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LeDoux, Chris

Chris LeDoux

Singer, songwriter

A real rodeo cowboy in a musical world saturated with artificial ones, Chris LeDoux has pursued an unusual country music career in at least two respects. Rare indeed are the musicians who have succeeded in carving out profitable careers independent of the star-making machinery centralized in cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville. Scarce, too, are those who were able to keep the ancient American art of the cowboy song alive in the last quarter of the twentieth century. LeDoux laid claim to both of these worthwhile accomplishments.

Identifying rodeo enthusiasts as an underserved musical market played a part in LeDoux's success, as did a noteworthy example of family cooperation and support. But for a long time, his songwriting talents played the most important role. LeDoux is a true musical counterpart to the cowboy poets who sometimes appear at western folk festivals, a chronicler in song of rodeo and range. For many years he sold his musical creations at the same rodeos where he competed. By the early 1990s, however, he had broken through to a national country music audience.

LeDoux lived the rodeo life and sang about it for many years, but he was not born into it. He was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1948, and his father was a pilot in the Air Force. As a child, he lived in many different places with his parents. When Chris was 14 years old, the family moved to Austin, Texas. There his grandfather, who had fought in the United States Cavalry against the Mexican outlaw revolutionary Pancho Villa, introduced him to horseback riding and rodeo competition. A poet at heart, LeDoux also began to work on ideas for cowboy songs while he was still in high school.

Soon LeDoux was proficient enough to compete on the professional rodeo circuit. His talents won him an unusual athletic scholarship—one for rodeo—to Casper College in Wyoming. It was there that he began to try out his music at parties, and soon found himself enthusiastically received by rodeo crowds as well. LeDoux's skills in the rodeo ring grew, and in 1976 he was named world champion in bareback riding by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Bouncing back from a string of injuries, he trained nonstop for months at a ranch he bought in Wyoming. He lived there with his wife, Peggy, and their five children, in a house he built out of logs and stone.

In the early 1970s LeDoux's parents moved to Nashville. They learned the inner workings of the music business there, and in so doing put in place the real cornerstone of LeDoux's musical career. They realized his exposure could be maximized through a well-planned series of recordings. So the family formed an independent record label, American Cowboy Songs, and LeDoux's first album was released in 1972. He had just married, and was grateful for the extra income: "I didn't mind starvin', but I didn't want my wife to starve with me," LeDoux told Pollstar.

American Cowboy Songs was a true family affair, with LeDoux's brother Mike doing the marketing and promotion for the label, his mother Bonnie handling orders, and father Al producing the recordings that LeDoux made during his yearly visits to Nashville. LeDoux sold his records and tapes at rodeo events out of a booth or out of his gear bag. They were also distributed through western wear outlets and, remarkably for a small independent enterprise, at several large retail music chains based in the western United States.

The dimensions of LeDoux's success within his specialized market were nothing less than staggering. Sales for the company's first year in business totaled only $6,000, but they grew steadily. By the end of the 1980s the catalog of LeDoux's LP recordings had grown to 22 items. In a 1991 interview with Billboard, Al LeDoux estimated their total sales at over $4,000,000.

LeDoux wrote much of the music on his 22 albums, and the consistent freshness of his songwriting went a long way toward insuring his success. His style was simple, even naive, but his descriptions of the rodeo could be startlingly vivid ("With his feet on my belly, standing in place/That dirty old bull blew snot in my face," he intoned grimly on 1977's "Bull Rider"). Al LeDoux contributed production values that were in no way amateurish. LeDoux's recordings stood up well when compared to mainstream Nashville productions of their time.

LeDoux's sales totals were not going unnoticed in Nashville. In the fall of 1990, Capitol Records' Nashville vice president Joe Mansfield was alerted by western retailers to LeDoux's sales potential. Country megastar-to-be Garth Brooks, a fan of LeDoux's music since his own youth in rural Oklahoma, also helped generate interest in the singer by including a reference to "a worn-out tape of Chris LeDoux" in his 1989 hit "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)." In early 1991 LeDoux signed a contract with Capitol Records; his recordings appeared under the company's Liberty label.

