Stories and Interviews
My Memories of Chris LeDoux, by Rob Fair
I was honored to be asked to write some memories of Chris while traveling on the road during his music career, for this, the 3rd Annual Chris LeDoux Tribute Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming…………
Wow, Chris LeDoux!
I met Chris for the first time, back in 1993, at a concert in San Jose, CA. The stage hands were setting the stage, as I came to the venue early to try and meet my hero. I walked up to the stage and asked to speak to Chris. Unaware he was eating dinner, someone called for him as he came out to meet me. He was very nice and down to earth, even took a photo with me. I was so nervous I could hardly speak. But within a minute or so, he made me feel comfortable and we had a light discussion. I let him get back to his dinner and apologized for interrupting it. He said, “Any time”. That’s the kind of guy Chris was.
Well, that was fourteen years ago (and over 125 attended concerts later) and I am now the president of the Chris LeDoux Fan Club. At the time, I was not much into fan clubs, but when asked to take over for my friend Warner Heyer,I was proud to do it. I didn’t know much about running a fan club but I learned real fast. I passed all of my ideas for the club by Chris, and he approved all of them. He told me once” You don’t need to keep checking with me, I trust you”. That’s the kind of guy Chris was.
Chris was the nicest guy I have ever met. Whatever venue we showed up at, he was always in a good mood, had a big smile, and joking around. (He once told me he was 45 on the outside and 17 on the inside.) My two boys grew up going to Chris shows with my wife and I. One year, we brought a birthday cake for Chris to help celebrate his day. It was in Shasta, CA, and I think he was turning 45 or 46. We gave him the cake, and as we walked away, he invited my two boys (18 months and 4 at the time) and us into his bus for cake and milk. As he poured the boys the milk, my wife Dorothy instructed them, “Use two hands and do not spill”. Chris just chuckled. That’s the kind of guy Chris was.
As the years went by, we got to know Chris and the band pretty good. Heck, we even had them all over to our house a few years ago, on a free night between shows in Livermore and Salinas, CA. We fed fourteen guys and had a great time doing it. After dinner, one of my boys handed Chris an old guitar, and asked him to play something. He looked almost embarrassed. He then said OK. We were expecting the prelude to “Little Long Haired Outlaw”; instead we got “Tiny Bubbles”. We all got a great laugh out of it. That’s the kind of guy Chris was.
I remember when Chris got bitten by the ‘golf bug’. The guys were always golfing in their free time while on the road. Being a pro athlete, Chris seemed a natural at it. He would watch golf on the bus, talk golf with the guys, or just pitch balls anywhere the bus landed. I took a shot of him pitching in a cow pasture, and he said it was better than nothing. No matter if Chris was golfing, riding buckin’ horses, designing bronze statues, writing/singing songs, ranching, putting on tremendous live shows, or pitching golf balls in a cow pasture, he seemed to excel in everything he put his mind to. That’s the kind of guy Chris was.
After the live shows, we would sit backstage with Chris. Exhausted and sweating from the energetic act, we would talk about the show that night, while the guys were getting a cool drink. Then Chris would get up to use the phone to call Peggy at home. It seemed he did this every night. As the years went by, Chris got a cell phone. It was strange at first, for me, to see the ole cowboy on a fancy cell phone. It was kind of like the old west meets the new technology, I thought. That’s the kind of guy Chris was.
Over the years, during the summer months, when the kids were out of school, they would lease a bus and tour with their Dad. It was neat watching them grow up and to be able to spend quality time with Chris. Family was number one with him, and it showed. That’s the kind of guy Chris was.
Chris shows, as my family referred to them, always seemed to have a special flavor. With blasting fireworks exploding to the songs, Chris running all over the stage, confetti guns shooting out to the crowd, red carnations being thrown, or signing autographs while singing, Chris felt he was giving something back to the fans. You know, kind of reaching out, making them part of the party. Chris said his concerts were a big party, and he was the host. Not selfish and giving back to the fans, that’s the kind of guy Chris was.
