‘I Love Lucy’: Little Ricky Actor Keith Thibodeaux Battled Serious Drug Abuse Issues, Depression After Show

by Clayton Edwards

“I Love Lucy” wasn’t just a popular show. It was an important one. Lucy and Desi revolutionized television. At the same time, the content of their show made viewers all over the country fall in love with the couple. When they added Little Ricky to the show after Lucille Ball’s real-life pregnancy, fans had one more thing to love about the show. Keith Thibodeaux was cute as a button and fans adored him.

Thibodeaux played the role for five years. He joined the “I Love Lucy,” cast in 1955. After that show ended, he reprised the role on the “Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” until that show ended in 1960. After being part of one of the most influential shows in history, he went on to have a few more small roles. The last of those was as Opie’s pal on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

After that role, things went downhill for the young actor. He discussed that downward spiral in an interview with The Archive of American Television. He told the interviewer that shortly after his last role, his parents divorced. His mother then moved them back to Louisiana. Not only did he have to deal with his parents’ divorce but also he experienced culture shock. After moving from Los Angeles to Louisiana, he found it hard to fit in. The stigma of having divorced parents didn’t help the situation at all. The fifteen-year-old former child star’s life was turned completely upside down.

The Former “I Love Lucy Star” Finds a Way to Cope

The young Keith Thibodeaux was lost. His acting career was effectively over. The stable family life he had known was gone. All of his friends were thousands of miles away in Los Angeles. So, he turned to his love of music to help him deal with things. He started playing in small high school rock bands. While jamming in garages he picked up a few bad habits. Smoking, drinking and drug use came with the territory of playing music in the mid-sixties. He embraced it. As he told the Archive of American Television, he just didn’t care at the time. At the same time, he wanted to distance himself from his “square” acting roles. Keith stepped happily into the counterculture of the time.

At 19, the former “I Love Lucy” star joined a band called David and the Giants. They were signed to Capitol Records/United Artists and had a couple of regional hits before Keith Thibodeaux joined. They regularly toured the Eastern United States.

Things really went south for Keith Thibodeaux when one of his friends burned himself out on drugs. That friend basically turned himself into a vegetable with recreational drugs, according to Thibodeaux. This affected him deeply because he was doing the same drugs as his friend. Seeing where his life could possibly end up, he slipped into depression. Through the early seventies, he dealt with panic attacks and near-constant thoughts of suicide.

In 1974, he started going to church with his mother again. After “I Love Lucy,” and his parent’s marriage ended, it was like an atomic bomb went off in his life. He hoped that through religion he could find an equally strong force to bring his life back on track.

Keith Thibodeaux Finds God

It was in one of those trips to church with his mother that Keith Thibodeaux found Jesus. He became a Christian and found a foundation that he didn’t realize he was missing. At the same time, he found a purpose in life. Over time, the Good Book replaced drugs and he began to come out of his depression. His bandmates noticed the change.

However, they didn’t know that it was God that was helping Keith Thibodeaux change. They all thought that he had found some new drug that helped him level out. He began to explain to them how much religion had positively changed his life. Before long, he converted his bandmates. They were believers already but they weren’t living a life of faith. Keith inspired them to change that. At the same time, he suggested that they change the lyrical content of their music. Through his influence, David and the Giants started writing and performing songs that were both uplifting and Godly.

David and the Giants were one of the first Christian rock bands. Much like “I Love Lucy” changed television, Keith Thibodeaux’s band helped to change the face of music. They toured the country and internationally, spreading the Good Word wherever they went.

In 1990, Keith Thibodeaux left the band to focus on his marriage. His wife, Kathy, a ballet dancer, became a Christian through his influence. She was on fire for her faith and wanted to use her talents in the service of God. So, they opened Ballet Magnifica. Today, they are known as the premier Christian ballet academy.

These days, Keith is happy with his life. He still plays drums from time to time but his main focus is always his family and his faith.