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Prior to becoming a successful independent country artist, Chris LeDoux was a rodeo champion known for his bareback-riding skill and made his name in music by writing countless songs about the rodeo life. LeDoux was born in Biloxi, MS, in 1948 and moved around often as a child since his father was in the Air Force. He first tried his hand at rodeo riding in Denison, TX, at age 13 and was soon winning junior competitions. His family moved to Cheyenne, WY, while he was in high school, and he continued to ride; after graduating, he won the Wyoming State Rodeo Championship, which earned him a rodeo scholarship to Caspar College. He also studied the sport at Sheridan and Eastern New Mexico and won the Intercollegiate National Bareback Riding Championship. He turned pro in 1970 and eked out a living on the national rodeo circuit, winning just enough prize money to keep himself going. At the same time, LeDoux began writing songs about the rodeo lifestyle, since no other country performer had yet filled the niche (the way trucker songs became a specialized country subgenre). His first composition was "Bareback Jack," and he soon recorded an album's worth of songs in a friend's basement in 1972. He and his father set up a recording company, American Cowboy Songs, and LeDoux began selling his tapes at rodeo events out of the back of his pickup truck. As this side business became more lucrative, LeDoux started traveling to Nashville for quickie recording sessions rather than relying on local musicians.
LeDoux's hard work on the rodeo circuit paid off when he won the 1976 world bareback riding championship at the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City. He remained active until 1980, when small nagging injuries and a desire to be with his family led him to retire. He settled on a ranch in Kaycee, WY, but kept up his songwriting and recording and developed an increasingly large following as well as a reputation for exciting concerts. By 1982, he'd sold over 250,000 copies of his self-released albums, of which he completed 22 by the end of the '80s. LeDoux had long refused to sign a record deal, valuing his independence more, but when rising superstar Garth Brooks name-checked him on the 1989 hit "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," the attention was too much to resist. LeDoux signed with Capitol subsidiary Liberty and released his national debut, Western Underground, in 1991. The 1992 follow-up, Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, featured a duet with Brooks on the title track. The single became LeDoux's first (and only) Top Ten country hit, and the album also entered the Top Ten and went gold. Though he hasn't had another single that big, LeDoux recorded steadily for Liberty through the '90s, and all of his albums -- 1993's Under This Old Hat, 1994's Haywire, 1996's Stampede, 1997's Live, and 1998's One Road Man -- made the country Top 40, selling well to LeDoux's extensive fan base. 2000's Cowboy found LeDoux re-recording his earliest compositions, and he subsequently battled a liver illness that threatened his life and required a transplant. He recovered and returned to music with the more personal album After the Storm in 2002. LeDoux released Horsepower in 2004. It would be his last completed album before he died of complications from liver cancer in March of 2005.
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.
Early years 
LeDoux was born in Biloxi, Mississippi. 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.
Music career 
With his rodeo career ended, LeDoux and his family settled on a ranch in Kaycee, Wyoming. After teaming up with Joe Clarke a live sound and recording engineer from Utah. Joe once owned a sound company called "Clearlight Audio" which was the exclusive sound for Chris LeDoux and the Saddle Boogie Band as well as Chris LeDoux and the Western Underground Band. Joe Clarke was the original Sound Engineer, Production Manager, Live Front Of House Sound, Monitors, Lights, Pyro for Chris LeDoux and has worked with many recording artists in his career including Jubal, Saddle Boogie, Toxic Shock, Savannah, Stenmark & Mueller Band, Electric Toy, Dharma Combat, Kenny Bradberry & The Quay County Band, Chris LeDoux & The Saddle Boogie Band, Chris LeDoux & The Western Underground Band, Hot Topic, Cindy O, Cow Jazz, Jupiter Hollow, Massadonna, The Dinosaurs, Steamboat, Buster Jiggs, Terra Cotta, King's Honour, Year of Sundays, John Bateman & Friends, Iron Horse & MANY More!
Joe put Chris LeDoux's Western Underground band together for LeDoux when Chris wanted to give doing music as his full time career a shot asking for Joe's help. Joe first showed Chris his favorite Country band Kenny Bradberry & The Quay County Band. That band was rejected because Chris didn't want to share the stage with a female band member, Suzanne Roberts AKA "Darla Danger" (Fiddle/Vocals).
Joe then took Chris to Salt Lake City's "Sandy's Station" to see the house band "Hot Topic". Joe knew the members of Hot Topic from other Salt Lake City bands, "Cow Jazz" and "The Stenmark and Mueller Band". With the addition of Salt Lake City drummer Craig Goodell the core of the Hot Topic Band became Chris LeDoux's "Western Underground Band" after a meeting arranged by Joe Clarke at Vernal Utah's Weston Plaza Hotel where the newly formed band rehearsed with Joe Clarke and Chris LeDoux for the first time in the hotel's bar. The rest is history.
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 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)." 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, 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 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.
Shortly thereafter, the Academy of Country Music awarded LeDoux their Pioneer Award during ceremonies in 2005. LeDoux's good friend Garth Brooks accepted the award on behalf of LeDoux's family.
In late 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."
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.
On October 26, 2006 Chris LeDoux was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Son Beau LeDoux, himself a rodeo competitor, on July 24, 2007, spread his father's ashes over Frontier Park Arena during the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo:"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. RIP Cowboy from Pliisken"