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The Vault: Remembering Naomi Judd

Country music icon Naomi Judd always remembered where she came from and celebrated her Kentucky roots. Judd died last month after a long battle with mental illness.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “Kentucky, you are the dearest land this side of heaven to me. Kentucky, I miss your laurel and red bud trees.”

The year, 1986. In a personal concert just for WHAS-TV cameras, Naomi and Wynonna Judd sang the Everly Brothers classic, “Kentucky.”

The moment was the perfect way to wrap up a one-on-one interview with the mother-daughter duo. Former Louisville Tonight host Leah Bisig asked the questions as part of a primetime special called “Winning: Kentucky Style.”

Then, Naomi and Wynonna described being on the Tonight Show, winning a Grammy, playing the Houston Astrodome and even opening up Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas with Merle Haggard as exciting moments in their career.

Even after a few years packed with massive achievements, they still remembered their humble beginnings, releasing their first studio album and then getting called to open for the Stalter Brothers.

Credit: WHAS-TV
A still image of Naomi Judd during a WHAS-TV Louisville Tonight interview in 1986.

"We had an emergency meeting, pulled in some studio musicians, wore what we wore on our album cover and we wore it every night for a week,” Naomi said.

Kentucky girls through and through, they always cherished their roots and each other.

"She's my favorite female singer. She still blows me away. I am in awe of her talent," Naomi said of Wynonna.

"Thanks mom," Wynonna replied.

Fast-forward nearly 15 years, WHAS11 News crews headed to Ashland, Kentucky, the Judds’ hometown where the woman at the top of the family was fighting for fame in her own right.

Pauly Judd Rideout, mother to Naomi and grandmother to Wynonna and actress Ashley Judd, was making a name for herself as a politician. Rideout ended up winning her bid for city commissioner.  

Credit: WHAS-TV
Pauly Judd Rideout, the Judd family matriarch.

“I didn’t know what I was getting ready for but possibly this is it,” she said.

In 2004, hundreds of eager fans line the aisle of Walmart’s Fern Creek location, excited to see the woman they called “Kentucky’s girl” on her book promotion tour.

“I would stand here forever – forever to see her. She is just an inspiration. She is a down to Earth inspiration,” a fan said.

Nearly a decade later, in October 2013, Judd was inducted into the Walk of Legends during Louisville's International Festival of Film. Her handprints cementing her legacy as her words of wisdom forever live on.

"If these two crazy redheads from Kentucky can make their dreams come true, don't give me any excuses. I don't care what your dream is, you can make yours come true also."

"When I die. When I die, I long to rest to along a peaceful mountain so high. For that is where God will look for me."

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