LeDoux's Liberty recordings, most of them supervised by Capitol president and veteran Nashville producer Jimmy Bowen, for the most part tried to play to the singer's strengths. He generally stuck to cowboy themes and continued his contributions as a songwriter. "Workin' Man's Dollar," from the first Capitol LP, Western Underground, was a LeDoux-penned personification of that always-scarce piece of currency, and the song brought LeDoux some radio airplay. But the second major-label album, 1992's Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, featured some new directions and became LeDoux's commercial breakthrough.

On the album's title track LeDoux paired up with his admirer Garth Brooks in a good-natured, western-swing tune with the theme of an upper-class woman's attraction to a cowboy. Brooks' presence propelled the album to a strong start; it debuted at number 13 on Billboard's country albums chart and eventually climbed into the top ten.

The album's second single, "Cadillac Ranch," became LeDoux's most successful single release. It borrowed from Brooks in a different way: to LeDoux's plain, untrained vocals was added a backdrop of heavy rock guitar. The song's lyrics cleverly inverted the cowboy theme, describing the transformation of the barn of a bankrupt ranch into a successful country nightclub. Several other selections on the album emulated Brooks's appropriation of 1970s rock styles, with "Hooked on an Eight Second Ride" approaching an arena-rock anthem in its intensity. But, as the song's title indicates, LeDoux's cowboy identity was never submerged. After all, as LeDoux pointed out in a Pollstar interview, "Ridin' bulls is rock 'n' roll."

Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy was certified gold (for sales of 500,000 copies) in February of 1993. LeDoux's third album for Liberty, 1993's Under This Old Hat, followed the pattern set by its predecessor, combining cowboy themes with Texas swing and rock influences. It included a dance remix of "Cadillac Ranch," strewn with tape loops, that probably represented LeDoux's point of farthest departure from the simple western styles of his early career, but that brought him new fans from the world of so-called "young country."

For the Record …

Born on October 2, 1948, in Biloxi, MS; died on March 9, 2005, in Casper, WY; son of Al and Bonnie LeDoux; married Peggy Rhoads, 1972; children: four sons, one daughter. Education: Attended Casper College, Casper, WY, on rodeo scholarship.

Recorded 22 albums of western music on family-owned label, American Cowboy Songs, 1972-90; signed with Liberty Records, 1991; released gold record Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, 1992; diagnosed with cancer, 2000; released Under the Storm, 2002; released Horsepower, 2004.

Awards: Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association Bareback Bronco World Riding Championship, 1976; Academy of Country Music, Pioneer Award, 2005.

A greatest-hits package was released in the spring of 1994, and in the summer of that year LeDoux went to work on his 27th album, an impressive record of accomplishment for a man who, when he first got married, is said to have listed his assets as "a hundred and fifteen dollars and a good horse in Amarillo."

In the mid-1990s LeDoux received critical acclaim for his albums Haywire and Stampede. Part of his success was due to his reaching out beyond the country genre for new material, such as a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest" and a duet with rocker Jon Bon Jovi on the 1999 album One Road Man.

In 2000 LeDoux was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer and underwent a liver transplant. He returned to touring within six months, and in 2002 his album Under the Storm received widespread critical acclaim. In 2004 he released another album, Horsepower.

LeDoux died in Casper, Wyoming, on March 9, 2005, as a result of his liver disease. He is survived by his wife, Peggy, and their five children. In the Arizona Daily Star, Cathalena E. Burch wrote, "He will be remembered for his energy, his passion and his amazing capacity for being a nice guy in an industry that often takes the gentle out of a man." According to Ed Will in the Denver Post, Kathy Repola, co-owner of the Denver club Grizzly Rose, said about him, "The only way I can describe him is he was genuine. He was a salt-of-the-earth type of guy. A wonderful man."