Rob Fair,Chris LeDoux Fan Club President
South Dakota born & raised,
I grew up listening to Chris sing his praise.
Of rodeos, family, work & song,
Four passions he followed his entire life long.
Many miles I traveled to hear his earthy voice,
No matter where or how far-it was always the right choice.
Chris told it like it was-good times & bad,
Although busy, he was an exceptional husband, friend and dad.
I met him once, after an outside show,
I always wondered what he would be like-now I know.
His music played at my wedding, our song was "Tougher than the Rest",
For the newlywed couple, we couldn’t have anything but the best.
An autographed picture adorns my dining room wall,
Seeing his mischievous grin, you can almost hear his drawl.
He passed away before my son and daughter came along,
But, whether in the house or in the car, they hear plenty of Chris’s songs.
The kids know that ‘Momma’ will always be a Chris LeDoux fan,
Gone before his time, we remember the life of this "Rodeo Man".
Katrina Ozenbaugh, Nebraska 2008
Sometimes my eyes get a little misty
When I think about our Wyoming cowboy being gone
“The King of Wyoming” as Mark Sissel wrote
Chris’ bigger than life presence celebrated in song
It has been three years and counting
We have all “cowboyed up” some
Most of the time we are doing okay
But some days are a real son-of-a-gun
Chris’ bootprints are big ones to follow
He loved his family, his music, and his part of the West
We can learn a lesson from how he lived
In the course we choose, give it our best
Rest in peace, King of Wyoming
We are holding the banner high and true
There are plenty of Posse members out here
All of us better from having known Chris LeDoux
........... Alice Gore
A letter from Fan Club member
October 23, 2006
Chris LeDoux was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK on October 22, 2006, along with other rodeo personalities. I would rank this museum at the top of all cowboy and western museums in the country. Check them out at www.nationalcowboymuseum.org.
My sister and rodeo buddy, Dorothy Bishop and I attended Sunday’s program. Rob Fair had informed me of the event in early October. I made reservations the next day after checking with Dorothy if she would go as my guest. We had reservations and tickets to attend the working cowboy rodeo finals in Amarillo, TX in November. Both of these trips would require one or two nights away from home. We also had tickets to the Ft. Worth rodeo in January. But, when I heard from Rob about the induction, I knew I had to attend. This would be one of the final tributes I could pay a man I think of so highly. I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2005 induction of Chris in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. That was a 1400+ mile trip. Surely I could get up the road to Okalahoma City, some 178 miles away.
October 21 & 22, 2006 was Rodeo Weekend at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The Rodeo Historical Society produces this event every year. Saturday night consisted of a benefit auction/awards dinner that raised $43,000 for various rodeo programming, charities, etc. At his venue, Cotton Rosser was presented with the 2006 Ben Johnson Award, Jerry Frazier was presented the Lucas Memorial Award, and Ty Murrey was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame for his 7-time PRCA All-Around World championships. Gary S. Pratt provided the evenings entertainment.
Sunday was the Rodeo Hall of Fame 2006 induction ceremony/brunch for George Elliott, Marie “Ma” Gibson, Carl Dossey, Chris LeDoux, Mel Hyland, Alvin Nelson, Vernon “Dude” Smith, and Dan Taylor. These eight individuals represented rodeo from rough stockers to stock contractors.
Dorothy and I felt this was a great honor for Chris to be inducted into this particular rodeo hall. We regretted that Chris’ family was unable to attend. It was a moving experience to hear the rodeo histories of each inductee. Larry Mahan, World Champion rodeo great, and Bill Smith, accepted the induction medal for Chris. Mr. Mahan gave a good acceptance speech. Clem McSpadden, long time rodeo announcer, was Master of Ceremonies. Mr. McSpadden had a wealth of rodeo stories to tell of most of the inductees. He related the events surrounding Chris’ winning the world in bareback in ’76 and what a rough horse Stormy Weather was to ride.
