ELKO – For nearly 35 years, singer-songwriter R.W. Hampton has shared his love the American West to worldwide audiences.
From the campfire to the Grand Ole Opry, Hampton continues to tell his story of a cowboy’s life, along with tributes to veterans and his spiritual connection to the land in his music.
Appearing at the 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to pay tribute to Ian Tyson, Hampton will join Mike Beck, Ross Knox, Corb Lund, Shandy Layne, Gary McMahan, Michael Martin Murphy, Dave Stamey, David Wilke, Denise Whithmell and Paul Zarzyski.
It’s been three years since Hampton has been in Elko for the gathering. This year, he is joined by his family including his wife Lisa and son, Calvin Danner.
After arriving in Elko on Friday, Hampton sat down with the Elko Daily Free Press for a question-and-answer session that briefly touched on his thoughts about returning to the gathering, visiting with old friends and what keeps him on stage telling stories about the range.
What’s it like to be with the people at the gathering who like a good story and have fun with music?
Here people are not only interested in the song, but they want to hear the story behind the song. People really remember those things so it’s a good place to be because you can play at a lot of festivals and maybe they have your albums and they like your songs. but at this event you get a deeper appreciation, know about your family where you live and the story behind the song. You have the opportunity to tell to get a little deeper into the songs.
What has Ian Tyson meant to you as an influence and a mentor?
I met him through a mutual friend who worked for Western Horseman Magazine, when I first started playing music for people. I was very familiar with Ian’s music, I think I met him in 1984. He’s a good friend. We’ve performed a lot together down through the years. He’s 85 years old, and he’s made such a huge contribution to music and helped me out professionally.
When I heard he was going to do this, I didn’t have to sell my wife on this, she said we’re going to go do this. I think for whoever comes, it will be very special.
What are your plans for the remainder of the gathering?
I was not on a lot of the shows this year. We didn’t even know we were coming this year until Ian came up. It’s a good chance to visit people while we’re here. It seems like this time of the year all roads lead to Elko. I’m visiting with Corb Lund from Alberta and some from California and different people you don’t see unless you come here.
Are any of your sons interested in following in your footsteps?
My 18-year-old son Danner Calvin will be joining me on stage here. They all have an appreciation for music, but we’ve got some who are accountants, in the Marines, or ranch cowboys.
But it’s nice to pass this type of music and the storytelling narrative on to the next generation. He’s been on stage with me before, but it’s the first time in Elko. He was here before in his younger days and it was always one of my dreams is to have him join me on stage here in Elko. He will be grown and gone, so this was going to be the year. It will be neat to give a tribute to Ian.
What keeps performing alive for you?
I keep thinking my best performance is ahead of me, and to the appreciation you see on people’s faces, when I sing a love song and see a man reach over and grab his wife’s hand. They may be a couple that’s in their 20s or they may be a couple married for 60 years. That’s really cool.
Hampton performs Feb. 1 at 10 p.m.