Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Mother and daughter country music duo, and younger daughter, an actress and political activist. Naomi Judd (b Diana Ellen Judd, 11 January 1946, Ashland KY) and daughter Wynonna (b Christina Ciminella, 30 May 1964, Ashland) brought a poppish 'new country' edge to country music while retaining traditional roots. The family had moved to California, where younger daughter Ashley was born (Ashley Tyler Ciminella, b 19 April 1968, in Granada Hills). Diana was divorced from Michael Ciminella in '72, was on welfare for a while, but moved back to Kentucky '76 and began studying to become a nurse, as well as doing modelling and secretarial work to support her two children. Wynonna and Naomi adopted stage names at some point, performed at various home-town functions, and moved to Nashville '79, where Wynonna won a high school talent contest. As a registered nurse, Naomi cared for the daughter of Nashville producer Brent Maher; he heard tapes made on a $30 cassette player from K-Mart, they made a demo with guitarist Don Potter, signed to RCA and had immediate huge success with lovely harmony and good songs by Mickey Jupp, Harlan Howard etc, despite insipid arrangements typical of Nashville/RCA. 'Mama He's Crazy' and 'Why Not Me' were both no. 1 hits '84, latter winning Grammy and CMA 'Single of the Year', and further big hits followed every year; they were Duo of the Year six consecutive years '84-9 and the first female country act to form their own booking agency.

Following much speculation, Naomi was diagnosed as having hepatitis, leading to retirement following their 'Love Can Build A Bridge' tour '90-1 (one of most successful tours in country music history, netting $4.4m). Wynonna signed to MCA-Curb and emerged as one of the most successful female singers of the '90s, album Wynonna '92 high in both pop and country charts; her first three singles 'She Is His Only Need', 'I Saw The Light' and 'No One Else On Earth' were all country no. ones. She teamed with Clint Black for 'A Bad Goodbye' '93; further solo hits with 'Tell Me Why', 'Only Love' both '93; 'Rock Bottom' '94; 'To Be Loved By You' '96.

Naomi's autobiography Love Can Build A Bridge '93 became a TV movie '95. Judds' albums included The Judds: Wynonna and Naomi '84, Why Not Me '84, Rockin' With The Rhythm '85 (including Paul Kennerley's 'Have Mercy'), Heartland '87, Give A Little Love '87 (in UK, 15 tracks from Heartland and a mini-LP from '84), River Of Time '89 (Carl Perkins and Mark Knopfler guesting), Love Can Build A Bridge '90, all on RCA; Wynonna's solo albums Wynonna '92, Tell Me Why '93, Revelations '96, The Other Side '97, on MCA/Curb.

The Judds had 14 no. 1 hits in the country chart; then Wynonna's solo career included 20 charting singles. Her 2003 album What The World Needs Now Is Love was mostly new music; Sing: Chapter 1 in 2009 was mostly covers; in 2014 she had recorded duets with Willie Nelson and country upstart Colt Ford, and was working an an album of new music, which turned out to be Wynonna & The Big Noise (2015, on Curb), enthusiastically reviewed by Barry Mazor in the Wall Street Journal: for the first time she was backed by a set band, "a versatile rock and twang" group put together by her husband, drummer Cactus Moser, "with constrained, old-school production, virtually live, the music gleefully crossing lines", and with top-notch guests such as Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.

Younger daughter Ashley became a successful actress, then an articulate spokesperson for women and children, and in 2013 was considering a run for the United States Senate against the ridiculous Mitch McConnell, but thought better of it.