The staff at the Nationl Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum treated each of us like VIP’s. There were many VIP’s in the crowd of 312 on Sunday – rodeo champions, rodeo judges, stock contractors, supporting sponsors and ranchers, along with rodeo families and just plain fans.
The brunch was extensive in selection as well as delicious. Dress code was everything from Wranglers and cowboy shirts to expensive leather jackets and high-dollar boots. I spotted on red bandana hanging out of the rear pocket of a pair of Wranglers. I wore my black wool and red leather fan club jacket. Chris had signed the left sleeve in ’95.
A DVD is available of the 2005 induction from the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorada Springs at www.prorodeohalloffame.com. In several weeks, a DVD or tape will be available of this 2006 induction from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. These are “must have” items for any serious Chris LeDoux fan.
Let Capital Records hear form you regarding Chris’s latest CD, The Ultimate Collection. Ask them for a DVD set of Chris’ musical videos. Let Capital Records know of your interest. Let’s keep this train rolling and keep Chris’ music coming – but hey, you need to buy a ticket (i.e. a CD) to make it worth Capital’s time and money to to this. Any of Chris’ CD’s or items for the fan club store would make great Christmas and/or birthday presents. Introduce a friend to some of the best, if not the best, western music ever written. Buy two CD’s for yourself – one for playing and one for keeping.
God, please take care of our cowboy and watch over this family.
Alice Gore - a Chris LeDoux Fan Club member
I was there the last time you played Ogden
I remember the lines on your face
I knew it was'nt the years that caused 'em
Just the miles of makin' your way
I know theres no way I could repay
the debt I feel I owe
For the advice and lessons you taught
a young man so many years ago
If I make it through this life
and succeed with all I try
can be-friend all I meet
live by the code 'till Im riddin' on high
be a model as a father and a husband
to love as honest as the wind through the trees
I'd still fall short in your footprint
I'd still only be half the man you lived to be
But Im gonna live today, like today's my last
and sing as loud as I can
stay true to myself, just like you said
and do the best I can, just like my friend
The rodeo man.
Chris, you're still missed very much.
Stake a claim for me pard, Ill see you
(a Chris LeDoux Tribute)
I remember bein' about 5 or so,
He'd sing to me with a heart of gold.
My eyes lit up like the "Western Sky",
I knew this man was an amazing guy.
Daddy got jealous 'cause I wouldn't leave his lap,
Chris knew, and he grinned as he gave my back a slight tap.
I left his knee with a feeling of calm,
Not knowing this mans legend would soon be so strong.
The years had passed and as I grew older,
I never forgot this man like a boulder.
He was so strong and so proud,
Plain as day, to the crowd.
For this man was a husband, a father, and guiding light,
An artist, a cowboy, he'd never cave without a fight.
I grew to realize Chris was the definition of a good man,
This was the type I would want to help start my clan.
I met a man, who shared the same Chris spirit,
And Chris had taught me, just go with it, don't fear it.
This man and I listen to Chris everyday,
We hope his tenderness, we can portray.
Intelligent man, I must admit,
Who else could coin the phrase "Just LeDoux It"?
The boys will keep livin' the "Copenhagen" way
And the girls will keep learnin' "Some Things Never Change".
Now remember cowboy, "It Aint the Years it's the Miles"
But during your time here you've conquered your trials.
His love and light will live on, that's a fact,
But once and for all, rests this "Cowboys Hat".
