That road trip was the beginning of our adventure of going backstage at concerts. It became Mom's hobby. We heard Emmylou Harris and met her opening act, Ricky Skaggs. We went to a Dolly Parton show, and I was mesmerized by her opening act, Doc Watson. I was also into Huey Lewis and the News, as well as the Little River Band, BIG time. I discovered Tower of Power, and it was because of them that years later I added a horn section to my band when I toured. I was in love with Doc Kupka's showmanship.
Mom began to play harmonica and we started jamming some with local musicians. And although I didn't understand it at the time, the duo that would later be The Judds was being born. She started thinking that maybe – just maybe – we could put together a family act. After the divorce, Mom had gone back to her maiden name, Judd. Now she changed her first name from Diana to Naomi. She was determined to reinvent herself and a name change was a start. She bought a '57 candy apple red Chevy with "Red-Hot" on the license plate. She always said she felt like she was at the front of the parade when she drove it. And that is a little like I always felt, that Ashley and I followed along in Mom's parade.
Mom and I started singing together in small area clubs. We sang at Rancho Nicasio with a group called Susie McKee and the Cowpokes. We did charity events. We sang in church. We recorded a few songs at a local studio that a friend of Mom's owned. And we invested in a reel-to-reel recording machine, a mixing board and a couple of microphones.
In 1978, Mom decided that it was time to get serious. After a trip back to Kentucky for Christmas, Mom packed up again, and headed back to Austin, Texas. This time, I went with her. Ashley stayed in Kentucky.
In Austin, Mom started dating the harmonica player from Asleep at the Wheel. We hung out with Jimmie Vaughn and the guys in the Fabulous Thunderbirds. It's funny. I didn't have any idea who Stevie Ray Vaughn was when I first heard him jam in the kitchen of one of the band members. I just thought they were all great guitar players.
While we were in Austin I decided to change my name, just as Mom had done. I did it for the same reason Mom had – to create a new identity. I was following Mom's lead and looking for something entirely new. Ray Benson, the lead singer of Asleep at the Wheel, chose my name from one of their songs, "Route 66." The line goes: ". . . don't forget Winonna." I could change the "i" to a "y" – Christina Claire Ciminella becomes Wynonna Ellen Judd. I took the "Ellen" because it's Mom's middle name. I just remember thinking that with Naomi, Wynonna sounded better than Christina.
Wynonna and Naomi were beginning to be an act.