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From Champion Bronco Buster To Country Chat Buster ...

MainChris LeDoux juggles a partially peeled orange as he walks under a twilit Florida sky; you can smell the tang 20 feet away.

At 45 he looks 40, thinks 30, and is a world champion bareback bronc rider with the bad knees, hyper-extended elbow, broken tailbone and split sternum to prove it. He's also the only singer who released 22 albums before he ever signed a contract.

"You get the same thrills onstage as you do in the rodeo," LeDoux told Country Weekly. "You get pumped up by the audience, just like you do for a ride. but you gotta make music last an hour and a half. I kinda approach music with an eight-second-ride attitude."

He didn't learn to ride until he was 12. "But I'd watch Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy on TV," he said, "so the mold was cast." Two years later he was riding broncs bareback, and went on to win the state's high school and intercollegiate bareback-riding championships. "It was hard gettin' to where I could win," he said. "Nothin' ever came easy for me." Ten years after his rodeo days, there's not a spare ounce of flesh on him.

LeDoux began marketing eight-track tapes on the rodeo circuit, and in 1976 he became the National Finals Rodeo World Champion bareback bronc rider.

Story1He quit riding eight years later, but rodeo had left its marks. One horse rearranged him forever: "Yeah, he threw me off and under him, and then he stepped on me," LeDoux said. "It didn't break any bones, it just separated the chest cartilage. It pops when I stretch. My wife hates it and my kids cringe, but it's sorta like poppin' your knuckles."

Two years after Garth Brooks mentioned LeDoux in "Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)," Liberty Records released his Western Underground and the 22 albums from his rodeo years. Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy came along in 1992 and Under This Old Hat in 1993. 

Now LeDoux lives with his wife Peggy and their five children - Clay, 21; Ned, 16; Will, 14; Cindy, 12; and 11-year-old Beau - on a 700 acre Wyoming ranch. It's a long way from their first homemade log cabin. "There was an old boy in my town who had a book that teaches you how to dovetail and saddle notch, my dad gave me a book on plumbing and electricity, and I dug the foundation with a shovel," he says. "We'd been in an 8-by-35 trailer, sleepin' on a twin bed with Clay on a couch and Ned on a mattress on the floor. We needed room real bad."

LeDoux says he was born with his talent for Western Sculpture. "I remember making clay cowboys and Indians when I was a kid. And I had a college professor who gave me a big pile of wax and said, 'Here. Build something. You have a talent, so build whatever you want. That's your semester project.'" But LeDoux never mentions that Garth Brooks owns one of his sculptures and bought another for his own father. his reticence comes as no surprise; it seems as natural as LeDoux himself, and as discreet as the pinch of snuff he allows himself at the end of the day.

Published in Country Weekly - June 7, 1994, Page 50 
Written by Catharin Rambeau
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