Music

Country Flashback: Hal Ketchum's Searing Debut 'Small Town Saturday Night'

In April 1991, Hal Ketchum raced to the top of the country music charts. His debut album, Past the Point of Rescue (from Curb Records) was certified gold by the Recording Industry of America. No surprise -- its lead-off single, "Small Town Saturday Night," hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts, as did "Past the Point of Rescue." Two other singles from the album, "I Know Where Love Lives" and "Five O'Clock World," reached the top 20. It was an auspicious start for Ketchum. Between 1991 and 2006 Ketchum had 17 entries on the Hot Country Songs charts. The upstate New York native was also inducted as the 71st Member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1994.

It's easy to see why "Small Town Saturday Night" had so much appeal. The song, penned by Pat Alger and Hank DeVito, has a rollicking melody with a bit of an edge. The opening verse paints a humorous picture of the boredom and frustration of a Saturday night in a working-class town. The characters cause mayhem, speeding down highways and shooting out traffic lights. However, when we get to the third verse, we get hit with a dose of realness:

Bobby told Lucy, "The world ain't round...
Drops off sharp at the edge of town
Lucy, you know the world must be flat
'Cause when people leave town, they never come back

Pat Alger, who co-wrote the song, was no stranger to writing hits: he wrote Garth Brooks' "Unanswered Prayers", "What She's Doing Now", "The Thunder Rolls" and "That Summer"as well as Trisha Yearwood's "Like We Never Had A Broken Heart," among many others. But Ketchum's delivery plays a huge part in the song's success: he hits his marks with sincerity and warmth, a trait that runs through his catalog all the way to his 2014 album I'm The Troubadour.

The video is a black-and-white shot of Ketchum gazing into the camera and performing the song. He sports a modest mullet and a devil-may-care smile as he shows off his fancy footwork. In the background is a screen with the 1938 Western The Terror of Tiny Town projected onto the background, with appropriate scenes from the movie cut into the video. (The movie is now widely considered to be exploitative of the little people featured in it.) In the last twenty seconds of the video, a white Shetland pony appears and circles around Ketchum. I don't know what to tell you -- 1991 was certainly simpler times. I guess that's what was fun in a small town on a Saturday night.

"Small Town Saturday" Night Lyrics

There's an Elvis movie on the marquee sign
We've all seen at least three times
Everybody's broke, Bobby's got a buck
Put a dollar's worth of gas in his pickup truck
We're going ninety miles an hour down a deadend road
What's the hurry, son... where you gonna go?
We're gonna howl at the moon, shoot out the light
It's a small town Saturday night
It's a small town Saturday night

Lucy's got her lipstick on a little too bright
Bobby's gettin' drunk and lookin' for a fight
Liquor on his breath and trouble on his mind
And Lucy's just a kid, along for the ride
Got a six-pack of beer and a bottle of wine
Gotta be bad just to have a good time
They're gonna howl at the moon, shoot out the light
It's a small town Saturday night
It's a small town Saturday night

Bobby told Lucy, "The world ain't round...
Drops off sharp at the edge of town
Lucy, you know the world must be flat
'Cause when people leave town, they never come back"
They go ninety miles an hour to the city limits sign
Put the pedal to the metal 'fore they change their mind
They howl at the moon, shoot out the light
It's a small town Saturday night

They howl at the moon, shoot out the light
Yeah, it's a small town Saturday night
It's a small town Saturday night
It's a small town Saturday night

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Country Flashback: Hal Ketchum's Searing Debut 'Small Town Saturday Night'