Face of the Valley – Tim Ketchum

Tim "Black Jack" Kethcum, musician and all around nice guy, is the Face of the Valley for Nov. 19. Written by Jennifer Cronin.

This week's face of the valley is Tim 'Black Jack' Ketchum.

Tim was born in Edmonton, and moved with his family to Calgary as a young child. He is the second youngest child of six.

Tim’s love of music started at an early age. He recalls curling up in a “big old chair” and listening to his mom play the guitar and sing. As a singer in a country band, she would bring parties home and Tim would listen to late night jam sessions in the family living room. “I was in awe, there was nothing like it.”  In 1970 at the age of nine, Tim picked up a guitar for the first time and learned his first tune – “Folsom Prison Blues”. “Johnny Cash was my hero,” Tim remembers. “I was really sad when he died. “

Tim’s parents divorced when he was seven, and he went to live on a farm with his dad during his high school years, northeast of Brooks, Alta. He recalls with fondness how years later, he took his Mom to the Patricia Hotel, about 20 km north east of Brooks, to play.

At the age of 18, Tim got his first paying gig, playing at the Longview Hotel with his mom, then a wedding in Salmon Arm.

Laid off from his job in Calgary, Tim’s sister who resided in Fernie, invited him to move here. He came for a visit, and laughs as he recalls that he was convinced to run for “Miss Hosmer.” With his long hair, it seemed a natural fit, and he was dressed in eveningwear as well as a swimsuit. “I got 3rd runner up, so that wasn’t bad,” he laughs.

Shortly thereafter, in 1982 at the age of 21 Tim moved to Fernie. “I thought I would miss Calgary, but everyone was so friendly. I made so many friends, so fast,” he says.

In the mid-eighties, Tim moved to Kelowna for work for one year, but returned to Fernie in June of 1986. He secured work at the ski hill. Other jobs followed, and it was while building the Arts Station in 1988/89 that Tim met his wife-to-be, Peggy, who he married in 1991.

It was also during this time that Tim, together with Cam Kennedy, Dave Buliziuk and Gary Goode formed the band The Relief Committee.

Tim accepted jobs driving buses for Coaltran and Leiko, and then truck at the Greenhills mine, but all the while his real passion was music.  The demise of Westar in the early nineties gave Tim the opportunity to do something he really wanted. In an effort to get back to work, he was trained in Occupational First Aid, which he admittedly did not do well at.

Tim went on to obtain his Adult Basic Education, which gave him the prerequisites he needed to enter in the Professional Music program at Selkirk College in Nelson. “The first year was tough,” Tim shares. He recalls that ear training was the hardest, and after year one, his instructors advised him that he might want to repeat that year. Persevering, Tim went home over the summer and practiced. “I practiced at home, practice, practice, practice, and finally I got it. I had been practicing on a piano, and all the time, I should have been practicing on a guitar.” Tim went on to complete his second year, being the only one of about 30 students over the age of 30 to graduate, and doing so with Distinction. “It was a tough two years, so stressful, and yet so cool.”

Upon returning home, Tim taught guitar lessons, and returned to driving, now working as a casual for the School Board.

Twenty-five years with The Relief Committee, and there is no doubt, given the opportunity, Tim will keep playing for another 25, after all, next to Peggy, music is the other lady in his life.

A performer, instrumentalist and musician, Tim Ketchum is this week’s “face of the valley.”