Selected discography

Songs of Rodeo Life, American Cowboy Songs, 1971; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Chris LeDoux Sings His Rodeo Songs, American Cowboy Songs, 1972; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Rodeo Songs—Old and New, American Cowboy Songs, 1973; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Songs of Rodeo and Country, American Cowboy Songs, 1974; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Songs of Rodeo and Living Free, American Cowboy Songs, 1974; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Life as a Rodeo Man, American Cowboy Songs, 1975; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Songbook of the American West, American Cowboy Songs, 1976; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Sing Me a Song, Mr. Rodeo Man, American Cowboy Songs, 1977; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Songs of Rodeo Life, American Cowboy Songs, 1977 (re-recording of the 1971 album); reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Western Country (Cowboys Ain't Easy to Love), American Cowboy Songs, 1978, reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Paint Me Back Home in Wyoming, American Cowboy Songs, 1979; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Rodeo's Singing Bronc Rider, American Cowboy Songs, 1979; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Western Tunesmith, American Cowboy Songs, 1980; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Sounds of the Western Country, American Cowboy Songs, 1980; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Old Cowboy Heroes, American Cowboy Songs, 1980; reissued, Liberty 1991.

He Rides the Wild Horses, American Cowboy Songs, 1981; reissued Liberty, 1991.

Used to Want to Be a Cowboy, American Cowboy Songs, 1982; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Thirty Dollar Cowboy, American Cowboy Songs, 1983; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Old Cowboy Classics, American Cowboy Songs, 1983; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Melodies and Memories, American Cowboy Songs, 1984; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Wild and Wooly, American Cowboy Songs, 1986; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Powder River, American Cowboy Songs, 1990; reissued, Liberty, 1991.

Western Underground, Liberty, 1991.

Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, Liberty, 1992.

Under This Old Hat, Liberty, 1993.

Best of Chris LeDoux, Liberty, 1994.

Haywire, Liberty, 1994.

Stampede, Liberty, 1996.

One Road Man, Liberty, 1999.

After the Storm, Liberty, 2002.

Horsepower, Liberty, 2004.

Sources

Books

Brown, David G., Gold Buckle Dreams: The Rodeo Life of Chris LeDoux, Wolverine Gallery, 1989.

Larkin, Colin, editor, Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness/New England Publishing, 1992.

Periodicals

American Cowboy, premiere issue, 1994.

America's Intelligence Wire, March 10, 2005, p. NA.

Arizona Daily Star, March 12, 2005, p. E2.

Billboard, January 20, 1979; September 7, 1991; August 15, 1992; October 17, 1992.

Country Fever, December 1993.

Country Music, January/February 1993.

Denver Post, March 10, 2005, p. C8.

Hollywood Reporter, March 10, 2005, p. 8.

Independent (London, England), March 15, 2005, p. 37.

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), March 12, 2005, p. E4.

Pollstar, April 18, 1994.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Liberty Records and Aristomedia Publicity and Media Services press material.

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"LeDoux, Chris." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"LeDoux, Chris." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ledoux-chris-0

LeDoux, Chris

Chris LeDoux

Singer, songwriter

Earned Rodeo Championship

Recorded 22 Albums in 1970s and 1980s

Rock Elements Added to Cowboy Style

Selected discography

Sources

A real rodeo cowboy in a musical world saturated with artificial ones, Chris LeDoux has pursued an unusual country music career in at least two respects. Rare indeed are the musicians who succeed in carving out profitable careers independent of the star-making machinery centralized in cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville. Scarce, too, are those who have kept the ancient American art of the cowboy song alive in the last quarter of the twentieth century. But LeDoux laid claim to both of these worthwhile accomplishments.

Identifying rodeo enthusiasts as an underserved musical market played a part in LeDouxs success, as did a noteworthy example of family cooperation and support. But for a long time, his songwriting talents played the most important role. LeDoux is a true musical counterpart to the cowboy poets who sometimes appear at western folk festivals, a chronicler in song of rodeo and range. For many years, he sold his musical creations at the same rodeos where he competed. By the early 1990s, however, he had broken through to a national country music audience.

LeDoux lived the rodeo life and sang about it for many years, but he was not born into it. He was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1948, and his father was a pilot in the Air Force. As a child, he lived in many different places with his parents. When Chris was 14 years old, the family moved to Austin, Texas. There, his grandfather, who had fought in the United States Cavalry against the Mexican outlaw revolutionary Pancho Villa, introduced him to horseback riding and rodeo competition. A poet at heart, LeDoux began to work on ideas for cowboy songs while he was still in high school.

