“There was a lack of rodeo songs," Chris LeDoux said. “There were songs about truck drivers, love, barrooms and every other doggone thing, so I figured that with all the rodeo fans and cowboys out there, I’d give them some rodeo songs. And it worked.”
LeDoux’s father at first recorded the tapes, one at a time, on a small device in his home. They were distributed at rodeos by his son from the back of his pickup truck. Later, they rented a recording studio in Nashville and hired backup musicians. “They were so good that you just had to sing the song to them once and they got it,” he said, grinning. “It’s amazing. Sometimes it didn’t come out the way you wanted but it was good.” His albums took three to four sessions of three hours each to record without rehearsal to save money.
By 1982, country music fans had purchased over a quarter million copies of his self-published recordings. His renditions of songs such as “A Cowboy Like Me,” “Too Tough to Die,” and “What More Could a Cowboy Need” sold surprisingly well in stores and music outlets, and were broadcast on country music stations across the nation. Radio station KSOP in Salt Lake City promoted the young “Roy Rogers” since his early recording days, and he staged concerts in the area on a regular basis. He also appeared twice on German TV in Munich, and earned himself an Iowa fan club.
His father, who served as his business manager, negotiated with several large recording companies and found that his son’s valued freedom would be severely impaired. "Shoot,” the cowboy said, “they would own me. They’d tell me which songs to sing and where to appear. That would be terrible.”
Although he continued to write songs about his rodeo days, LeDoux said during his early thirties, “I hope I’ve got enough sense to never go back to it. I might consider it if rodeoin’ started payin’ anywhere near as much as other sports.”
He decided to give it up in 1980, while he was “down behind the chutes with this big snatchin’ horse—that’s one that really jerks on you like a hobo grabs a freight train. I was sittin’ there with both knees taped and my elbow and collarbone. And I thought, 'Doggone, what am I doin’here? I just wanted to get in my truck and go home. When I finally got there, I threw my glove away and tossed my riggin’ bag in the cellar. I haven’t been back since.”
Still struggling to make it into the ranks of well-known music stars, LeDoux went on tour with Garth Brooks. Brooks then wrote, “I’m Too Young to Feel so Damn Old,” which mentions “Listening’ to an old Chris LeDoux tape . . .” The rest, as they say, is country music history.
During his mid-fifties, Ledoux headlined concerts and performed on stage like a much younger man. His music was still produced in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, home of Al LeDoux, his proud and supportive father. Sidelined with a life-threatening liver ailment, the former rodeo champ survived a transplant and was briefly back in the saddle before succumbing to cancer in 2005.
(Excerpted from Westerners, published by Medallion Press.)