© 2006 Brandee L. Warren
(The Legacy of Chris LeDoux)
I never got to meet him,
Although I always wished I could,
Now that he's gone,
We try and move on,
But its hard to accept the fact,
That he wont be back,
He was a role model to many,
A sharp dresser at that,
Although his style is dying,
Along with the cowboy hat,
I will continue to dress like him,
Proud to carry it on,
Western Pride shall never fade,
Always living, never gone,
He was a great American hero,
The last of a dying breed,
Wyoming will never forget him,
A true American, at that,
LeDoux will live on forever,
As the man with the white cowboy hat
Today his kind are rare,
Its a sad but true fact,
His legacy will live on,
"Under This Old Hat"
Now he's an "Airborne Cowboy"
At that big ranch in the sky,
We'll all get to meet him,
When its our turn to fly,
I still listen to his songs,
Almost every day,
Never forgetting his greatness,
Only wishing he could've stayed,
The man this poem is about,
Was a great and famous man,
To sum up his life is hard to do,
Trying the best I can,
His legacy shall live on forever,
Never fading out,
Remember the fame, and his name,
of this great American cowboy we call:
By: Chapin C. Waite, 10/30/05
Chris LeDoux – Remembering the Man behind the Stetson
By Lori S. Anton
More and more one cannot think of country music without thinking of Chris LeDoux, especially in Wyoming. LeDoux can belt songs out with the best of them, all the while expertly pumping fans into a frenzy. Audiences become swept-up in LeDoux’s charm and charisma, and by the energy he radiates from the stage as he gyrates and sways.
This was the opening paragraph of an article I wrote in early 2000, six months before LeDoux was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. On March 9, 2005 countless fans mourned. Chris LeDoux was dead at the age of 56.
At the time of his death, LeDoux had released 37 albums, boasting nearly six million sales. Fans loved his sassy style of singing, one he described as a combination of “Western soul, sagebrush blues, cowboy folk and rodeo rock ‘n’ roll.”
Whether rubbing shoulders with other country greats like Garth Brooks, Charlie Daniels, and Clint Black, or hitting the country circuit solo with his Western Underground band, this 1976 world championship bareback rider held his own in Nashville, and all from the threshold of his 500 acre east-central Wyoming ranch.
During a chance meeting with my husband, Jeff, in a lumber yard in Buffalo, Wyoming, LeDoux agreed to an exclusive interview. He was purchasing tongue-and-groove pine for a cabin he was building as a family getaway.
Jeff and I met with LeDoux and his attractive wife, Peggy, the following week at the Country Inn, in Kaycee. What struck me immediately was how unaffected LeDoux seemed by stardom. Not surprising, considering that his uncomplicated country boy image was genuine, not one created by slick publicity agents.
Amid the café’s breakfast time hustle and bustle and clatter of dishes, we chatted about LeDoux’s early years.
Born October 2, 1948, in Biloxi, Mississippi, LeDoux was the eldest of three children. During the early 60s, while living in Austin, Texas, he became seriously interested in music and taught himself to play the harmonica.
Such tunes as “Old Suzanna,” and “Turkey and the Straw” could be heard wafting down through the gnarled branches of an enormous oak. An audience of leaves dancing in the breeze clapped their applause as 12 year-old LeDoux sat cross-legged practicing, in the tree house he built himself.
At age 15, while living in Cheyenne, LeDoux’s mother bought the aspiring musician his first guitar.
“I really liked what I was hearing on the radio, and I just wanted to play those songs,” remembers LeDoux.
Intrigued by such recording talents as Neil Sedaka and Chuck Berry, LeDoux’s musical interests eventually settled on songs and artists with a distinct country flavor.
It wasn’t long before LeDoux began dabbling at songwriting; Old Cowboy Heroes, Rodeo Songs, and Wild and Wooly among the first. By 1972 LeDoux was recording albums under his own Lucky Man Music label. He sold his tapes at rodeos from the back of his pickup to help pay the entry fees.
By 1981 LeDoux had composed and recorded more than 50 songs and had sold more than 250,000 albums and tapes.
In 1989 Garth Brooks immortalized LeDoux in the song that would become his first hit, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” and LeDoux’s career skyrocketed. After signing up with Capital Records in 1991, LeDoux teamed up with Brooks in 1992 to record the Top 10 hit, “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy.”
Sipping coffee from a plain porcelain cup kept replenished by an observant waitress, LeDoux talked easily about his career, his family, and his life.
Anton: “Chris, you are part of the Nashville scene, but you didn’t ‘buy into it all.’ You chose to stay in Wyoming.”