Earned Rodeo Championship

Soon LeDoux was proficient enough to compete on the professional rodeo circuit. His talents won him an unusual athletic scholarshipone for rodeoto Casper College in Wyoming. It was there that he began to try out his music at parties; soon, he found himself enthusiastically received by rodeo crowds as well. LeDouxs skills in the rodeo ring mounted to a point where, in 1976, he was named world champion in bareback riding by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Bouncing back from a string of injuries, he trained nonstop for months at the ranch he bought in Wyoming. He lived there with his wife, Peggy, and their five children in a house he built himself out of logs and stone.

In the early 1970s, LeDouxs parents moved to Nashville. They learned the inner workings of the music business there, and in so doing put in place the real cornerstone of LeDouxs musical career. They realized

For the Record

B orn October 2, 1948, in Biloxi, MI; son of Al and Bonnie LeDoux; married Peggy, 1972; five children. Education: Attended Casper College, Casper, Wyoming, on rodeo scholarship.

Recorded 22 albums of western music on family-owned label, American Cowboy Songs, 1972-90; signed with Liberty Records, 1991.

Awards: Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bareback bronco world riding championship, 1976; Grammy Award, Academy of Country Music award, and TNN/ Music City News award nominations, with Garth Brooks, for best vocal duet or collaboration, 1993; gold record for Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, 1993.

Addresses: Record company Liberty Records, 3322 West End, 11th Floor, Nashville, TN 37203. Management T.K.O. Artist Management, 4219 Hillsboro Rd., Suite 318, Nashville, TN 37215. Publicist Aristomedia, P.O. Box 22765, Nashville, TN 37215.

his exposure could be maximized through a wellplanned series of recordings. So the family formed an independent record label, American Cowboy Songs, and Chris LeDouxs first album was released in 1972. He had just married his wife Peggy, and he was grateful for the extra income: I didnt mind starvin, but I didnt want my wife to starve with me, LeDoux told Pollstar.

American Cowboy Songs was a true family affair, with LeDouxs brother Mike doing the marketing and promotion for the label, his mother Bonnie handling orders, and father Al producing the recordings that Ledoux made during his yearly visits to Nashville. LeDoux sold his records and tapes at rodeo events out of a booth or out of his gear bag. They were also distributed through western wear outlets, and remarkably for a small independent enterprise, at several large retail music chains based in the western United States.

Recorded 22 Albums in 1970s and 1980s

The dimensions of LeDouxs success within his specialized market were nothing less than staggering. Sales for the companys first year in business totaled only $6,000, but they grew steadily. By the end of the 1980s, the catalog of LeDouxs LP recordings had grown to 22 items. In a 1991 interview with Billboard, Al LeDoux estimated their total sales at over $4,000,000.

LeDoux wrote much of the music on his 22 albums, and the consistent freshness of his songwriting went a long way toward insuring his success. His style was simple, even naive, but his descriptions of the rodeo could be startlingly vivid (With his feet on my beliy, standing in place/That dirty old bull blew snot in my face, he intoned grimly on 1977s Bull Rider). Al LeDoux contributed production values that were in no way amateurish. LeDouxs recordings stood up well when compared to mainstream Nashville productions of their time.

LeDouxs sales totals were not going unnoticed in Nashville. In the fall of 1990, Capitol Records Nashville vice president Joe Mansfield was alerted by western retailers to LeDouxs sales potential. Country megastar-to-be Garth Brooks, a fan of LeDouxs music since his own youth in rural Oklahoma, also helped generate interest in the singer by including a reference to a worn-out tape of Chris LeDoux in his 1989 hit, Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old). In early 1991, LeDoux signed a contract with Capitol Records; his recordings appeared under the companys Liberty label.

Rock Elements Added to Cowboy Style

LeDouxs Liberty recordings, most of them supervised by Capitol president and veteran Nashville producer Jimmy Bowen, for the most part have tried to play to the singers strengths. He generally stuck to cowboy themes and continued his contributions as a songwriter. Wor-kin Mans Dollar, from the first Capitol LP, Western Underground, was a LeDoux-penned personification of that always-scarce piece of currency, and the song brought LeDoux some radio airplay. But the second major-label album, 1992s Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, featured some new directions and became LeDouxs commercial breakthrough work.

