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Remembering country star, rodeo champ Chris LeDoux - Anthony Rhoads

I was late getting on the Chris LeDoux bandwagon.

In the early 1990s, LeDoux seemed to come out of nowhere with a string of country hits like 'Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy?," "Cadillac Ranch" and "For Your Love."

But LeDoux, who had won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's world bareback champion in 1976, had been making music for years. He independently produced more than 20 albums that he sold along the rodeo circuit. He developed a loyal following among his fellow cowboys but didn't achieve mainstream success.

Things began to change in the late 1980s when Garth Brooks mentioned Chris LeDoux in his song "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" which contained the line "A worn-out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze seem to be the only friends I've left at all."

LeDoux snagged a major-label contract and his duet with Brooks "Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy?" became a top-10 country single.

It was during that era that I became a Chris LeDoux fan. I really enjoyed his music because it was different. LeDoux could play straight-ahead cowboy music, Western swing, country and out-and-out rock 'n roll. LeDoux described his music as a combination of "Western soul, sagebrush blues, cowboy folk and rodeo rock 'n' roll." As a testament to his eclectic approach to music, in addition to his duet with Brooks, LeDoux also recorded duets with Charlie Daniels, Toby Keith and Jon Bon Jovi.

LeDoux eventually sold more than five-million albums and was considered one of the best live country performers around.

One of the reasons LeDoux was successful was that he wasn't just another Nashville 'hat act.' He wasn't a poser who dressed up in jeans, Western shirts, cowboy hats and bolo ties. He was the real deal; he was a real-live cowboy who sang for a living.

Last Wednesday, my heart grew heavy when I learned that LeDoux, 56, had died from complications of liver cancer. Even though he's gone, his legacy will be carried on through his music.

"All of us at Capitol Records and EMI Music are saddened at the passing of Chris," Capitol Nashville President and CEO Mike Dungan told The Associated Press last week. "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."

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com .