By Frank J. Buchman
Actual foot dimensions were “just” multi-champion-size, but they’re big boots to fill.
Number-two-son of world champion cowboy-country-music-hitmaker Chris LeDoux has the genes, certain ability, more than ample desire, and Ned LeDoux is keeping the family surname alive and well.
Knowing the cowboy life inside and out from growing up on the family ranch, with four siblings near Kaycee, Wyo., Ned LeDoux has followed in Dad’s boot steps as musician too.
Playing drums in Chris’ band, Western Underground, until the champion cowboy-musician’s early death, Ned LeDoux is keeping his father’s legacy alive touring the country with a musical stage show.
Performing at a couple of Midwest venues in recent times, Ned LeDoux will be in the heart of cowboy country, the Flint Hills of Kansas this summer.
“We’re so excited to have Ned LeDoux as featured entertainment for the first performance of the Santa Fe Trail Ranch Rodeo at Council Grove, on Friday evening, July 8,” announced Clay Wilson, president of the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association.
The rodeo, sanctioned by the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA), is expected to attract more than a dozen four-member-cowboy teams from ranches throughout the Midwest.
“We’ll have a junior ranch rodeo on Saturday morning, July 9, and the second rodeo performance is in the evening, with the champion team qualifying for the WRCA Finals in Amarillo, Texas, this fall,” Wilson said.
Noteworthy, according to Wilson, the ranch rodeo at Council Grove, the first such competition in the state, is celebrating its 30th anniversary, signified by the valued-stone “pearl,” making Ned LeDoux’s guest appearance recognition of that special occasion.
In reflection, Chris LeDoux participated in his first rodeo as a teenager, collecting high school and college rodeo championships.
In 1970, Chris LeDoux became a professional rodeo cowboy, began composing songs describing his lifestyle, and sold albums out of his truck at rodeos.
Hard work bore fruit in 1976, when Chris LeDoux was the world champion bareback rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association with climax during the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.
Winning the championship gave LeDoux more credibility with music audiences, concluding his rodeo career in 1980, while expanding musical entertain.
LeDoux continued to write, record and playing concerts often riding a mechanical bull. He shot to national prominence when mentioned in the debut song of Garth Brooks.
In August 2000, LeDoux was diagnosed with cancer, but continued to perform until just a few months before his death on March 9, 2005. He was survived by his wife of 33 years, Peggy, and their children Clay, Ned, Will, Beau, and Cindy.
In country music, a last name like LeDoux casts a big, storied and bittersweet shadow, but it’s one Ned LeDoux doesn’t mind standing in.
Ned LeDoux knew from an early age that he had “no plan b” but to play music. “Once I got the taste of the road, and being in front of a crowd and just the sound of it, it was…freedom.”
After Chris’ death, Ned continued to tour with his father’s band to keep the musical spirit of Chris LeDoux alive. This drove him to pick up the guitar and try his hand at some of his dad’s songs.
It started with “Rodeo Man,” and before long Ned had a whole catalogue of his father’s early hits ready to play.
Stepping out from behind the drums stirred something inside of Ned that he hadn’t felt before, “It’s a different kind of rush, getting up with a guitar and standing behind a microphone.”
Ned has boxes of song ideas his dad never finished. “I will kind of stick with what dad used to do but bring my own stuff to the table.”
Ned wants to write songs about what he knows, keep the themes simple and harken back to the sound of “good ole country music, but with an edge.”
“There’s an age group who doesn’t know who Chris LeDoux is and I just want to keep his name out there,” Ned said. “I want to reintroduce him to people who’ve maybe heard of him but didn’t know what he did. Just carry on his legacy and carry on his music and at the same time show them what I can do.”
Council Grove rodeo fans will hear “This Cowboy’s Hat,” the song most requested by Ned’s fans. His personal favorite song is one called “You Can’t Tell Me We Ain’t Got It All,” that Ned co-wrote with his dad.
“The biggest thing I learned from my dad is that if you are going to do something, do it the best you can. He instilled that work ethic in all of us kids.
“Dad could look back on every job we did together, whether it was building fence or branding, and take pride in knowing that it was a job well done,” Ned said. “There’s a lot in what Dad and my Mom taught us kids, and I’ll try my best to hand those values down to my son, too.”
Information about LeDoux’ performance at the Santa Fe Ranch Rodeo in Council Grove can be found at www.mrcoyouthrodeo.com.