The co-founder of The Judds duo passed away Saturday at 76.
Friends and admirers from throughout the world of country music and beyond paid their respects to Naomi Judd — celebrating her life and mourning her death — as word spread of her passing Saturday at age 76.
The sad news was announced by her daughters: Wynonna, with whom she recorded and toured as the phenomenally popular duo The Judds, and Ashley, the award-winning TV and film actor.
The mother-and-daughter duo The Judds began their rise from humble beginnings in the Appalachian foothills of Ashland, Ky., when they were signed by RCA label head Joe Galante in 1983 after they landed a spot on WSM-TV’s The Ralph Emery Show. They made their chart debut by the end of the year with “Had A Dream (For The Heart),” and the two were on their way to becoming one of the best-selling duos of all time.
For the rest of the 1980s, each single from The Judds released by RCA went to the Billboard Top 10, with 14 hits going all the way to the No. 1 spot. They swept the CMA’s Vocal Group/Duo category from 1985 to 1991 and won six Grammy Awards.
The Judds embarked on their “Farewell Tour” in 1991 after Naomi’s diagnosis of Hepatitis C forced her to retire from the road. Naomi focused on her health, beating the disease while authoring several New York Times best-selling books. The duo reunited briefly in the 2000s and again to honor Kenny Rogers in the fall of 2017. They were set to regroup this year for “The Final Tour” to play a number of concerts in North America, and were scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this Sunday.
Among the notables who paid their respects Saturday:
Billy Ray Cyrus
“So sad at the loss of my friend and music legend Naomi Judd. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. As a fellow Kentuckian, my hats off in honor of the legacy of music she shared with the world and the doors she opened for so many others like me.”
“Say it isn’t so. Cannot believe my girlfriend and longtime buddy Naomi is gone. We’ve known each other for years and she always treated me with class, grace and pure kindness. I’m going to miss her so much.”
“The Judds were the superstars of their time, and I knew them from the beginning when I played piano for Naomi and Wynonna on the Ralph Emery Morning Show. Back then Ralph called them The Soap Sisters because Naomi made homemade lye soap and brought it to the show as gifts for us all. I knew from the beginning they were destined for greatness. I am in shock to hear of Naomi's passing on the eve of their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame--the moment when their greatness would forever be acknowledged in the history books. To me, The Judds were always a closing act. I'm just so sorry that Naomi made the decision to bring the curtain down early. My prayers go out to her family, friends, and fans.”
“I’m just heartbroken over the loss of Naomi Judd. My fellow Kentucky girl, my friend, and an amazing singer. There are no words. Please pray for Wynonna, Ashley, Larry, and grandchildren. Heartbroken. Sending all my love.”
“I am shocked and saddened along with the rest of our country music community over the passing of Naomi Judd. I'll never forget meeting her for the first time when she was a contestant on a TV game show I was hosting. I asked her to identify herself for the audience and she said, "My name is Naomi Judd and I am a nurse from Franklin, Tennessee. My daughter and I sing together, and someday we hope to make it in country music." I was looking so forward to recalling that moment with her on Sunday when she and Wynonna were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. She was one of a kind and will certainly be missed.”
“Sunday was slated to be a day of celebration with the medallion ceremony for the Judds being officially welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame… But sadly, the Country Music Community and millions of fans around the world are mourning the loss of Naomi Judd, the matriarch of the country music duo The Judds. Our condolences go out to Wynonna, Ashley & Naomi’s husband of 32 years, Larry Strickland.”
David and Howard Bellamy
“Our prayers go out to Naomi’s husband, daughters, family, friends, and fans. We, like everyone who knew her, are devastated by the news of her passing. We will always hold near and dear the memories of touring with The Judds and visiting with Naomi backstage at so many events through the years. May you Rest In Peace, Naomi.”
“I remember how kind and nice Naomi was when we worked together. She was a good person with a generous spirit toward everyone she met. I’m keeping her family in my thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.”
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and fellow Kentuckian, Naomi Judd. Naomi was always so special to be with. She accomplished so much and she will be missed and loved forever. My prayers go out to Naomi and her family.”
The Oak Ridge Boys
"We just heard the devastating news that Naomi Judd has gone home. The Judds are being inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow. This is so very sad. We have been friends for decades and have worked hundreds of shows together. Our prayers for WY and Ashley and for all that loved her… which includes the four of us!”
“Such a sad day in country music with the loss of Naomi Judd. Her family is in my prayers.”
“I have so many memories with Naomi Judd — from our early years on stage around the country, awards shows to recent neighborly encounters at church or around our town of Franklin. I am speechless and so sad! My prayers go out to Wynonna, Ashley, and the rest of her family. God bless you and comfort you all.”
"So heartbroken to hear of the passing of the one and only Naomi Judd. A true living legend of country music sadly will be missed. Rest In Peace Naomi Judd. Prayers for the family."
“The first time I ever met Naomi, I was 14 years old and we were performing on the Ralph Emery Show. Ralph lovingly called them the ‘Soap Sisters’ since Naomi made her own lye soap. She was so sweet and kind and remained so every time I was ever with her through the years. She wrote me the most precious note recently about my commercial and how much she loved my music. I will cherish it forever. I’m so deeply saddened by this loss. We were so looking forward to The Judds’ induction into the CMA Hall of Fame. The music business will never be the same. Please join us in prayer for her family’s comfort during this time."
“It’s a sad day to hear about Naomi Judd, her creative and clever creation of The Judds image made a huge impact in country music. She will be missed greatly.“
“Another great musical voice - Naomi Judd - has gone silent and left for home. I will never forget introducing her along with Wynonna on their very first network tv show appearance. I knew after introducing them that they were destined for greatness. My prayers are with her family, friends, and fans at this very sad time.”
T. Graham Brown
“Naomi Judd was a dear friend and awesome talent. She was always so sweet and kind to me. I knew her well and did dozens of shows with The Judds. They have touched millions with their music. Sheila and my hearts are broken. Please pray for the Judd Family, fans, and friends. Rest in peace, sweet sister. I love you!”
“I am at a loss for words hearing about the passing of Naomi Judd…. She was a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice. ‘Grandpa’ is and always will be my favorite song by the Judds. Everyone, please keep her family and close friends in your prayers during this time.”
Lacy J. Dalton
"Naomi was a lovely person and this is a tragic loss. Our profound sympathy goes to Wynona and Ashley."
“I am saddened to hear of the loss of fellow Kentuckian and legend Naomi Judd. Their music traces back to my childhood when mom would sing their songs to us. Their sound was iconic and I remember so many of their hits. Naomi will forever be remembered. Prayers to Wy and Ashley + family."
Photo: Derrek Kupish, dkupish productions