Wynonna Meets Her Heroes (and 'Sheroes')

Country legend reminisces about working with those who helped pave her own musical road

Wynonna Judd
Mike Coppola/WireImage
June 16, 2014 6:07 PM ET

From an early age, Wynonna Judd was raised on country music and rock & roll, performing with her mother, Naomi Judd, on their way to becoming the Judds, one of the most successful duos in country music history — or as Wynonna likes to say, "herstory." Born in Kentucky, Wynonna and her sister, Ashley, also lived for a time in California, where many of her wildest musical dreams of meeting her "heroes and sheroes," became a reality.

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"I was blessed that I got to be a part of the tapestry of rock & roll as well as country," Wynonna tells Rolling Stone Country. "I was 15 and off to Texas with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. My mom was dating someone in Asleep at the Wheel and I got to meet and watch Jimmie [Vaughan] and Stevie Ray Vaughan practice. I remember sitting there watching Emmylou Harris in Marin County, and working with Ricky Skaggs when I was 16 or 17."

Fast forward to the Judds, during their mid-Eighties reign as one of country's hottest acts. When the pair was booked to play an amphitheater in California, Wynonna invited Bonnie Raitt to the show, and to the young singer's delight, the "Something to Talk About" singer accepted.

"I remember sitting and thinking, 'OMG,' as my 17-year-old daughter would say," Wynonna recalls. "I remember that like it was yesterday, and it was 30 years ago. Bonnie played on our record and we were pretty joined at the hip. We used to even pal around Nashville, clubbing, going to hear the blues. That was my first experience with the pairing of two alpha females."

Wynonna, who was a guest at Raitt's wedding, also recalls texting congratulations to Heart's Ann Wilson after she sang Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" during the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors.

"She's going, 'Gee, thanks.' [laughs] I've still got it on my texts," says the singer. "This is freakin' Ann Wilson! I forget, because they're so dear to me, because they're out here on my farm and were having a picnic at the lake before singing at the CMT Crossroads event. My mom is with me in there talking about losing their mother. We're talking about life in between all the big plans we're making.

"I have quite a sisterhood out there," she continues. "But you have to realize there is a connection deeper than the surface. To people it might seem surface-y, but it's so soulful and so deeply embedded in my DNA."

Wynonna says she may be calling upon several of her friends in the business to contribute to her next album, which she describes as "transformative" and "vintage, yet modern." Come back to Rolling Stone Country next week for more about that project from our exclusive chat with the lauded musician.

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