We got the sad news, Tuesday, that country star Hal Ketchum had passed away at the age of 67. The Grand Ole Opry member died of complications from dementia, according to The Tennessean.

Let me tell you, I was a HUGE fan.

Hal broke through immediately. His first release, "Small Town Saturday Night," peaked at number two on the Billboard country singles chart but went all the way to number one in Radio & Records Magazine. That, by the way, was a radio industry trade publication that no longer exists. But in the 90s, it was actually more important to radio than Billboard was.

In fact, I have a fun story about that number one ranking. (Well, fun for SOME.) The week it hit the top of that chart, Reba McEntire was sitting at number two with her big hit, "Falling Out of Love." When I reported our playlist to Radio & Records that week (that's how the chart was compiled--playlist reports from radio stations across the country), I forgot to report the Reba song. And that week, Hal was at number three, right behind her. Because of omission, Hal finished the week just a few points ahead of her and jumped over Reba to hit number one--the only time he had a number one song on any chart. His label, Curb Records, even sent me a plaque commemorating the occasion. And I have no idea where it is.

Anyway, to the point at hand. Back when Hal was a hit-making machine, he made an appearance at the Executive Inn Rivermont's Showroom Lounge. They were almost always Saturday night shows. On the day of the concert, he came by the radio station for an interview. And oh what a time we had.

I had JUST had knee surgery and was sporting a cast the width of a redwood. And the pain meds were coming and going. Good times.

Hal and his entourage came in and we went into the interview studio. He was a very nice guy and so were his people.

But he never once removed his sunglasses and only gave one or two word answers to my questions, while being very low-key and mysterious. I could not see his eyes. And I guess it WAS my fault for lobbing questions at him that COULD only be answered with one or two words. Although, I can't imagine ever doing that.

I really could have gotten a bad impression from all that, I suppose, but he WAS accommodating. I mean I didn't have to take a recorder down to the hotel. He went out of his way to come into the studio. It was a fun day and an unusual interview that made for a good story.

And the show that night was awesome. As quiet as he was here, he was the exact opposite on stage.

I'll be jamming to some Hal Ketchum on my way home tonight. In THAT way, we'll always have him with us.

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