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May 25, 2022
Ned LeDoux On His Famous Father, Garth Brooks, And Blazing His Own Trail In Country Music

Ned LeDoux On His Famous Father, Garth Brooks, And Blazing His Own Trail In Country Music

Singer/songwriter Ned LeDoux

Photo Credit: Jason DeRamo

Ned LeDoux grew up surrounded by music. His father, the late Chris LeDoux, was a championship rodeo rider who went on to become a country music star, especially well-known in the western part of the country.

Now, LeDoux is forging his own path as an artist. He just released his latest album Buckskin, produced by award-winning producer/songwriter Mac MacAnally.

LeDoux celebrated the release with his debut appearance on the Grand Ole Opry last weekend. He performed two songs from the album, one called “Mountain” and the other “Upside of the Ground.” MacAnally joined him onstage.

Ned LeDoux performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee (March 11th, 2022)

Credit: Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

Ned LeDoux (center) with guitarist Mark Sissell (on the left) and producer/singer/songwriter Mac … [+] McAnally (on the right) at the Grand Ole Opry (March 11, 2022)

Credit: Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

Buckskin is LeDoux’s third full-length studio album.

“I’m really excited for people to hear it,” he says. “I say that with every album I put out, but there’s something special about this one. Maybe it’s the fact that I did some co-writing with people I never thought I would. I wrote one song with Willie Braun of Reckless Kelly (“Damn Good Cowboy”), and another one with my big brother Clay (“Rodeo Dreams”).

LeDoux co-wrote eight of the 12 tracks. Many are cowboy or rodeo songs, and the name of the album comes from a poem about his dad called “Buckskin.” It’s set to music and included on the record.

“I’ve always been a big fan of cowboy poetry, and this is a poem I wrote about my dad’s championship ride in 1976,” he explains. “It was in Oklahoma City at the National Finals Rodeo when they still had it down there. The horse was a big ole buckskin named Stormy Weather. The poem came from different stories, and different articles and things of Dad talking about the ride, and everything leading up to it. Nobody wanted to draw this big, strong, buckskin horse.”

While LeDoux is now a solo artist in his own right, it was something he never considered until years after his father died (in March of 2005). As a child, and even into adulthood, LeDoux was a drummer.

Ned LeDoux with his first drum set

Courtesy of Ned LeDoux

“I got a set of drums when I was probably six or seven years old and I just knew that was the direction I wanted to go. I took lessons for a couple of years, then taught myself for a few years after that. I joined my first band when I was probably in 8th grade and played in different bands around the state of Wyoming for, I don’t know, about eight years or so.”

In September of 1998, the drummer in his father’s band had a car accident, suffering damage to his shoulder. Chris LeDoux asked Ned if he wanted to fill-in until the other drummer was able to come back and play again.

“So, yeah, my whole life I just wanted to play the drums, and with my dad, my only mindset was to be the best drummer, I could be for him and the Western Underground.”

After his father’s death, LeDoux continued working as a drummer. One night, after a gig, someone handed him a guitar and asked if he’d like to play and sing a couple of his dad’s songs. He’d never attempted it before, but it got him thinking about learning to play and sing, even if only for his own enjoyment. A few years later, when LeDoux joined the Western Underground in the studio to record a tribute album, he mentioned the idea of singing one of the songs.

“I asked the guys if they’d mind if I sang one, saying it would be for Dad. And I remember Mark Sissell, the guitar player, looking at me and asking, “Do you sing?”

LeDoux laughs and says they ran through the song a couple of times, and it actually ended up on the album.

His involvement in songwriting also came by way of his dad, and the mentorship of Mac McAnally.

“There were some song ideas my dad started a long time ago that he never finished. I got a hold of them and was trying to finish one and that’s when Mac McAnally found out what I was trying to do. He produced the last three albums Dad put out, so there was a connection there. So, he invited me to his place, and we sat down with these ideas and finished one together. That’s how that started.”

There have been others who knew and loved his father who have also helped LeDoux on his journey. Garth Brooks invited LeDoux to open for him in July of 2021 for the 125th Anniversary of Cheyenne Frontier Days. That same night, organizers unveiled a Chris LeDoux bronze memorial statue.

Garth Brooks and Ned LeDoux at Cheyenne Frontier Days (July 2021)

Courtesy of Ned LeDoux

Brooks’ connection to the LeDoux family dates back to his famous ‘Chris LeDoux shout-out’ in one of his early songs. LeDoux remembers when his father heard it for the first time.

“I guess it was in 89, we were driving back home from Casper. And Dad never really listened to the radio, but for some reason he had it turned up just a little bit, and he happened to hear this song that mentioned something about rodeo. So, he turned it up a little more and it was Garth singing “Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old.” Dad was like ‘yeah, this is a pretty good song.’ Then the line came up where Garth says “a worn out tape of Chris LeDoux,” and Dad kind of swerved across the road.”

It was the beginning of an incredible friendship. His father later toured with Brooks, and since then, Brooks has always been a close friend of the family.

“We try to show him just as much respect and love back. He’s just a great guy.”

LeDoux is primed and ready for what comes next. In February he took home the Male Vocalist of the Year award at the Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards making him a three time winner. And in the months ahead he’ll be touring to promote Buckskin, even as he continues writing new music. He lives in Kansas now, but much of his heart and history are rooted in Wyoming where he grew up. So, many of his songs tend to touch on the cowboy way of life.

Chris and Ned LeDoux on the family ranch in Wyoming

Courtesy of Ned LeDoux

Ned LeDoux and his younger brother, Will, on the family ranch in Wyoming

Courtesy of Ned LeDoux

And yet, his music reflects other influences, too. One of his new songs called “Hey Hey” has what LeDoux describes as sort of a ‘Buddy Holly groove.’ He listens to many different styles of music and wrote it after spending time listening to Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry.

“I’m always going to write songs about cowboys and ranching because that’s the life I lived for a long, long time and it’s still embedded in me. But there are other songs on this album that are just a lot of fun. I’m not exactly sure where some of them came from, but I think a little variety is a good thing to have.”

All of his albums do have one thing in common, each one features one of his dad’s songs. For Buckskin he chose one called “He Rides the While Horses.” He says it seemed to go well with poem.

LeDoux seems to have found a way to strike a beautiful balance between honoring his father’s musical legacy, while at the same time creating one of his own.

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