LeDoux: “Yeah, well, when I first signed on with Capital I asked Jimmy Bowen if I’d have to do that. You know…move right down there in the middle of things. And he said, ‘No, you can live anywhere you want.’
“He even said, ‘We can’t bring you down here and Nashville you up! You’ve been living there (in Wyoming) too long.’ So, it’s kind of nice to have that freedom to do what I do.”
Anton: “Was there ever a time when you were tempted to leave Wyoming?”
LeDoux: “Yeah. There was one time I thought about the possibility of moving to Nashville. That was back in the hungry years.
After Chris and Peggy were married, January 4, 1972, they hit the rodeo circuit. There were times when they traveled from one city to another with less than $15 in their pockets. LeDoux recalled other times when he hung out at roadside diners, waiting for someone to finish eating so he could salvage what was left on the plate.
LeDoux gave up rodeoing in 1980. “I was sittin’ there with both knees taped and my elbow and collarbone,” recalled LeDoux, “and I thought, ‘Daggone, what am I doin here?’” He returned home, tossed his riggin’ down the cellar, and began to focus on his music career full time.
LeDoux: “It (the music career) might have worked earlier if I had moved down, but… (A shrug of the shoulders)
“And, thanks to Garth Brooks for mentioning me in his song, ‘cause that really is the thing that seemed to start things off.”
Anton: “When you finally met Garth you must have been pretty excited. Was he what you expected?”
LeDoux: “I guess I was a little apprehensive about meeting him. You know, you hope someone you admire doesn’t turn out to be…well…what would be a good word for an
_ _ _hole? (A sheepish grin and round of chuckles follow).
“Anyway, I was hoping he wouldn’t be one of those! And, yeah, my fears were laid to rest once I met him. He was really a nice guy.
Anton: (Changing the subject) “Where did you and Peggy meet?”
LeDoux: “I came here in ’67 after I graduated…I think the first day I was here I met her. School was still going on. As a senior in Cheyenne, I’d gotten out early.”
“Anyway, there was a bunch of kids walking back up to the high school from the cafeteria. I was driving down the road, and here comes this girl in a green dress.”
Anton: “You still remember what she was wearing?”
LeDoux: “I do…yeah.” (LeDoux’s eyes crinkled at the corners and he bobbed his head up and down playfully.)
“They introduced me to her, you know…just kind of in passing, and I thought, ‘Whew! What a pretty girl!’”
Anton: “You’ve been married going on 29 years now. The long separations must be hard. What keeps you going?”
LeDoux: Peg keeps me going…her and the kids. They just accept me for what I am.
“You know, home is kind of a sanctuary to come back to. Peg is the foundation to this whole deal. Her being there, putting up with me being gone so much…not griping or complaining about it. You know…supporting me. She makes my life easier.”
Anton: “On one of your tape jackets, I noticed you gave special thanks to, ‘the man upstairs.’ Do you consider yourself a Christian?”
LeDoux: “Yeah. I guess the older I get the more I see the world changing, and values sort of going downhill. And you realize that even if you’re just sort of a Christian…just take the values that Christ laid out. You know…just follow ‘the golden rules.’”
Anton: “Chris, you mentioned earlier that Garth’s music came at a good time, because he had a message the world really needed to hear.
“As a popular singing performer yourself, do you feel that privilege also carries with it a responsibility to impart a positive message through your songs?”
LeDoux: “Yeah, that’s right. You know, in this business it would be real easy to just go nuts. There are so many opportunities out there to get into every facet of craziness there is in the world. None of that stuff out there is real.
“You know, it’s the ‘stuff’ like her, (a nod toward Peggy) she’s real! And the family…they’re real. Temptations are out there, but I’ve got a pretty strong foundation under me.”
LeDoux’s foundation proved solid. Throughout a music career that spanned more than three decades, LeDoux had kept his feet planted firmly on the Wyoming soil of reality. He knew without reservation that all that glittered was not gold.
