as one of the North Country’s most versatile and powerful ensembles, Ketchum moved from Austin to Nashville and built mainstream stardom as the 72nd member of the Grand Ole Opry and a hit-making recording and touring artist. Soon, as Warren recalled, Ketchum’s hit “Small Town Saturday Night” was everywhere. Ketchum’s 1986 debut appeared on Austin-based Watermelon Records; later albums followed on Curb Records.
His most recent (11th) release is on Music Road Records, “I’m The Troubadour” (2014). Curb also released compilations in 1996 and 2008. Ketchum’s Greenwich tribute “Small Town Saturday Night” was among 17 singles that charted on Billboard’s Hot Country songs; three reached number two.
Ketchum resumed making music, painting and carpentry work after recovering from acute transverse myelitis in 1998. He played The Egg in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010, often with former band-mates. “Inviting me to join him onstage at The Egg and lending his voice to a song from my ‘Clear Connection’ album at that time was very sweet and gracious of Hal,” Warren recalled.
Sunday, Ketchum’s (mostly Texan) musical friends return that sweet graciousness.
“We are very honored and grateful to all of the musicians who have stepped up to honor Hal with their presence and music,” read a statement from Gruene Hall, which also noted Sunday’s event will feature video of Hal performing with Kenny Grimes.
The progression of Alzheimer’s prevents Hal from attending in person. “Thanks to all of the good folks who are donating their time to make this happen,” said Tracie Ferguson from the venue.
Fans can live stream “A Texas Tribute to Hal Ketchum” at Gruene Hall Sunday via “The Dancehall Tapes: A Texas Music Preservation Project,” starting at 3 p.m. at thedancehalltapes.com or via Facebook at facebook.com/thedancehalltapes.
To help Ketchum’s family meet his medical needs, visit www.gofundme.com/f/halketchummedicalfund or buy a virtual ticket to the show at www.gruenehall.com.
Tonight, Rainbow Full of Sound starts a four-show residency at Putnam Place, (63a Putnam St., Saratoga Springs) playing full sets from the Grateful Dead’s Europe 1972 tour.
Keyboardist-RFoS leader Waynard Scheller trained in the Dead tribute tradition with Changing Planes, Zen Tricksters and Jam Stampede, including a string of 2012 shows echoing the Dead’s full 1980 Radio City Music Hall run. Now Scheller heads a shifting lineup of Deadhead archivist-virtuosos (30 musicians in all, most with Dead-adjacent credits) in playing all 22 Europe ’72 Dead shows.
The three-album (or two-CD) set “Europe ‘‘ ’72” barely scratched the surface. The 73-CD 2011 release “Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings” collects all shows from that tour. In addition to Putnam Place, Rainbow Full of Sound also plays in ten other towns, celebrating the Dead’s triumphant European run in Putnam Place tonight, also March 19, April 30 and May 21. Tonight, they’ll play the April 14, 1972 Copenhagen show. 9 p.m., doors 8. $15. 518-886-9585 putnamplace.com.
More jams? Stick around. Friday, Putnam Place presents a live web-cast with Phish playing Moon Palace in Riviera Maya. 7:30 p.m., doors 7. Free.
Skidmore’s Zankel Music Center (815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs) show “The Melody of Melville — Music of Moby Dick” Saturday is cancelled.
Sunday, Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) offers a special edition of its Little Folks Series: a Woody Guthrie tribute. Titled “This Land is Your Land, 80 Years On,” the show features Tin Can Alley (stringed-things master Michael Eck and hyper-musical percussionist Brian Melick). 3 p.m. Free. 518-583-0022 caffelena.org.
Other Caffe shows: all-star (mostly women) Americana crew Low Lily tonight (7 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 students and children); jazz vocalist Jane Monheit, a human instrument of easy elegance, Friday (8 p.m. — sold out); and the zippy Irish bluegrass string-powered quartet JigJam Saturday ($20, $22, $11).
Super-durable British-German prog-rock band Nektar celebrates 50 years together tonight at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany). How prog are they? Their first album “Journey to the Centre of the Eye” (1971) was just one song: The last bit of the first side repeated to start the second. Guitarist Roye Albrighton died in 2016; Derek “Mo” Moore, bass; Ron Howden, drums; Ryche Chlanda, guitar; Randy Dembo; bass and guitar; Kendall Scott, keyboards; and Mick Brockett, lighting and effects, prog-rock on. 8 p.m. $50. 518-465-5233 thelinda.org.
Traditional trio Poor Man’s Gambit plays Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville) Friday, blending Celtic, British and American old-timey tunes into a high-stepping mix. Like Natalie MacMaster or Barra MacNeils, Dierdre Lockman dances while fiddling; Corey Purcell (accordion, bodhran, stringed things) also steps to the music while guitarist-fiddler Federico Betti stands and delivers. 7:30 p.m. $25, $12 for 13-18-year-olds, $5 for younger fans. 518-765-2815 oldsongs.org.
Eric Lindell plays Parish Public House (388 Broadway, Albany) Saturday on his “Unplugged Acoustic — The Lonesome World Tour.” At Jazz Fest in New Orleans a few years back, he swung hard for the fences, running the bases among Louisiana swamp-pop, Memphis soul and hard-hitting rock with a funky band featuring guitar star Anson Funderburgh. Solo, Lindell has all the voice he needs to put across these diverse, driving sounds. 9 p.m. $20. 518-465-0444 parishpublichouse.com.
Wednesday, Fitz and the Tantrums play Upstate Concert Hall (1208 Rt. 146, Clifton Park) on their “All the Feels Winter 2020” tour. Founder-keyboardist Michael Fitzpatrick calls their sound “soul-influenced indie pop,” which feels right. The hard-hitting, fashion-forward/retro sextet lit up the Hollow here previously with such fun they seem SPAC-sized: Fitzpatrick with Noelle Scaggs, vocals; James King, reeds and guitar; Joseph Karnes, bass; Jeremy Ruzumna, keyboards; and John Wicks, drums. Watch for our Kirsten Ferguson’s review here. Twin XL opens. 8 p.m., doors 7. $30. 518-372-0012 upstateconcerthall.com.