On Mar. 9, 2005, the world lost a legendary icon much too soon. On that day, 16 years ago, country music singer Chris LeDoux passed away at 56. During his career, he recorded 36 albums and sold more than six million units in the United States. The Recording Industry Association of America awarded the singer two gold and one platinum album certifications.
In addition, he earned himself a Grammy Award nomination and was honored with the Academy of Country Music Music Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award. You’d think having those accolades on your resume would be impressive enough. However, LeDoux didn’t stop there. He was also a rodeo champion.
LeDoux was born on Oct. 2, 1948, in Biloxi, Miss., but his parents raised him in Austin, Texas. As a young boy, he developed an early interest in music and cowboy life. In 1976, he won the title of world champion bareback rider from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Chris LeDoux: Cowboy & County Music Legend
At 26, he began his pursuit of country music, recording and releasing his own albums without a label’s backing. His self-released records, such as Old Cowboy Heroes, Rodeo Songs, and Wild and Wooly, were his genuine artistic expressions of his love for all things rodeo. LeDoux also sold his tapes at rodeos and quickly grew a fan base.
Later, LeDoux negotiated a deal with Liberty Records, and his first album with Capitol was his 1991 record, Western Underground. A year later, he released Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, peaking at No. 7 on the country charts. The lead single of the same name included fellow ’90s country icon Garth Brooks and became LeDoux’s only Top 10 single.
Tragedy struck in 2000 when doctors diagnosed LeDoux with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare liver disease, which required him to receive a liver transplant. Fellow colleague and friend Garth Brooks volunteered to donate part of his liver, but it wasn’t a match. Later LeDoux received a transplant on Oct. 7, 2000.
Even after undergoing major surgery, he released two albums: After The Storm and Horsepower. In November 2004, doctors diagnosed him with cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer. Just four months later, LeDoux passed away. He left behind his wife, Peggy Rhoads, and their five children: Clay, Ned, Will, Beau, and Cindy.
In 2003, Capitol Nashville presented him with a plaque for his career accomplishments. In his speech, Chris LeDoux told the audience, “I couldn’t have done this without the help of a lot of people. They gently nudged this lazy old cowboy along to get out there and do this for a living. If it weren’t for them, I’d be singing to the sheep and the cows still.”