A little over an hour later we were standing outside the café in the parking lot shaking hands. The interview was over. LeDoux had been gracious, and I had enjoyed every minute of our time together. As Jeff and I turned to walk away, I glanced back over my shoulder. LeDoux and his wife were back to, walking hand in hand toward their truck.
Six months after our interview, LeDoux was diagnosed with cholangitis, a rare liver disease. With grace and grit that left fans in awe, LeDoux underwent a liver transplant in October of 2000 and hit the concert circuit again after just six months.
Late in 2004 LeDoux underwent radiation treatment for cancer of the bile duct. Then on March 9, 2005, the country star breathed his last in a hospital room at the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, surrounded by family and friends. He was cremated the next day, according to his wishes. Capitol Records Nashville president and CEO Mike Dungan solemnly noted, “In a world of ego’s and sound-a-likes, he was a unique artist and a wonderful man.”
During a 2002 interview with Taylor Sophia Fogarty of American Western Magazine, LeDoux was asked what he enjoyed most about life. Reflecting on recent health complications, LeDoux had responded, “…Little moments of joy. Like you feel just good enough to appreciate a sunrise or any little thing...it’s kind of a spiritual thing that maybe God puts in there that’s just joy, happiness…yeah, just hang on to every little moment that comes along.”
While the rest of the world might best remember LeDoux’s dynamic performances on stage, here in God’s country Chris LeDoux will always be remembered as the man behind the Stetson.
Lori S. Anton is a freelance writer who resides in Emblem, Wyoming, with her husband, Jeff. You can visit her online at www.writerswritenow.com
From the El Dorado (Ark.) News-Times.
Way back in the early 1980s I worked as a DJ/entertainer at a modern country establishment in Scottsdale, Ariz., called Wrangler's. From the outside it looked like a savings and loan or bank. Its stucco exterior fit perfectly with the surrounding area. Inside it was filled with hundreds of pieces of western art, from beautiful pictures to bronzes.
Wrangler's had three kinds of customers: those who were caught up in the "Urban Cowboy" craze, those who were white collar by day and cowboy by night, and the real cowboys. It was the latter group, the real working cowboys, which I came to love. These were guys who were not ashamed to come straight from the barns or horse arenas to the club. Many actually had more "regular" jobs, but lived the cowboy lifestyle every other waking moment. They owned their own ranches, horses, cattle and such.
Often I'd hear the real cowboys request music from one of their heroes, Chris LeDoux, a former rodeo star recording music from his ranch in Wyoming. I had never heard of the guy. I promised one of the cowboys that if he'd find me a phone number I'd call and get some of LeDoux's music. Sure enough the cowboy came back about a week later with a phone number.
When I called, a woman answered the phone. I envisioned her in the kitchen, perhaps getting lunch ready for some farm hands. I explained who I was and that I wanted some Chris LeDoux records. She was thrilled. Turns out it was Chris' mother. Within a week I had nearly a dozen albums in my possession, some autographed by the man himself. I was thrilled the first night I could play the lovely waltz "Night Rider's Lament" or any of the other great LeDoux songs. I instantly became a fan of his honest, direct, simple and beautiful western music. I was forever in the good graces of the real cowboys at Wrangler's.
Albums such as "Paint Me Back Home in Wyoming," "Western Tunesmith," "He Rides The Wild Horses," "Old Country Heroes," "Thirty Dollar Cowboy," "Used to Want To Be A Cowboy" and "Songs of Rodeo Life " became part of the Wrangler's collection. The club closed as soon as it was no longer a tax write-off for the owner, who reportedly owned a big percentage of the oil wells in Oklahoma at the time.
Nobody outside real cowboys had ever heard of Chris LeDoux, though he was a true superstar to many. In the late 1980s Garth Brooks mentioned LeDoux ("a worn out tape of Chris LeDoux ...") in the song "Much Too Young." The fat cats in Nashville soon began to pay attention: this former rodeo star was huge among fans of the cowboy lifestyle.
