“Tonto, who is that masked man?”


Willie revealed! Bandit bandana, now down around his neck.                           

 (Oh! Alright, alright! … Him – Willie Nelson!)

Willie Nelson was always very good to us at KMPS during the 1980s. There was the legendary story, around the station, that he actually wore one of our KMPS bandanas on “The Tonight Show,” but I’ve never been able to find any video confirmation for that story. We did receive phone calls from listeners swearing they saw Willie wearing the “Compass” bandana on television. Some callers wondered if the bandanas were available for sale. We had been handing out “free” bandanas, at live/remote broadcasts, as giveaways for listeners who were enticed to show up at those remotes with on air announcements such as: “The first 500 listeners to stop by at our live broadcast today will receive a free KMPS bandana!” Years later the famous KMPS bandana was actually incorporated as part of the station’s logo.

I was the KMPS Promotions Director during that period (May 1985 through ’87) and I pitched the idea of a KMPS Country Store Catalog.

The station had a fairly strong mailing list of our listeners, from our contest entry-blank information. We mailed thousands of copies of the KMPS Country Store Catalog, plus it was promoted on the air allowing listeners to phone in and request a catalog be mailed to them.
The Country Store catalog was mailed to thousands of KMPS listeners.
Catalog merchandise was priced only slightly above cost to cover shipping and handling.
Catalogs were also made available at all of our live remote broadcasts and merchandise from the catalogs was sold at The KMPS Booth at our free annual Listener Appreciation Picnic.
Gail Davies performs at the 1986 KMPS Listener Appreciation Picnic. Gail was the co-headliner with Country Music star Mickey Gilley.
Our friend Willie also helped KMPS out at his sold-out concert at Key Arena during the peak of his career. At the time KMPS AM&FM was in the middle of a huge ratings war with the Tacoma country station KRPM-FM. Because there were two Puget Sound area Country Music stations promoting the concert, the local promoter was in the position where they were unable to allow either one of the stations to be the sole concert sponsor. So, there were no station banners on the stage or in or near the arena.
Willie wearing Jay’s KMPS baseball style cap on stage.
Because I’d seen Willie a number of times, I was aware he would often trade hats with audience members who threw their hats on stage. I had a Backstage Pass, so I was waiting at the entrance to the stage wearing my KMPS baseball style cap. Willie arrived and was waiting for his announcement to go on stage. I asked him if he’d trade me hats and, as expected, he graciously switched his hat for mine. So, as I’d hoped, Willie walked out on this concert stage wearing a KMPS baseball cap … giving the impression to many in attendance that KMPS AM&FM was Willie’s Seattle area country music choice!
Willie performing while wearing the KMPS cap. His lead guitarist Jody Payne at left.
Willie eventually traded that KMPS cap with a fan in the audience … but I still have Willie’s hat!

Author: Jay Hamilton

Jay Hamilton is a veteran disc jockey, program director, music director and radio programming consultant. In the Pacific Northwest, he is best remembered for his time at KMPS AM/FM during the '70s and '80s. Jay is now retired and lives on the Olympic Peninsula. Music, of nearly every genre, has always been an important aspect of his life and he frequently contributes opinions, articles and "Collectibles" to Puget Sound Media.
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5 thoughts on “ “Tonto, who is that masked man?”

  1. Was it his idea to put the bandana on as a mask? Since this was centuries prior to covid…I assume he was going for the bandidos look. Did he coerce you into giving up your wallet?

  2. Well Steven, it certainly was many moons ago … but to the best of my recollection we gave Willie a number of bandanas for his personal use because of his persona of wearing a bandana as a headband. He put the headband on and then said “how about this” and on went the bandido mask. My wallet was safe, but he did walk out with a tray of brownies.

  3. One of Country Music’s most beloved entertainers is celebrating his 88th Birthday today (Friday April, 30th 2021). Born in the small town of Abbott, Texas (just south of Waco) Willie Nelson has been writing songs and performing for eight decades. Nelson usually releases a new album prior to or on his birthday. “That’s Life”, his 2nd tribute album to the songs of Frank Sinatra, came out in February.
    Happy B-day Willie!

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