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Bareback Riding Champion, Country Musician Chris LeDoux

Associated Press
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page B07

Chris LeDoux, 56, a world champion bareback rider who parlayed songs about cowboys he knew on the rodeo circuit into a successful country music career, died March 9 in Casper, Wyo., from complications of liver cancer.

Mr. LeDoux, known little outside the rodeo circuit until country star Garth Brooks paid tribute to him in a song, described his music as a combination of "Western soul, sagebrush blues, cowboy folk and rodeo rock-and-roll."

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He and Brooks teamed up for the Top 10 hit "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy" in 1992.

"In a world of egos and sound-alikes, he was a unique artist and a wonderful man," said Mike Dungan, Capitol Nashville president and chief executive.

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

Mr. LeDoux (pronounced luh-DOO) had been playing guitar and harmonica and writing songs since he was a teenager, and he used his musical skills to help pay for his rodeo entry fees.

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

By 1989, Mr. LeDoux had released 22 albums. They were mostly cassettes produced by his parents, which he sold at concerts and rodeos. He had a loyal, if limited, fan base.

But that all changed that year when 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 Mr. 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," Mr. LeDoux said of Brooks in a 2001 interview with the Associated Press. "To me, Garth, he's kind of like my guardian angel. It's like every time I need some help, he's there."

Mr. LeDoux eventually signed with Brooks's record label, Capitol.

In 2003, he released the album "Horsepower" and celebrated career sales of more than 5 million albums.

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