‘Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration’: CMT Memorial’s Producers Tell How the Show Came Together in Seven Days
By Chris Willman
May 16, 2022
What is the story behind Bette Midler introducing Wynonna and Brandi Carlile doing a duet on “The Rose” for the Naomi Judd Memorial?
Comeaux: That was a Jason phone call of, “Hey, there was this amazing performance with Bette Midler in ‘96, on her ‘Wynonna: Revelations” special …
Owen: You worked on it!
Comeaux: I did work on it, back in the day; I was an assistant editor at the time, so I had the pleasure of being in the room the first time it happened, too, and it was incredible. So Jason brought it to Wy and it just sort of took on a life of its own.
Owen: I sent the clip to Wy because I was going down a big Judds rabbit hole over the last couple weeks, as I was mourning Naomi, just looking at old stuff. I said, “Would you please, please do this song for me, if there’s a world where I can get Bette Midler or someone amazing to sing it.” And the text back was, “Yes, for you, I’ll do it.” And so I went into full psychopath mode. We were working with Bette’s team — Rob Light was super helpful — and it just couldn’t work out logistically for her. Bette said “I would love to do a video,” and she sent this amazing text that said, “’The Rose’ will forever and always be Wynonna’s, should she ever want it.” it was very heartbreaking and wonderful. So then I called Brandi Carlisle and asked her if she would do it. and without any hesitation, she said, “Absolutely.” I don’t even think she had seen the video. She had this funny thing where she sent me a text and said “Am I Bette, or am I Wynonna?” And I said, “What do you think?” And then we were rehearsing it Sunday, where I was literally just crazy about them doing the song, and when I get worked up about something, I just cannot let it go. So when they were rehearsing it on Sunday, Wy and Brandi made me leave the Ryman so I couldn’t hear it until the night of the performance.
Comeaux: They did. It was amazing. Wy had kind of started the song a little bit and the music started, and she stopped everything and said, “Jason, you need to leave.” It was great.
Well, speaking of stopping the song, it was a memorable moment on the telecast when she did stop it near the end because she was unhappy with something she’d done, and wanted to pick it up again. What were you thinking when that happened?
Owen: Well, I know her well enough to know that she always wants to give a hundred percent. And especially for that song, I think for lots of reasons, she was in that moment, in that part, and she got really emotional and it kind of stopped her, and she knew she wasn’t delivering it the right way she wanted to deliver it. So that’s why she stopped and said, “Now, go again.” And when she did, the whole place lost its mind. It was one of the best moments I’ve ever experienced in a television situation.