Carly Pearce Tributes the Judds at Their Country Hall of Fame Induction: ‘I Am Forever Grateful’
The Judds were one of a class of inductees — also including the late Ray Charles, and recording musicians Eddie Bayer and Pete Drake — and in the hours leading up to the ceremony, tragedy struck the legendary duo when Naomi Judd unexpectedly died on Saturday, just one day earlier.
At the request of the Judd family, the Hall of Fame moved forward with its plans to celebrate its new class of inductees, and Naomi's daughter and duo member Wynonna Judd attended the event and gave an emotional speech. Naomi's death cast a long shadow over the evening's performances, too: Pearce delivered a somber and reverent rendition of "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)," a hit song for the Judds from 1986.
After the ceremony, Pearce reflected on her experience of performing during such a powerful moment, and spoke to the Judds' lasting impact.
"Last night was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had in my life," Pearce wrote on social media. "Singing 'Grandpa' in light of such tragic loss, looking in the eyes of Naomi's beautiful daughters. I am forever grateful & send Wynonna and Ashley all my love. Long live the Judds."
Other performers tributing the Judds at Sunday evening's induction ceremony included Gillian Welch and David Rawlings singing "Young Love (Strong Love)" and Timmy Simms performing "Love Can Build a Bridge." Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, the War and Treaty, Bettye LaVette and more turned out to perform in tribute to the other honorees.
Earlier in the week — before Naomi's death — Pearce elaborated to Taste of Country Nights on what the duo meant to her as a young singer-songwriter. "The Judds are one of my favorite artists on the planet, ever," said Pearce, who also happens to hail from the Judds' home state of Kentucky.
"If you listen to [my album] 29, my song 'Easy Going,' I totally tried to just straight up rip the Judds," the singer admits. "And I've told Wynonna that, so she knows. They, to me, were just that rootsy sound that I loved so much, that I grew up on. Just the tone of [Wynonna's] voice — it's evolved over the years — but those are some of my earliest memories of discovering country music. I love them."
Over the years, Pearce went on to say, the Judds had become more than just heroes to her — now, she counts them as friends.
"When I won Female Vocalist [of the Year] at the CMAs [in 2021] I got a random phone number pop up on my phone. I answered it, and it said, 'Carly, this is Wynonna,'" the singer recounts. "I was at my house by myself, and she just called me. We've become friends now. When your heroes become your friends, it's pretty crazy. She's awesome. We text, and it's the best."