The Judds: Always A Country Fan Favorite

NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 8: Wynonna (L) and Naomi Judd perform at the 32nd Annual Fan Fair country music festival on June 8, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee. The four-day festival, staged by the Country Music Association, is the largest of its kind and offers fans close access to many of country’s biggest stars as well as nightly concerts featuring the genre’s top performers. (Photo by Rusty Russell/Getty Images)

Naomi and Wynonna Judd earned their place in popular music history decades ago when they took their mother/daughter act on the road and on the airwaves in the 1980s, charming country music fans with their heartwarming songs and no-holds-barred musical flair. Their recent induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame served to enshrine The Judds as royalty in the genre, yet also represented a somber farewell to their storied career as a duo following the death of Naomi the previous day.

With plans for a fall tour announced earlier this year, they had mapped out a 10-city trek through U.S. cities dubbed “The Final Tour” to cap a professional pairing that began with their 1983 record deal. Their concert performance history stretches back to those early days, beginning in the summer of 1984 prior to the October release of their first full-length studio album Why Not Me.

The Judds’ first concert appearance in the Pollstar box office records was an opening slot on a Lee Greenwood show at Mud Island Amphitheatre in Memphis on July 7, 1984 with a crowd of 2,955. Several more supporting dates were recorded that year, but it wasn’t until 1986 that the first headlining concerts for the duo were reported.

Touring behind the release of their second album, The Judds landed 30 performances in the archives between February and September of 1986 including a return engagement at the same Memphis amphitheater as two years earlier, but as headliners performing for 3,854 fans. Box office averages from 1986 show 2,284 seats sold per show for a gross average of $39,985 ($105 million in 2022 dollars). During the remainder of the decade, box office totals continued to rise according to figures from 112 reported headlining dates. Ticket averages those years reached 4,639 per show, while gross averages totaled $71,869 ($167 million today).

As the country music industry began its 1990s boom that shepherded in such game changers as Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Shania Twain and Kenny Chesney, The Judds were part of the early days of that era with tours in 1990 and 1991. In the first year, the duo had 57 performances reported at North American venues – largely amphitheaters and fairgrounds – from February until early-December with sold tickets averaging 5,747 per show. Included was a two-night engagement at Western Washington Fair in Puyallup in September with attendance totaling 21,004 – their highest ticket count recorded that year.

Then 1991 marked the final year on the road for The Judds after Naomi announced her retirement due to a Hepatitis C diagnosis. That year they logged the best box office results of their first eight years as a duo with tickets averaging 8,743 per show and grosses $178,545 (valued now at $377 million) based on 125 shows reported. The best-attended concert was a performance Feb. 22 at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo with over 55,000 in attendance at the Astrodome.

Naomi and Wynonna reunited at various times in later years including their “Power to Change” tour, a 26-show run in 2000 that grossed $7.7 million ($12.9 million now) from 228,054 tickets at arenas and amphitheaters. Their “Last Encore” tour (2010-11) also played arenas but included a December 2010 show at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles (then Nokia Theatre) with 4,006 fans. The Judds’ last appearance in the archives in October 2017 was for the “All In For The Gambler” salute to Kenny Rogers at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, attended by a sellout crowd of 15,530.