Ned Ledoux is the second oldest child of late rodeo and music icon Chris LeDoux. Ned and his four siblings grew up on the family ranch near Kaycee, Wyo., and he played drums in his father’s band, Western Underground, until Chris passed away in 2005. Today, Ned keeps his father’s legacy alive with a revamped lineup of Western Underground, which recently performed a musical stage show based on Chris’ music called One Ride. A Western tour is slated for later this year.
By Amy Arden
TELL US ABOUT GROWING UP IN WYOMING.
I love it. I’ve been up here my whole life. I’ve spent a couple years in Nashville, but in my mind there’s no place like Wyoming. You get a little bit of everything and a lot of elbow room. It was a great place to grow up and I think a great place to raise a family.
In the summertime Dad and Mom would bring us out on the road. I remember [my dad], before he had a record deal or anything, playing in a bus barn in Kaycee behind the high school. It was always a treat for us kids to go to a different place or a different city and see him play and to see his career evolve.
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN MUSIC?
I got my first drum set when I was about 5 or 6 years old, and I just kept at it. I took lessons from a guy in Casper, Wyoming, and he taught me the basics of playing. Then he moved away, and after that I taught myself. I listened to a lot of Charlie Daniels cassettes and tried to play along.
HOW DID YOU START PLAYING WITH WESTERN UNDERGROUND?
In August of ’98—it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon—I’d just got home from a weekend gig with my band, and I got a call from Mark Sissel, Dad’s guitarist. He told me that the drummer had been in a car wreck. My first thought was whether or not he was going to be ok. [Drummer KW Turnbow was out for several months and later rejoined the band.] Then I started thinking about who Dad was going to get to replace him. I looked at Mom [Peggy LeDoux], and she had this little smile on her face. Dad said, “Would you want to come out and give it a try?” I played with him from 1998 ’til he passed away in 2005, so about seven years.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING ON THE ROAD WITH WESTERN UNDERGROUND?
It was a dream come true for me. I remember my first show was in Pocatello, Idaho. After that, for the first couple of months, I couldn’t have told you where I was, because I couldn’t believe it. Before that, I felt like I’d been making these little steps: Being in a band when I was 13 was one step, being in the next band and playing on weekends was another step, and then I joined Dad’s band and felt I got out of the stairwell and into the elevator.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR MUSICAL INSPIRATION?
I remember a bunch of times during a sound check I’d be testing the drums and Mark [Sissel] would be jamming on this guitar riff and Dad would wander in and say, “What was that?” And we’d say, “I don’t know, we just made it up.” And he’d say, “You’d better record that. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be doing this.” And that’s where that came from. We were kinda picky about what we were going to put on the album [after he passed away]. We wanted to stick with what Dad did—rodeo rock & roll and songs about the West.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE PERFORMING IN ONE RIDE, A MUSICAL BASED ON YOUR FATHER’S SONGS?
It was totally out of the dark. We weren’t expecting anything like this to happen, and it’s a whole different avenue. For those who don’t know Dad’s music or haven’t heard of him, this will open up a new door. And it was exciting to be up in New York and to play for a New York crowd.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR WESTERN UNDERGROUND?
I think the One Ride show is our next big deal. We’d like to get into the studio and put another album out. We’re going to be in Denver for the National Western Stock Show [last January] and do a couple of winter shows in Utah.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A COUNTRY-WESTERN MUSICIAN?
It’s got one of the best followings and fan bases. Growing up I listened to a lot of Dad’s music and Charlie Daniels and Steve Earle, but then my older brother, Clay, introduced me to rock ’n’ roll. I’m kind of a rocker, but I do love the old cowboy music. All these different festivals during the summer and the thousands of people that show up—it’s pretty neat to be a part of the country music scene and play with Dad and people saying it was like “Gene Autry meets Led Zeppelin,” with all the lights and explosions. We’re all pretty lucky be able to do what we do and make a living at it.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR FATHER?
The biggest thing I learned from my dad is that if you are going to do something, do it the best that you can. He instilled that work ethic not just in me but in all of us kids. I remember when I was just starting to play with my first band—it was my first show—and I was playing every song like it was my last. And I remember the guitar player turned back to me and said, “You know we’ve got four hours to go.”
I told my dad about this, and he said, “If you want to play every song like that, you play every song like that.” He could look back on every job we did together—whether it was building fence or branding—and take pride in knowing that it was a job well done. There’s a lot in what he and my mom taught us kids, and I’ll try my best to hand those values down to my son, too.
For more American Cowboy coverage on Ned Ledoux and the musical "One Ride," check out:
Chris Ledoux Inspires One Ride
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