When The Judds reunited at the CMA Music Festival on a hot Nashville evening in June 2009, the reaction from the 50,000 fans in the audience was nothing short of astounding. Wynonna had just wrapped up a fiery solo set when her mother Naomi joined her for a rare onstage performance revisiting Judds classics such as "Why Not Me," "Girls Night Out" and "Love Can Build a Bridge." Only, these songs didn't feel like "classics." To those in the crowd that night, this music felt just as revelatory as it did when The Judds first shot onto the country scene in 1984, breathing new life into the genre with their homespun, acoustic harmonies and a long trail of platinum albums and number one hits.
As the audience sang every word of those songs back to them that night 25 years later, Wynonna and Naomi realized the deep connection their music made with their fans is now stronger than ever. That experience convinced the duo it was time to give the fans exactly what they demanded. One year later, The Judds returned to the 2010 CMA Music Festival to announce The Last Encore tour, launching November 26th in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
According to Naomi, The Last Encore tour is a chance to celebrate that relationship with their fans one last time. "There is nothing like music and laughter to connect people," she says. "How I've missed that encounter with the very ones who've allowed us that awesome privilege! I'm counting the days till I can be back on my bus, visiting their towns." That connection with their fans inspired Wynonna and Naomi to get them involved early on in the creative process. In fact, The Last Encore tour's name was actually submitted by a fan in a recent contest.
The Last Encore is also a celebration of the connection between this legendary mother and daughter, both onstage and off. Says Wynonna, "This tour gives me a chance to enjoy where my mom and I are in our relationship. I look forward to celebrating our personal and professional journey? together."
The creative energy fueling The Last Encore's 18 dates also spilled over in to the studio. Following that fateful reunion at the CMA Music Festival, Wynonna and Naomi decided to collaborate on several new songs capturing what The Judds would sound like today had they never stopped recording. The resulting tracks fit seamlessly into The Judds catalog, with lyrics covering love, joy, friendship, family and everything in between. They'll be included on Wynonna's highly anticipated eighth solo project, due out this year via Curb Records.
As for The Last Encore's set list, it's all about introducing the fans to new music as well as the music that first propelled The Judds and Wynonna to heights beyond their wildest imagination. Starting with their 1984 chart topper "Mama, He's Crazy," the duo notched 14 number one hits at country radio ranging from the sassy tale of love gone wrong, "Have Mercy," to the rural themes of family and home found in "Young Love." The hits kept coming and so did the accolades. Their trophy cases carry the weight of more than 60 industry awards, including five Grammys, nine CMA Awards and eight ACM Awards to name just a few. With over 20 million albums sold to date, The Judds became one of the nation's top concert draws. By the time they released their fifth LP, 1990's Love Can Build a Bridge, it seemed The Judds were unstoppable.
The duo's upward momentum came to a halt in October 1990 as Naomi announced she had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and would retire following a farewell tour. That 116-city trek made The Judds country music's top grossing act of 1991 and led to Their Final Concert, which became the highest rated pay-per-view special of all time. The end of that chapter in The Judds' story was only the beginning of a dazzling second act for both women. After Hepatitis C threatened to end not just Naomi's hard won career, but also her life, she fully recovered and penned her bestselling memoir, 1993's Love Can Build a Bridge. Naomi went on to author a total of eight books, including three bestsellers from adult titles to children's books, hosted her own radio and television shows and joined the speaker circuit recounting her inspirational story of survival. Her post-tour plans include opening a state-of-the-art neuroscience treatment facility in Franklin, Tennessee.
Wynonna embarked on a wildly successful solo career earning four number one hits from her self-titled 1992 project, which was the bestselling country album ever by a female artist at that time. In 1994, Wynonna received the coveted Top Female Vocalist of the Year trophy at the ACM Awards, and Rolling Stone called her "the greatest female country singer since Patsy Cline." Though her roots have always been firmly planted in country music, Wynonna has shared the stage with music icons such as The Rolling Stones, U2, and Sting along the way. Engaging the soulful, bluesy side of her voice only hinted at with The Judds, Wynonna went on to sell more than 10 million albums and reach new creative heights with six chart toppers of her own. In 2005, she added New York Times bestselling author to her long list of accomplishments with the release of her memoir,Coming Home to Myself. Wynonna plans to release her first novel, Restless Heart, in February 2011, which follows the rise of a young Kentucky girl as she pursues her musical dreams.
No matter how glittering Wynonna's duet partners have been, none of them could match the spark produced when she teamed up with Naomi again. That magic was evident as the duo reunited for a sold out one-off concert on New Year's Eve 2000 in Phoenix, Arizona, which turned into the full-fledged Power to Change tour, sponsored by Kmart.
10 years later, The Judds are gearing up for their final victory lap, putting a coda on their three-decade journey. Though this tour is billed as The Last Encore, their fans know it's never really the end with Wynonna and Naomi. For those who've followed the girls from the rolling hills of Kentucky to the dizzying height of fame, the music and memories of The Judds will live on long after the final curtain call.