Although Clarke Daniels now lives in North Logan, he grew up in Lander, Wyoming, and was about 12 years old when Chris LeDoux brought the world bareback riding championship back to “The Cowboy State” in 1976.
But as much as he appreciated LeDoux, who spent his high school years in Cheyenne, bringing a National Finals Rodeo title to Wyoming, Clarke said he appreciated LeDoux’s music even more. In order to help finance his rodeo career, LeDoux started writing and recording songs about the cowboy life in the mid ’70s, selling his albums out of the back of his truck at rodeo events around the country.
“I grew up ranching, and I remember having his old 8-track tapes, and we’d plug ‘em into the pickup when we were out feeding cows or whatever we were doing,” Clarke recalled.
So, that means that Clarke literally had “the worn out tape of Chris LeDoux” that Garth Brooks famously sang about in his 1989 hit, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”?
“Absolutely,” Daniels said. “I had lots of them.”
“Actually, they’re still in our house,” Daniels’ wife, Laura clarified.
The Daniels were two of a few dozen people who attended a “meet-and-greet” event last Saturday night a couple of hours prior to the main concert at the seventh annual Cache Valley Cowboy Rendezvous. During the hour-long session, fans of the legendary Chris LeDoux — who died in 2005 — were treated to a visit from Ned LeDoux, the second-oldest of LeDoux’s children.
A longtime drummer in his father’s band, Western Underground, Ned has emerged as a singer over the past few years, performing many of his dad’s songs, while also writing some new music of his own.
“It brings back a lot of the older memories, and I like some of the stuff that Ned is doing that is new, too,” Clarke Daniels said of the younger LeDoux’s emerging career. “It kind of helps tie it in together. You can only hold onto the old for so long, so it’s nice to have a mix of the two.”
While last Saturday’s show marked the first time Daniels had seen Ned in concert, he said he saw Chris LeDoux perform at least seven or eight times, while Laura saw the elder LeDoux in concert with Brooks a couple of times herself.
“He was genuine — a local guy and a true cowboy,” Clarke Daniels said of Chris LeDoux. “There was no distinction in that. It was just part of the lifestyle.”
Ned LeDoux took the stage last Saturday following a brief set by Montana-based singer Trinity Seely that including some backing vocals by students from Canyon Elementary School, and some cowboy poetry from some young up-and-comers, as well as veteran poet and master of ceremonies, Sam DeLeeuw.
DeLeeuw shared a story about meeting Chris LeDoux long ago at a rodeo in Sevier County, then noted that she was able to meet Ned just a little before the start of the show in the MCHS Auditorium.
“And this young man reminds me so much of his father, during just the little bit that we were able to visit here,” DeLeeuw said of Ned. “I asked him, ‘What do you want me to say about you when I introduce you?’
“’Just tell them, I am keeping my dad’s music alive.”
That statement led to a huge round of applause, practically drowning out DeLeeuw proclaiming: “Ladies and gentlemen, Ned LeDoux.”
With some concert goers already on their feet, LeDoux immediately broke into his father’s song, “Running Through the Rain,” which he quickly followed with what he said was the first of his dad’s songs he ever learned how to play, “I’ve Got to Be a Rodeo Man.”
“Western Skies” came next, with LeDoux picking up another big cheer by substituting “Wasatch Mountains” during the line that states, “I gotta be where I can see those Rocky Mountains.”
LeDoux, who performed in his father’s band for the first time in 1998 during a show in Pocatello, Idaho, said that ever since he was
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in Western Underground, he always thought, Yes, whenever he saw a Utah concert date on the schedule.
“I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the mountains or there’s something in the water, but fans here have always been great,” he proclaimed.
LeDoux then performed “Homegrown Western Saturday Night” before turning his focus towards the five songs from his new EP, “Forever a Cowboy.”
“Johnson County War” is a remake of one of his father’s songs, while “We Ain’t Got It All” was a collaboration with his dad, created by Ned’s mother, Peggy, finding some lyrics that Chris has been working on before he passed away. “Brother Highway” is a very LeDoux-like song that is Ned’s first single as a solo artist, while “Forever A Cowboy” also has some of his father’s lyrics in it.
“The Hawk” was the a real tear-jerker, however, as LeDoux described how his father once told him he would love to be a hawk if he ever died and had a chance to come back as something else. Then, about the time Chris passed away in 2005 after years of battling a rare liver ailment, a hawk — normally a rarity in the area — showed up, started following Peggy as she walked around the LeDoux ranch outside of Kaycee, and has hung around ever since.
“The thing about our place up in Wyoming is, we don’t have hawks. If you see one, it’s just kind of passing through, and you never see it again,” Ned explained. “… So, I like to believe that that’s Dad.”
LeDoux then finished up his 18-song set by singing nine more of his father’s songs, including “Copenhagen” — leading to at least one can of chewing tobacco being tossed up onto the stage — “Hooked on an 8 Second Ride” and “Cadillac Cowboy.” He also dedicated “The Ride” to local shooting victim Deserae Turner, then closed his performance with the crowd favorite, “This Cowboy’s Hat” and walked off the stage with the crowd on its feet.
Lingering in the dressing room just off of the MCHS Auditorium stage, Ned LeDoux texted on his smartphone, checking in with his wife, Morgan, and their 5-year-old son, Bronson.
Although he grew up in Kaycee, LeDoux now lives in northeast Kansas in the house Morgan was raised in. Tall and lean, he doesn’t look much like his father, but the voice is certainly familiar. And the younger LeDoux seems quite comfortable being out on the front of the stage after years of playing the drums in Western Underground, which got together for possibly its final show last June at Chris LeDoux Days in Kaycee.
“You know, singing never even crossed my mind when my dad was around because I just wanted to be the best drummer I could be for him,” Ned said. “But I kind of starting banging around on the guitar for a few years, and when Dad passed away, that’s when I kind of decided to start singing a few of his songs.
“Whether it was for people or for the birds out on the front porch, I didn’t really care,” he added. “There’s just something romantic about it, I thought, to just be able to sing in the kitchen or on the front porch. But I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a lot of fun.”
LeDoux said the transition to a singer/songwriter has been made easier by the way his father’s legions of fans have quickly embraced him.
“Dad’s got such a following — a cult following — and his fans go back to the late ’70s to the early ’80s, and now they’ve grown up and had kids,” he explained. “So, now they’re passing his music down to their kids, and those kids are having kids. It’s just kind of getting passed on from generation to generation.”
“From generation to generation” is right. Last Saturday’s concert was the first sell-out show in the seven-year history of the Cache Valley Cowboy Rendezvous, something the next generation LeDoux should probably get used to.
“It’s been a great response, and it’s just the beginning,” Ned LeDoux said of the reaction to the release of “Forever a Cowboy.”
“It’s just kind of to let people know what direction I’m going. I’ll be going back into the studio in May to finish the full album. I’m just trying to keep it country. Keep it cowboy.”