Chris LeDoux in May 1999
October 2, 1948|
Biloxi, Mississippi, United States
|Origin||Cheyenne, Wyoming, United States|
|Died||March 9, 2005
Casper, Wyoming, United States
|Genres||Country, Country Rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer-songwriter, rodeo competitor, bronze sculptor|
|Associated acts||Garth Brooks
Chris LeDoux (October 2, 1948 – March 9, 2005) was an American country music singer-songwriter, bronze sculptor and rodeo champion. During his career LeDoux recorded 36 albums (many self-released) which have sold more than six million units in the United States as of January 2007. He was awarded one gold album certification from the RIAA, and was nominated for a Grammy Award and the Academy of Country Music Music Pioneer Award.
LeDoux was born in Biloxi, Mississippi. He was of French descent on his father's side. His father was in the US Air Force and was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base at the time of his birth. The family moved often when he was a child, due to his father's Air Force career. He learned to ride horses while visiting his grandparents on their Michigan 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 and played football through his high school years, with rodeos keeping most of his attention. When his family moved to Cheyenne, he attended Cheyenne Central High School. After twice winning the Wyoming State Rodeo Championship bareback riding title during high school, LeDoux earned a rodeo scholarship to Casper College in Casper. During his junior year, LeDoux won the Intercollegiate National bareback riding Championship.
LeDoux married Peggy Rhoads on January 4, 1972, and they had five children: Clay, Ned, Will, Cindy and Beau.
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 composing 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, when LeDoux won the world bareback riding championship at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. Winning the championship gave LeDoux more credibility with music audiences, as he now had proof that the cowboy songs he wrote are authentic. LeDoux continued competing for the next four years. He retired in 1980 to nurse injuries and to spend more time with his growing family.
With his rodeo career ended, LeDoux and his family settled on a ranch in Kaycee, Wyoming. LeDoux 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 22 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 Garth Brooks' Top-10 country hit "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)." Capitalizing 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, reaching No. 7 in 1992. In concert, he ended the song by saying, "Thanks, Garth!"
For the next decade, LeDoux continued to record for Liberty. He released 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, which he attributed to the challenge of composing new lyrics. With his 2000 release, Cowboy, he returned to his roots, re-recording many of his earliest songwriting creations.
Illness and death
In August 2000, LeDoux was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, which 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 received a transplant on October 7, 2000. After his recovery he released two additional albums. In November 2004, LeDoux was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma and underwent radiation treatment for it until his death on March 9, 2005 of complications from the ongoing treatment as well as the disease at a Casper, Wyoming hospital. 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 Colorado Springs 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.
- "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."
Garth Brooks performed the song on "The 39th Annual CMA Awards" on Nov. 15, 2005 live from Times Square in New York City. Later that evening, LeDoux was honored with the CMA Chairman's Award of Merit, presented by Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, to LeDoux's family.
Friends have also collaborated to produce an annual rodeo, art show, and concert in Casper 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, in April 2007 Capitol Records released a six-CD boxed set featuring remastered versions of 12 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.
- "It was something my family and I thought would be right to do because this was such a special rodeo to him. ... This has always been a special rodeo in my family. My dad rode here and came close to winning here a couple of times."
Additionally the city in which LeDoux attended college; Casper, Wyoming, celebrates his life and legacy each November with the Chris LeDoux Memorial Rodeo. A weekend event which includes an art show featuring a number of LeDoux's works, a PRCA rodeo and a country music concert.
In 2010, Robert Royston created "One Ride", a musical dance production. One Ride is a powerful music and dance production that tells the story of the Rodeo Cowboy. Inspired by and told through the music of Chris LeDoux, the show explores the passionate, yet humbling and often painful paths a cowboy follows in his quest to become a champion. One Ride will debut at Queen Theater in the Park on October 29 and continue through November 6. The goal is to pay tribute to Chris LeDoux by launching a national tour that will follow the rodeo circuit.
In 2011 country music artist Brantley Gilbert paid tribute to LeDoux in Gilbert's single "Country Must Be Countrywide," with the line "From his Wranglers to his boots - he reminded me of Chris LeDoux. With that Copenhagen smile, Country must be countrywide." 
Rodeo career milestones
|1964||Little Britches Rodeo Bareback World Championship|
|1967||Wyoming State High School Bareback Bronc Championship|
|1969||"National Intercollegiate" Bareback Riding Champion|
|1976||"Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association" Bareback World Championship|
|1984||Officially retired from rodeo competition.|
- "Chris LeDoux's Catalog Gems Remastered by Capitol Nashville / EMI". Capitol Records. 2007-01-22. Archived from the original on 2007-02-05. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- "Chris LeDoux Biography". Country Music Television. 2005. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Huey, Steve (2005). "Chris LeDoux". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Coon, Chuck (2005). "Chris Ledoux: Missing Chris". ChrisLedoux.com. Archived from the original on 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Gardner, Tom (2001-06-20). "Chris LeDoux Back After Transplant". PlanetGarth.Com. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Stoelzle Graves, Deirdre (2006-10-30). "Losing, and finding, Chris LeDoux". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Dillon, Jenni (2005-03-10). "Cowboy, Singer LeDoux dies in Casper". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- "LeDoux Named to ProRodeo Hall of Fame". Country Music Television. 2005-04-22. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- "Brooks to Accept LeDoux's Pioneer Award". Country Music Television. 2005-04-27. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Smith, Hazel (2005-11-01). "A Conversation with Garth Brooks". Country Music Television. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- "Chris LeDoux Immortalized in Bronze". ChicagoAtHome.Com. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Johnke, Jeremiah. "Remembrance: Singer's ashes spread on Frontier Park Arena" - Wyoming Tribune-Eagle - July 25, 2007
- Brantley Gilbert web site
- Seemann, Charlie. (1998). "Chris LeDoux". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 293.
- Brown, David G. (1987). "Gold Buckle Dreams: The Rodeo Life of Chris Ledoux". Wolverine Gallery
- The Official Chris LeDoux Website
- A popular Chris LeDoux Fansite
- Amazon.com: Gold Buckle Dreams: The Rodeo Life Story of Chris Ledoux
- The Musical Dance Production link
- "Singer, rodeo champ Chris LeDoux dies" at the Wayback Machine (archived March 14, 2005): Obituary by Peter Cooper, The Tennessean, March 10, 2005