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Country Singer Chris LeDoux Dies at 56

March 10, 2005 GMT

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Chris LeDoux, a former world champion bareback rider who parlayed songs about the rodeo life into a successful country music career, died Wednesday from complications of liver cancer. He was 56.

LeDoux had checked into the hospital this week and was with family and friends at the time of his death Wednesday in Casper, according to Judy McDonough, spokeswoman for Capitol Nashville, his recording company.

``All of us at Capitol Records and EMI Music are saddened at the passing of Chris,″ said Capitol Nashville President and CEO Mike Dungan. ``In a world of egos and sound-alikes, 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.″

In November, LeDoux canceled several tour dates while undergoing treatment for cancer of the bile duct. He had undergone a liver transplant in 2000 after a lengthy illness.

LeDoux described his music as a combination of ``Western soul, sagebrush blues, cowboy folk and rodeo rock ‘n’ roll.″

By 1989, he had released 22 albums. They were mostly cassettes produced by his parents, which he sold at concerts and rodeos, sometimes out of the back of a pickup truck. He had a loyal, if limited, fan base.

But that all changed that year when rising country star named Garth Brooks had a hit with ``Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),″ which included 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.″

The song came at a time when LeDoux’s career was sputtering with an independent label and no marketing.

``And here he comes along and mentions the worn-out tapes in his song,″ LeDoux said of Brooks in an interview with The Associated Press in 2001. ``To me, Garth, he’s kind of like my guardian angel. It’s like every time I need some help, he’s there.″

LeDoux soon became a country star himself, teaming up with Brooks for the Grammy-nominated, top 10 hit, ``Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy,″ in 1992.

Brooks has long cited LeDoux one of his biggest influences.

LeDoux (pronounced luh-DOO) had been playing guitar and harmonica and writing songs since his teens, and he used his musical skills to help pay for his rodeo entry fees in his younger years.

He recorded songs about cowboys, the ups and downs of rodeo life and his adopted home of Wyoming. In 1976, he became the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s world bareback champion.

In 2003, he released his 36th album, ``Horsepower,″ and celebrated career sales of more than 5 million albums.

Among his other songs were ``Hooked On An 8 Second Ride,″ ``Copenhagen,″ ``This Cowboy’s Hat,″ ``Even Cowboys Like a Little Rock and Roll,″ ``Riding for a Fall,″ and ``Honky Tonk World.″

``Gen-u-ine. He was the real thing,″ recalled Bruce Ford, a five-time world champion bareback rider who traveled with LeDoux to rodeos. ``There was nothin’ phony about Chris. He was a great guy.″


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