Though LeDoux would record numerous albums with Nashville people, his best work remained those early records. When he hit the stage performing there were few rivals. Brooks has mentioned that his high-flying, high-energy shows were a direct ripoff of what LeDoux had been doing for years.
So it was sad news when I heard that Chris LeDoux died of cancer on March 9 at age 56. LeDoux had battled health problems for decades, from bad knees thanks to wild horses to needing a liver transplant. He came within a month or so of dying back in the early 1990s before getting a transplant. Brooks had offered part of his liver, but he wasn't the right match. That's how much love and respect Brooks had for LeDoux.
"LeDoux had recorded 22 albums on his own when Garth Brooks mentioned his name in the hit song, 'Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)' in 1989," an official statement said. "Shortly thereafter, LeDoux signed with Brooks' label, Capitol Nashville, where he recorded 15 albums and sold nearly six million copies." If not for "Much Too Young," the world at large might never had known about LeDoux.
"The simple phrase 'a worn out tape of Chris LeDoux' in that famous song of Brooks' gave the singing cowboy the boost he'd been needing, career-wise, as far as LeDoux was concerned: 'As far as Garth helping my career, he did tremendously. It's funny ... the first time I met him, he told me the opposite. He says, 'Chris,' (laughs) 'You don't realize what using your name in that song has done for my career,' but I know it helped me way more than it did him. You see, we'd been doing this for probably 18 years when that song finally came out," the statement continued.
Mike Dungan, CEO and president of Capitol Nashville, added, "All of us at Capitol Records and EMI Music are saddened at the passing of Chris. "In a world of egos and soundalikes, he was a unique artist and a wonderful man. We have always been proud to represent his music, and honored to call him our friend. Our thoughts go out to his wife, Peggy, and the LeDoux family."
Singer Darryl Worley added his thoughts, "I'm certainly saddened by the fact that he's gone, and I know he's been having some health problems. I spent a little time with Chris a couple different times. He was just really full of energy and enthusiastic and a positive guy, and he's one of the few people I know that can go out and sell four or five million records without a record label, so I think his success and what he did with country music speaks for itself. He doesn't really need anybody to praise him, but we 're gonna miss him."
LeDoux was cremated on March 10, with a private memorial held in Wyoming. "LeDoux was a world champion bronc rider who turned to music as a second career. He sold his early work out of a trunk, along the harsh and rowdy rodeo circuits. His songs captured the romance, the freedom, the dirt and the hurt of rodeo, and drew fans who demanded tapes of his songs," his official website said.
"A devoted husband and doting father, LeDoux spent his time off the road with his family at their ranch in Kaycee, Wyo.," said Judy McDonough, director of public relations at Capitol.
One newspaper writer said the world should have mourned his passing more. "He died Wednesday, so little-known that this paper didn 't even bother to note his passing under the 'Deaths Elsewhere,' headline.
"What a pity. Chris LeDoux, 56, was directly responsible for the current popularity of country music, a surge that began in the mid-1980s. "Wait, you say. That was Garth Brooks who did that, right? Garth 'Ropin' the Wind.' Garth being 'Shameless.' Garth driving the rain-swept streets of 'Thunder Road.' "Brooks, whose colossal ego is exceeded only by his talent, will tell you that Chris LeDoux made him the performer who electrified audiences with rowdy, boisterous and all-out fun live shows.
"Country radio DJ Jim Mantel, who handles the morning-drive microphone at WGAR FM/99.5, knows Brooks and knew LeDoux. The day after LeDoux's death because of complications from liver cancer, Mantel told of a little conversation he 'd had with Brooks.
"Brooks' path to legend status included a night opening for LeDoux, and that's the story Mantel told listeners on Thursday. The amiable extrack star Brooks did his few minutes in the spotlight, ably pickin' and a-grinnin' but as motionless as an East Texas mesquite tree.
