When Jason Owen was growing up in Monticello, Arkansas, The Judds defined glamour, passion, music and what show biz could be. Owens’ very first concert, Wynonna and Naomi set the bar for what entertainment was supposed to be.
As the founder of Sandbox Entertainment, the artist direction multi-hyphenate entertainment conglomerate that has guided the evolution of Shania Twain, Kacey Musgraves, Faith Hill, Little Big Town and Dan & Shay at critical points in their career, he never dreamed that one day he would be in a position to help not just bring Wynonna and Naomi together, but launch a tour that would take their music to U.S. fans one more time.
“It was crazy,” says the game-changing television producer and artist manager. “We had everyone – Wynonna, Cactus, Naomi, Larry and their entire teams – in a room, and that’s when I realized this could happen. It’s one of those moments where the unthinkable is actually coming together. We were figuring out logistics, and suddenly, it became very real.”
Sandbox’s touring wizard Leslie Cohea teamed with Live Nation Tour Director Erik Kammerer to work out logistics, create a routing and set the tour’s onsales in motion. Slated to kick off Sept. 30 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at Van Andel Arena, the original 10 dates were slated to wrap at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Sales were brisk as fans clamored for tickets to witness the iconic mother/daughter who’d just been voted into the Hall of Fame.
When tragedy struck with Naomi’s suicide, the parties convened – and needed to make a decision. Recognizing the role the Judds’ inspiration had played in his own career development, conversations turned to expanding the circle of acolytes. Martina McBride, who’d been booked to open the tour, remained, while Grammy-, CMA- and ACM Award-winning women stepped up. Suddenly, Trisha Yearwood, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Tanya Tucker, Kelsea Ballerini, Faith Hill and Brandi Carlile came forward to share the stage with Wynonna to honor the music that had been such a part of all their lives.
“To hear the stories of what the Judds and their music meant to all these women, you really got a sense of how massive their impact was,” says Owens. “It wasn’t just me, it was America.”
Adding a homecoming show of sorts at Lexington’s Rupp Arena and a television special filmed at Middle Tennessee State University that mirrored the original “Judds Farewell Concert,” it was clear the demand far exceeded the initial tour dates. After much discussion, the estate, Sandbox, Live Nation and agents from WME and Wasserman Music, who co-represent The Judds, decided to add 15 dates – starting Jan. 26 at Hershey’s GIANT Center – for a proper goodbye.
Song From The Heart: As The Judds’ Final Tour Winds Down, Wynonna Moves Forward