NASHVILLE, TN (WOWK) – The country music world was stunned over the weekend with news of Naomi Judd’s death. It happened one day before she and her daughter, Wynonna, were set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
We have been working on a story about The Judds going into the hall of fame for several weeks now. We had planned to do an upbeat story, but that all changed with Naomi Judd’s death on Saturday.
The Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony went on as planned Sunday night in Nashville. Naomi Judd’s absence hit everyone hard.
“Though my heart’s broken, I will continue to sing. Because that’s what we do,” said Wynonna Judd to loud applause.
Tommy Sims, Carly Pierce, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings sang several of the Judds’ songs.
Fellow Kentucky musician Ricky Skaggs presented Wynonna Judd with her medallion and Naomi’s to her daughter, Ashley Judd.
“My mama loved you so much, and she appreciated your love for her and I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” said Ashley Judd as she fought back tears.
Naomi Judd was from Ashland, Kentucky.
We went there a couple of weeks ago to ask people about The Judds getting inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
We did the interviews on April 20.
Randy Memmer was a lifelong friend of Naomi’s.
Today, he said he’s still in shock over her death.
He grew up around the corner from her — they went to school together — even had the same babysitter.
“We played every day, that’s what you do when you’re a kid and got in trouble playing down at the armory and climbing in and out of the tanks and all that kind of stuff so we used to sneak in there all the time,” Memmer said.
Memmer said Naomi didn’t start performing until after high school.
He said Naomi’s late mother, Polly, stayed in one of his suites when Naomi’s childhood home was being moved from its original location to its current location across from the Mayo Mansion.
The Judds later stayed in the suite when they came home.
“We still had Polly’s suite available so they wanted to stay here with us so they did and we’d sit and have coffee every morning and visited,” Memmer said.
Memmer still got Christmas cards from Naomi and her husband, Larry.
We also visited the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center in downtown Ashland.
The Judds exhibit is one of the biggest ones in the Country Music Heritage Hall.
Museum curator and registrar Heather Whitman said the original exhibit was installed in the late 80s in the museum’s old location on Bath Avenue.
“It was a big deal,” Whitman said. “The Judds actually came to the opening of it. It was just fantastic for the people of our area.”
The exhibit has some of the Judds’ stage outfits — which they switch out on a regular basis — pictures, records, tapes, CDs and other memorabilia.
Whitman said she met Naomi several years ago during a private event in their building.
“It was nice to speak to her just briefly, she did sign a piece for me here in the case during her visit so that was very fun. Now I just need to meet Wynonna sometime and I can check that off my list,” she said.
Today, Whitman tells me she’s very sad.
She said everyone at the museum is deeply grieved and shocked by the news of Naomi’s passing
Everyone we spoke with in Ashland talked about how deserving The Judds are to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Wynonna is on tour this year… and will do two shows at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland on June 23 and 24.