Judds, The, best-selling mother-daughter country duo of the 1980s; f. 1979. Membership: Wynonna Judd (Christina Claire Ciminella), gtr., voc. (b. Ashland, Ky, May 30, 1964); Naomi Judd (Diana Ellen Judd), voc. (b. Ashland, Ky, Jan. 11, 1946). The Judds were a popular mother-daughter duo in the 1980s. They came out of the new country movement, but became one of the most successful mainstream acts. Emulating the vocal harmonies of brother acts of the 1930s and 1940s, they scored many hits combining a repertoire of sexy uptempo numbers with ballads dripping with nostalgia for “the good old days,” Oddly enough, Naomi hardly played the role of a country mother; her sex appeal was always much greater than her often dour-looking daughter, although Wynonna was musically the heart of the act.
Much has been made of the Judds’s story, beginning with Wynonna’s birthin rural Ky.; the family’s move to Calif., where Naomi tried unsuccessfully to become a model; their return to Ky. and a “simple country life” in the mid-1970s, where Wynonna began to show her budding talent on the guitar; Wynonna’s “wild teenage years” where only her music would soothe her; their discovery that they could relate to each other through their music; their relocation in 1979 to Nashville, where Naomi pursued a nursing degree while the duo recorded demotapes on a $30.00 recorder purchased at K-Mart; and their final successful audition, performing The Blue Sky Boys’s “The Sweetest Gift (A Mother’s Smile)” for RCA executives, winning them a recording contract.
The first Judds recordings were very much in the mold of traditional country harmony singing, and the arrangements emphasized acoustic instruments without too much clutter. Their first #1 hit played off their mother-daughter relationship in “Mama He’s Crazy.” A string of hits came through the 1980s, including the sentimental “Grandpa (Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days),” the uptempo “Rockin’ with the Rhythm of the Rain,” through the anthemic “Love Can Build a Bridge,” which showed the talents of Wynonna as a gutsy lead singer, tempered by her mother’s sweet harmonies. As their career grew, their recordings became more heavily produced, and their act more elaborate, reflecting country music’s tendencies to smother their best acts in glossy productions.
The Nashville music world was stunned by the announcement of Naomi’s retirement from active performing, due to chronic hepatitis, in 1990; the duo undertook a year-long “farewell tour,” culminating in a pay-per-view concert in the end of 1991. Wynonna came out from under her mother’s shadow with her first solo LP, showing the influence of pop-rock singers, particularly Bonnie Raitt, on her style. However, without her mother on board to provide sex appeal, Wynonna has been put in the uncomfortable position of being gussied up by her handlers, who have even tried to give her a few dance steps, but she clearly remains most comfortable singing and playing the guitar without having to provide the “visual excitement” audiences seem to expect in this day of music videos. Wynonna has continued to release albums through the 1990s, although her later efforts have failed to garner much attention. Despite her “retirement,” Naomi continues to show up at various Nashville events, looking none the worse for wear. She also gives inspirational talks (for a fee) to people facing illness. Mother and daughter reunited for a 1999 New Year’s Eve concert, and also recorded four tracks together on a special “bonus EP” included with Wynonna’s 2000 album, New Day Dawning.
The Judds (1984); Why Not Me (1985); Rockin’ with the Rhythm (1987); Heart Land (1988); Christmas Time (1988); River of Time (1990); Love Can Build a Bridge (1990); In Concert (1995); The Judds Reunion Live (2000). wynonna judd:Wynonna (1992); Tell Me Why (1993); Revelations (1996); The Other Side (1997); New Day Dawning (2000).
N. Judd, Love Can Build a Bridge (N.Y., 1993).