Wynonna Judd Biography

Singer (1964–)
Wynonna Judd is a country music superstar, famous for her solo hits and as part of the mother-daughter duo the Judds.

Who Is Wynonna Judd?

Born in Kentucky, Wynonna Judd was raised in poverty by her mother, Naomi Judd. Mother and daughter shared a love of singing, and moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. In 1983, the Judds were signed to RCA records—and were shot into country music superstardom. The Judds sold over 20 million albums and won five Grammys. After her mother fell ill, Wynonna pursued a solo career, with equally huge success—in spite of some personal struggles. Wynonna's half-sister, Ashley Judd, is an accomplished actress.

Early Life

Musician Wynonna Judd was born Christina Claire Ciminella in Ashland, Kentucky, on May 30, 1963. Judd never met her biological father, a man named Charles Jordan. Her mother Naomi Judd, only 18 years old at the time, married Michael Ciminella shortly before her birth. Her sister, Ashley Judd, was born in 1968, a few years before their mother's marriage broke up. Wynonna Judd's family was quite poor when she was very young and moved around often before eventually settling down in Kentucky.

Wynonna and Ashley wore second-hand clothes and occasionally lived in houses without electricity or indoor plumbing. Looking back on her impoverished childhood after decades of stardom, which included a performance at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Judd remarked, "I literally went from the outhouse to the White House."

The Judds

Wynonna Judd and her mother built a very close, if occasionally rather dysfunctional, relationship, "Right or wrong," Wynonna said, "from a very early age I believed my mother needed me as much as I needed her." Looking for a fresh start after her mother's divorce, in 1977, Wynonna and Naomi changed their surnames from Ciminella to Naomi's rootsier-sounding maiden name, Judd, and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital of the world, to pursue careers in the recording industry. They signed to the label RCA Records in 1983, performing as a duo called, simply, the Judds.

Between 1983 and 1991, the Judds rose to superstardom in the country music world, selling over 20 million albums, cracking the top ten singles chart on 20 different occasions, and winning five Grammys, in addition to sweeping every major country music award for eight years running.

Wynonna Judd sang lead vocals and played guitar, while her mother sang backing vocals. The Judds' single "Let Me Tell You About Love" became their 14th and final song to hit No. 1 on the U.S. country chart, capping an extraordinary decade in which they were perhaps the biggest act in all of country music.

The Judds' hot streak came to a sudden and shocking end in 1991, however, when Naomi Judd retired due to complications from Hepatitis C, a debilitating chronic liver ailment that threatened to take her life. Naomi Judd survived this dangerous period and eventually returned to a more robust state of health, but the Judds' reign as the queens of country music was over.

Solo Career

Wynonna Judd moved on to start her solo career. In 1992, she released her debut solo album, Wynonna. It went platinum five times over and spawned four top-ten singles. Her second album, Tell Me Why, released a year later, also became a multi-platinum success. Controversy soon arose when Judd became the subject of some criticism in the country music world for having an out-of-wedlock child, Elijah Judd, in 1994. She married his father, Arch Kelley, in 1996 while pregnant with their second child, Grace Pauline Judd.

Wynonna's third album, Revelations, was released in 1996 and was also certified platinum. Her fourth album, 1997's The Other Side, was much less successful and led Judd to switch labels. Judd and Kelley divorced in 1998.


Judd's life in the 2000s became a win-some, lose-some mixture of personal triumphs and setbacks. She released new studio albums, none of which sold as well as her earlier works. She was arrested in 2003 for driving under the influence, just weeks before she married longtime boyfriend D.R. Roach.

In 2005, she released a memoir, Coming Home to Myself, which became a New York Times best-seller. A year later, she checked into rehab for food dependency issues. In 2007, her husband was arrested multiple counts of aggravated sexual battery on a child under the age of 13; Judd filed for divorce five days later.


In 2010, the Judds announced a final reunion tour that fall. Returning to the limelight, Wynonna and her mother were frequent guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and documented their performances and behind-the-scenes interactions through their own reality program, The Judds.

Wynonna, who announced she was returning to the recording studio, also published a romance novel, Restless Heart, in 2011. Reflecting on her renewed sense of possibility in the new decade, Judd said, "I used to wake up and say, 'Oh, God, it's morning.' Now I say, 'Good morning, God.'"

'Wynonna & The Big Noise'

In 2011, the artist put together a new band, Wynonna & The Big Noise. She debuted a new single that year, "Love It Out Loud," and in 2013 she followed with "Something You Can't Live Without." She also competed on Dancing with the Stars that year, but was quickly eliminated.

In February 2016, Judd released Wynonna & The Big Noise, her first album of original material since 2003. Drawing mostly positive reviews, the album peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard country chart.

Judd endured more personal strife when her daughter Grace pleaded guilty to the manufacturing, delivery, sale and possession of methamphetamines in 2017. Although much of her year-long sentence was to be served on probation, Grace ran into trouble after leaving her court-mandated drug recovery program, and was subsequently sentenced to eight years behind bars.

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