"When it was over, Brooks planted himself in the wings, watched and learned. "LeDoux rode the crowd the way he rode bareback broncs to the 1976 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championship. He was all over the stage, dancing, acting up, having a wild-eyed blast while singing some of the best-written songs in any genre.
"It was Brooks' epiphany. From that one show was born the Garth persona who turned country music on its ear. The genre has never been the same. "In this case, the student eclipsed the teacher. In some ways, that's good. Love him or hate him, Brooks resuscitated country music. It is to Brooks' credit that he never forgot the debt he owed LeDoux. When liver cancer forced his mentor to undergo a transplant several years ago, Brooks offered LeDoux half of his own liver.
"But for the most part, the general public missed the LeDoux tugboat hauling the Garth ocean liner into port. And that's too bad. LeDoux's music, like the man himself, is some of the best to come down the pike in a long, long time. "In the course of my career, I 've done three or four interviews with LeDoux. Every conversation felt like two old friends sitting at my grandma 's kitchen table at our family ranch in East Texas, swapping lies, sipping sweet tea and listening to an impatient bull call for his supper.
"It's memories like these that make me want to echo Brooks in his live version of 'Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)' A worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, Lonely women and bad booze Seem to be the only friends I 've left at all.
"And at the close of this stanza, Brooks yells out, 'God bless Chris LeDoux.' "Say it again for me, Garth. Say it again."
(Roderick Harrington is weekend editor at the News-Times.)
The Measure Of A Man
(A Tribute To Chris LeDoux)
How do you measure the life of a man,
is it just by the height of success,
or is it, at last, the number of lives
his love and devotion have blessed.
At wild bronco riding he rose to the top,
world champion, a rodeo star,
then with a talent from heaven it seemed,
came fame from his voice and guitar.
From a life that was showered with honors,
his name became known 'cross the land,
but the title he wanted remembered,
was that of a "Family Man."
The years we are granted are unknown,
and sometimes are sadly but few,
so a man lives each day to the fullest,
while doin' the best he can do.
He decided the path he would follow,
and held to that choice throughout life:
the greatest reward beyond all of the fame,
the love of his children and wife.
His legacy we will remember with pride,
for he rose 'bout as high as you can,
but greater by far is the lesson he left,
well taught by a "Family Man."
How do you measure the life of a man,
is it just by the height of success,
or is it, at last, the number of lives
his love and devotion have blessed.
Last American cowboy LeDoux dies at 56
By CLAY MASTERS / Daily Nebraskan
March 11, 2005
The last American cowboy of country music died on March 9th. Chris LeDoux, 56, had been reportedly battling liver cancer.
In 2000, LeDoux was given a liver transplant at the University Nebraska Medical Center and late last year was diagnosed with liver cancer.
LeDoux's tours made stops in Lincoln quite regularly for the Nebraska State Fair -- his last performance here was last August.
LeDoux, was a world championship bareback bronco rider and wrote music on the side. In the 1990s he got noticed for his music through the mention of Garth Brooks' first single, "Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old."
With the departure of LeDoux from this world and the country music industry we have now lost the last true cowboy singer/songwriter.
The country music industry has been lagging for a number of years now and it's a unique thing when the country music artist writes his/her own songs. Artists today in the country genre create albums chalked with watered down filler music surrounding two or three songs that are billed to be slapped on country radio.
For LeDoux, this was not the case. His albums were timeless and unlike almost every other modern country entertainer that gets airplay today, LeDoux's albums had originality from a voice that had lived the true American cowboy life.
LeDoux tried to remain true to his country music roots and not sell out, much like the older artists of the genre -- Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.
His songs were what he lived and his words were simple.
I was in elementary school when I first discovered LeDoux and found myself having total admiration for someone who completely changed careers and was successful in doing so.
I have long since drifted away from modern country music due to the lag discussed earlier. But LeDoux has always been the one artist I can still pull out every once and a while and feel a connection with and take me back to my younger years when I fantasized being a cowboy myself.
LeDoux will be missed greatly by more than just country music fans. He will be missed by the people who believe in music and songwriting.