On the albums title track, LeDoux paired up with his admirer Garth Brooks in a good-natured, western-swing tune with the theme of an upper-class womans attraction to a cowboy. Brooks presence propelled the album to a strong start; it debuted at number 13 on Billboards country albums chart and eventually climbed into the Top Ten.

The albums second single, Cadillac Ranch, became LeDouxs most successful single release. It borrowed from Brooks in a different way: to LeDouxs plain, untrained vocals was added a backdrop of heavy rock guitar. The songs lyrics cleverly inverted the cowboy theme, describing the transformation of the barn of a bankrupt ranch into a successful country nightclub. Several other selections on the album emulated Brooks appropriation of 1970s rock styles, with Hooked on an Eight Second Ride approaching an arena-rock anthem in its intensity. But, as the songs title indicates, LeDouxs cowboy identity was never submerged. After all, as LeDoux pointed out in a Pollstar interview, Ridin bulls is rock n roll.

Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy was certified gold (for sales of 500,000 copies) in February of 1993. LeDouxs third album for Liberty, 1993s Under This Old Hat, followed the pattern set by its predecessor, combining cowboy themes with Texas swing and rock influences. It included a dance remix of Cadillac Ranch, strewn with tape loops, that probably represented LeDouxs point of farthest departure from the simple western styles of his early career, but that brought him new fans from the world of so-called young country.

A greatest-hits package was released in the spring of 1994, and in the summer of that year, LeDoux went to work on his twenty-seventh albuman impressive record of accomplishment for a man who, when he first got married, is said to have listed his assets as a hundred and fifteen dollars and a good horse in Amarillo in a conversation with his wife.

Selected discography

Songs of Rodeo Life, American Cowboy Songs, 1971, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Chris LeDoux Sings His Rodeo Songs, American Cowboy Songs, 1972, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Rodeo Songs Old and New, American Cowboy Songs, 1973, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Songs of Rodeo and Country, American Cowboy Songs, 1974, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Songs of Rodeo and Living Free, American Cowboy Songs, 1974, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Life as a Rodeo Man, American Cowboy Songs, 1975, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Songbook of the American West, American Cowboy Songs, 1976, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Sing Me a Song, Mr. Rodeo Man, American Cowboy Songs, 1977, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Songs of Rodeo Life, American Cowboy Songs, 1977 (re-recording of the 1971 album), reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Western Country (Cowboys Aint Easy to Love), American Cowboy Songs, 1978, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Paint Me Back Home in Wyoming, American Cowboy Songs, 1979, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Rodeos Singing Bronc Rider, American Cowboy Songs, 1979, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Western Tunesmith, American Cowboy Songs, 1980, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Sounds of the Western Country, American Cowboy Songs, 1980, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Old Cowboy Heroes, American Cowboy Songs, 1980, reissued, Liberty 1991.
He Rides the Wild Horses, American Cowboy Songs, 1981, reissued Liberty, 1991.
Used to Want to Be a Cowboy, American Cowboy Songs, 1982, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Thirty Dollar Cowboy, American Cowboy Songs, 1983, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Old Cowboy Classics, American Cowboy Songs, 1983, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Melodies and Memories, American Cowboy Songs, 1984, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Wild and Wooly, American Cowboy Songs, 1986, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Powder River, American Cowboy Songs, 1990, reissued, Liberty, 1991.
Western Underground, Liberty, 1991.
Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, Liberty, 1992.
Under This Old Hat, Liberty, 1993.
Best of Chris LeDoux, Liberty, 1994.

Sources

Books

Brown, David G., Gold Buckle Dreams: The Rodeo Life of Chris LeDoux, Wolverine Gallery, 1989.

Larkin, Colin, editor, Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness/New England Publishing, 1992.

Periodicals

American Cowboy, premiere issue, 1994.

Billboard, January 20, 1979; September 7, 1991; August 15, 1992; October 17, 1992.

Country Fever, December 1993.

Country Music, January/February 1993.

Pollstar, April 18, 1994.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Liberty Records and Aristomedia Publicity and Media Services press material.

James M. Manheim

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"LeDoux, Chris." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"LeDoux, Chris." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ledoux-chris

"LeDoux, Chris." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ledoux-chris