Fred LaBour

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Fred LaBour
Fred "Too Slim" LaBour by Hugh Pickens
LaBour performing at the Poncan Theater in Ponca City, Oklahoma on November 7, 2008.
Background information
Birth nameFrederick Owen LaBour
Also known asToo Slim
Born (1948-06-03) June 3, 1948 (age 75)
Grand Rapids, Michigan
GenresWestern swing
Occupation(s)Singer–songwriter, musician
Instrument(s)Vocals, double bass
Years active1971–present
LabelsRounder, MCA, CBS, Epic, Disney, Rykodisc

Frederick Owen LaBour (born June 3, 1948 in Grand Rapids, Michigan),[1] better known by his stage name Too Slim, is a Grammy award-winning American musician, best known for his work with the Western swing musical and comedy group Riders in the Sky.

Riders in the Sky[edit]

LaBour plays double bass and sings lead and background vocals. Prior to joining the Riders, he played with country singer Dickey Lee's band.[1] With the Riders, he is billed as "a Righteous Tater" or "The Man of a Thousand Hats".[2] LaBour is the central core of the Rider's comedy, with bits that include impressions of Gabby Hayes, carrying on conversations with a cow's skull, rolling tumbleweeds across the stage, and peddling a necktie in the form of a cactus, that he calls a cac-tie.[3] A long-standing gag in the Rider's concerts is LaBour mishearing a request to play the theme from the television program Bonanza on the bass, and instead playing it by slapping his face.[4] LaBour's repertoire of character voices include the evil Swinburne Slocum; Side Meat, a feisty chuck wagon cook whose secret biscuit ingredient is cement; Freddy La, the Surfin' Cowboy; and an assortment of frontier salesmen hawking to the cattle trade.[5]

LaBour's stage name, "Too Slim", came from a character he created at the Nashville Public Library while working with the puppet theater called "Singing Cowboy Slim", and from Ed "Too Tall" Jones, a football player at Tennessee State University who later joined the Dallas Cowboys.

LaBour has a master's degree in Wildlife Management from the University of Michigan.[2]

He provides commentary with fellow Rider in the Sky Douglas B. Green's satellite radio show "Ranger Doug's Classic Cowboy Corral" in the role of Ranger Doug's sidekick, the crusty old trail cook called Sidemeat. The show currently airs Sundays at 7pm ET, and Saturdays at 6am ET, on Sirius-XM's Willie's RoadHouse SiriusXM Channel 56.[6][failed verification]

"Paul is Dead"[edit]

LaBour was instrumental in the spread of the Paul is Dead urban legend. While a junior at the University of Michigan, having heard the October 12, 1969, WKNR broadcast about the rumor, he and John Gray wrote a satiric parody review of Abbey Road called "McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light", itemising various "clues", many of them of their own invention, of McCartney's death. The article was published in the October 14, 1969, issue of the Michigan Daily. Rolling Stone described LaBour's article as "the most baroque explication" of the supposed death, claiming that the Abbey Road cover photo depicted a funeral procession from a cemetery, with John as "anthropomorphic God, followed by Ringo the undertaker, followed by Paul the resurrected, barefoot with a cigarette in his right hand (the original was left-handed), followed by George, the grave digger", and adding details that Paul had died in a car crash three years earlier, the top of his head sheared off, and that he was the subject of the "A Day in the Life" car crash on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[7] LaBour and Gray were astonished when the story was picked up first by newspapers in Detroit, then Chicago, and by the weekend, both coasts. Beatles scholar Andru J. Reeve opined that LaBour's story was "the single most significant factor in the breadth of the rumor's spread."[8][9]

LaBour also participated in an RKO television special that featured celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey conducting a mock trial in which he examined various expert "witnesses" on the subject of McCartney's alleged death. LaBour told Bailey during a pre-show meeting that he had made the whole thing up. Bailey responded, "Well, we have an hour of television to do. You're going to have to go along with this." The program aired locally in New York City on November 30, 1969, and was never re-aired.[9]

LaBour was interviewed about his role in these events in the 2005 NPS Dutch television documentary, Who Buried Paul McCartney?[10]

Plaza Hotel[edit]

In a 1991 article in The New York Times, LaBour was quoted in opposition to Donald Trump's plans to convert the Plaza Hotel to condominiums. "A little bitty room like this? No way. I for one would probably take my business to Newark. The value of the Plaza cannot be determined by dollars and cents. There's a sense of place that transcends the bottom line."[11]


As solo artist[edit]

Title Type Release date Label
Say No More studio 2013 Too Slim Music (BMI)

As sideman[edit]

With Riders in the Sky



Year Title Role Notes
1974 The Thorn The Angel Fred
1985 Sweet Dreams Member of The Jordanaires Credited as "Opry Band"
1985 Wild Horses Too Slim Member of Riders In The Sky
1999 Toy Story 2 Member of Riders In The Sky

Performer: "Woody's Round-Up"

2003 Country Music: The Spirit of America Too Slim Member of Riders In The Sky
2006 Stanley's Dinosaur Round-Up Too Slim (Voice) Member of Riders In The Sky
2015 The Cartoon Cowboys Too Slim (Voice)

Sidemeat (Voice)

2015 Music City U.S.A Himself/Too Slim Member of Riders In The Sky


Year Title Role Notes
1969 Paul McCartney, The Complete Story Told For The First and Last Time Himself
1982 Twilight Theater Too Slim Member of Riders In The Sky
1983-1985 Tumbleweed Theater Too Slim and other characters LaBour was also a writer on the series.
1989 Hee Haw Too Slim Member of Riders In The Sky

Season 22, Episode 5

1990 Christmas The Cowboy Way Too Slim, Sidemeat TV special


1991 Riders In The Sky Too Slim 13 Episodes
1993 A Riders In The Sky Christmas Too Slim TV special


1995-1996 Riders Radio Theater: The Television Show Too Slim and other characters Four Episodes


1996 America's Music: The Roots of Country Himself/Too Slim Member of Riders In The Sky
1998 Barney & Friends Too Slim Member of Riders In The Sky

Episode: "Howdy, Friends!"

2003 Duck Dodgers Saloon Robot (Voice) Member of Riders In The Sky

Episode: "The Wrath of Canasta"

2006 Who Buried Paul McCarney? Himself Documentary


  1. ^ a b Hemingway, Lloyd (2002). "Riders in the Sky". Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Cusic, Don (2003). It's the Cowboy Way!: The Amazing True Adventures of Riders In The Sky. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky Press. ISBN 0-8131-2284-8.
  3. ^ Malone, Bill C. (2002). Don't Get Above Your Raisin: Country Music and the Southern Working Class. University of Illinois Press. pp. 207–208. ISBN 978-0-252-02678-2.
  4. ^ Applebome, Peter (November 2, 1983). "Singing Cowboys Ride the Range Again". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  5. ^ Armine, Susan (August 18, 1989). "The Cowboy Way is the Only Way for Riders in the Sky : Multi-Talented Performers Do Right Things on Radio and in Person". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  6. ^ Sirius-XM website Accessed October 10, 2011.
  7. ^ "One and one and one is three; McCartney alive and well". Rolling Stone. November 15, 1969.[dead link]
  8. ^ "McCartney interview - barefoot". Rolling Stone. Jan 31, 1974. Archived from the original on June 30, 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2007.
  9. ^ a b Glenn, Alan (November 11, 2009). "'Paul is dead' (said Fred)". Michigan Today. University of Michigan. Archived from the original on December 28, 2010. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  10. ^ Fred LaBour at IMDb
  11. ^ Barron, James (April 10, 1991). "Imagining the Plaza as condos". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2012.