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Growing Up with Chris LeDoux: Son Pens Tribute to a Dad Taken too Soon

‘Tribute to Dad,’ by Ned LeDoux

In this 2003 photo, Chris LeDoux, at left, stands with his son, Ned, during a concert in California.

In this 2003 photo, Chris LeDoux, at left, stands with his son, Ned, during a concert in California.

You asked what it was like growing up with Chris LeDoux. If you are a rodeo fan, you know Chris LeDoux as the 1976 Bareback World Champion. If you are a country music fan, you know Chris LeDoux had one of best live shows in the business and was a great singer/songwriter. My brothers, my sister and I know Chris LeDoux simply as Dad.

We all knew of Dad’s success, but he never bragged about it or really brought it up at home. We knew he had to travel a lot and be away from home, but we always knew he’d be back for our basketball games, football games, graduations, birthdays and holidays. And he was.

When Dad came home from his concerts, he never really talked about them. He might mention a few things — maybe about how good the food was at some roadside café. But he couldn’t wait for a home cooked meal from Mom. We kids knew that he would have a new list of chores for us to do on the ranch, but we’d all go golfing before we got to work. Dad loved playing golf.

Dad and Mom made the best team. They taught us the value of hard work. Live by the golden rule. Always shoot for the stars and do your very best you can.

I had the honor of playing drums for Dad for about seven years. KW Turnbow, the drummer, got into a car wreck in August of 1998. He was out for almost a year while he healed up from a bad shoulder injury. Dad asked me to join the band as his drummer/crew hand. It was a dream come true to be a member of the Western Underground Band, but the neatest thing for me was to travel the country and play these concerts with my Dad. He had been all around the country so many times playing music, and before the music, he had been up and down the same roads rodeoing. He was a great tour director wherever we went.

In this 2003 photo, Chris LeDoux, at left, stands with his son, Ned, during a concert in California.

It was in Puyallup, Wash., when we noticed Dad wasn’t feeling too good. He wasn’t sure if he could play the show, but he somehow found just enough energy to go on. The next few months were spent in the Cancer Center in Omaha, Neb. The whole thing didn’t seem real to me. My dad needed a new liver? It was hard to believe. Dad was the Man of Steel in my eyes.

Mom and I spent the whole time in Omaha with Dad. Mom never left his side. I’d go out and get food for them once a day; I just wanted to be there for whatever they needed. My brothers and sister came from Wyoming as often as they could, but some of them were still in school, and Mom and Dad needed somebody to stay at the ranch to take care of things. I know they all wished they could have been there in Omaha for the whole deal.

The time spent there in Omaha with Dad was full of all kinds of emotions. There were some scary times and some happy times, but we were very grateful when it was over. Dad was so happy to get back home and be with the family. And it wasn’t long before we hit the road again to play music. He was back riding the bucking machine, singing and playing guitar and being the wild man on stage that he always was.

For the next five years after his liver transplant, Dad continued touring, making albums, ranching and just living his life to the fullest.

Dad passed away March 9, 2005. Family and close friends attended his service at the family ranch. We all shared stories about the time we got to spend with him. It was a celebration of his life.

Now it’s been a little over nine years since his passing, but his memory and music will live on forever. The number of hearts and souls he’s touched over the years is amazing. I think about him every day. There will never be another guy like him. Dad used to say that, more than anything, he wanted to be known as a good husband and family man. And that he was.

Miss you, Dad.

This tribute was written by Ned LeDoux, one of Chris’ five children and a drummer in the band Western Underground.

Courtesy of The Pulse (Wyoming Medical Center)