This singing cowboy-movie star is the real thing.
Unlike many Western-lifestyle entertainers, R.W. Hampton is a cowboy first, and then a cowboy musician and actor.
“I’ve always been a cowboy,” R.W. Hampton assured Saturday morning in Valley Falls, before he went to Topeka to greet folks at a western store, and then returned to Jefferson County for a fund-raiser-concert.
Appropriately, considering Hampton’s regime, the performance raised funds for the Valley Falls Saddle Club Arena, where he was to entertain until inclement-weather forced him inside.
Organized by Valley Falls Mayor Charlie Stutesman, the evening kicked off with a barbecue supper, then local musicians Stan Tichenor and Erin and Clinton Thomas entertained before Hampton took the stage.
“It was really quite a deal for an entertainer of R.W. Hampton’s caliber to take time out of his busy schedule and come to our rural community,” Stutesman acknowledged. “One of the leading Western-entertainers in America today, R.W. is today’s Cowboy Music.”
Before, he became a famous singer-actor, Hampton insisted, “I was born to be a cowboy.”
On his high school rodeo team, Hampton competed in all of the rough stock events. “We were poor, didn’t have our own equipment, so we borrowed each other’s. We weren’t any good, but we had a great time.
“After high school, my parents insisted I go to college, but that only lasted one semester. I wanted to be a cowboy, and that’s what I did,” recalled Hampton, who worked for ranches in Texas, Mexico, Nevada, Canada, Oregon, Wyoming and places between.
A family tragedy in the early ’70s took the life of Hampton’s sister, but it is credited with his beginning in music.
“None of my family had musical inclinations, but I started listening to Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash sort of to console myself, then picked up the guitar, learned some cords and started singing,” Hampton reflected.
On the ranches where he worked, Hampton wrote songs based on his experiences.
“I was invited to play at cattlemen’s events, farm business banquets and the like,” Hampton said. “It’s was more-less singing for supper and gas money.
Hampton considers 1985 the “big-break” in his career when he got to work in Kenny Rogers’ movie Wild Horses.
“That gave me the opportunity to sing and play my guitar in the film and to work with Ben Johnson, Richard Farnsworth, and Buck Taylor. They were always my idols,” Hampton revealed.
Since then, Hampton has appeared in 15 movies. “They’ve generally been action roles, sometimes a page-script, but I generally get stabbed, hung or something,” Hampton described
Hampton has performed all over the United States including The Grand Ole Opry, The Smithsonian Institute, and in the United Kingdom, Australia and Brazil.
The Western-entertainment industry has honored Hampton’s performing and songwriting 15 times, including induction into the Western Music Association Hall of Fame.
A friend of Johnny Western, cowboy singer who worked at KFDI radio before retiring, Hampton credited, “Johnny was the first DJ to play my songs on the radio. I owe a lot to him, and we remain close friends.”
Today, Hampton, the father of six, lives with his wife, Lisa, and their youngest children on the Clearview Ranch at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain, south of Cimarron, New Mexico.
“We have a band of cutting-bred Quarter Horse mares to raise colts, and summer graze yearling steers,” Hampton related.
“I’m on the road three out of four weekends a month,” said Hampton, who drove 630 miles to entertain in Kansas.
“I say I just play for free, but the gas money is real good,” stated Hampton, who brought his 11-year-old son, Calvin, with him to Valley Falls.
However, Hampton had to leave his horse at home.
A call to his wife, Lisa, revealed, “Hank is the Freckles Playboy sorrel gelding R.W. is riding these days, but he changes mounts regularly. He does a lot of day work, and when somebody else takes a liking to his horse, R.W. will get another one.”
Hampton said Ole One-Eye was one of the best horses he’s ever had.
“One-Eye was a small horse that lost his eye to a mesquite thorn on the LS Ranch where I rode and used him,” Hampton related. “I could rope anything off One-Eye. When we’d gather bulls, I would rope a bull, tie the rope to the horn and go get the truck and trailer. Ole One-Eye would hold the bull, without getting hit or tangled up, until I got there with the rig.”
Credited by her husband as “a good hand,” Lisa said her horses, Lilly and Jackson, are cutting-bred full sister and brother raised on the ranch.
Hampton claimed his life is guided by his faith, his love for his family, and his desire to share cowboy life with his audiences.