Chris LeDoux (October 2, 1948 – March 9, 2005) was an American country music singer-songwriter, bronze sculptor and rodeo champion. "Just Ledoux It"
During his career LeDoux recorded 36 albums (many of them self-released) which have sold more than
six million units in the United States as of January 2007. He was awarded one platinum
and two gold album certifications from the RIAA, and was nominated for a Grammy Award and the Academy of Country
Music Music Pioneer Award.
Chris LeDoux was born in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1948. His father was in the US Air Force, and the family moved often when he was a child. He learned to ride horses while visiting his grandparents on their Wyoming farm. At age 13, LeDoux participated in his first rodeo, riding in Denison, Texas, and before long was winning junior rodeo competitions.
LeDoux continued to compete in rodeo events through his high school years, when his family moved to
Cheyenne, Wyoming. After twice winning the Wyoming State
Rodeo Championship bareback riding title during high school, LeDoux earned a rodeo scholarship to Casper College in Casper, Wyoming. During his junior year of LeDoux won the Intercollegiate National Bareback Riding Championship.
Rodeo Success and Music Beginnings
In 1970, LeDoux became a professional rodeo cowboy, competing on the national rodeo circuit. To help
pay his expenses while traveling the country, he began penning songs describing his lifestyle. Within two years he had written
enough songs to make up an album, and soon established a recording company, American Cowboy Songs, with his father. After
recording his songs in a friend's basement, LeDoux began selling his albums out of the back of his truck at rodeo events.
His years of hard work bore fruit in 1976, when LeDoux won the world bareback riding championship at
the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City. Winning the championship gave LeDoux more credibility with music audiences, as he now had proof that the cowboy songs he
wrote and sang were authentic. LeDoux continued competing for the next four years, before retiring in 1980 to nurse injuries
and spend more time with his family.
With his rodeo career ended, LeDoux and his family settled on a ranch in Kaycee, Wyoming. He continued to write and record his songs, and began playing concerts. His concerts were very popular, and often featured
a mechanical bull (which he rode between songs) and fireworks. By 1982 he had sold over 250,000 copies of his albums, with
little or no marketing. By the end of the decade he had self-released twenty-two albums.
Despite offers from various record labels, LeDoux had refused to sign a recording contract, instead
choosing to retain his independence and total control over his work while enjoying his regional following. In 1989, however,
he shot to national prominence when he was mentioned in the debut song of future superstar Garth Brooks, "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)." To capitalize on the sudden attention, LeDoux signed a contract with Capitol Records subsidiary Liberty Records and released his first national
album, Western Underground, in 1991. His follow-up album, Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, was certified gold
and reached the top ten. The title track, a duet with Brooks, became LeDoux's first and only Top Ten country single.
For the next decade LeDoux continued to record for Liberty,
recording six additional records, one of which, 1998's One Road Man, made the country Top 40. Towards the end of his career, LeDoux began recording material written by
other artists, as he was tired of fighting for the right words. With his 2000 release, Cowboy, he returned to his roots,
re-recording many of his earliest writing attempts.
Illness and Death
In 2000, LeDoux suffered an illness that required him to receive a liver transplant. Garth Brooks volunteered to donate part of his liver, but it was found to be incompatible. An alternative donor was located, and LeDoux
did receive a transplant. After his recovery he released two additional albums. LeDoux died in March 2005 of complications
from liver cancer. He was survived by his wife of 33 years, Peggy, and their children Clay, Ned, Will, Beau, and Cindy, as
well as his mother, Bonnie.
Shortly after his death, LeDoux was named as one of six former rodeo cowboys to be inducted into the
ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2005. He was the first person to ever be inducted in two categories, for his bareback riding and
in the "notables" category for his contributions to the sport through music. Shortly thereafter, the Academy of Country
Music awarded LeDoux their Pioneer Award during their ceremonies in 2005. LeDoux's good friend Garth Brooks accepted the award on behalf of LeDoux's family. In the fall of 2005, Brooks briefly emerged from retirement to record "Good
Ride Cowboy" as a tribute to LeDoux. Brooks remarked: I knew if I ever recorded any kind of tribute to Chris, it would have
to be up-tempo, happy...a song like him...not some slow, mournful song. He wasn't like that. Chris was exactly as our heroes
are supposed to be. He was a man's man. A good friend. Friends have also collaborated to produce an annual rodeo, art show,
and concert in Casper, Wyoming to honor LeDoux's memory. The art show features sculpture and sketches that LeDoux completed for friends; none of his works
were ever exhibited before his death. To mark the second anniversary of LeDoux's death, Capitol Records will release in April 2007 a six-cd boxed set featuring
remastered versions of twelve of the albums he recorded between 1974 and 1993. Award-winning artist and sculptor D. Michael
Thomas is creating a one-and-a-half times lifesize sculpture of Chris LeDoux during his 1976 World Championship ride on Stormy
Weather. The statue, called "Good Ride Cowboy," will be displayed at the Chris LeDoux Memorial Park in his hometown of Kaycee, Wyoming.