The Story Behind The Song: “Mama He’s Crazy” – The Judds

In the early part of 1982, a mother/daughter singing duo came to O’Dell’s attention via Ralph Emery’s local morning television show on WSM-TV. The Judds were frequent guests on the program, and Kenny thought they had a lot of potential. He set up a meeting with Naomi and Wynonna with the idea of trying to get them a record deal, then after that was accomplished, he would serve as their producer and write their material. For the next few months, O’Dell and the Judds would meet regularly each week at Kenny’s downtown Nashville office and go over songs. Not only was Kenny trying to get the women a record deal, but he was also interested in polishing their sound. It was tough work, and in spite of a lot of raw talent, O’Dell couldn’t win anyone over to the Judds’ potential. Nevertheless, even after months of rejections, Kenny continued to write songs specifically for Naomi and Wynonna.

One afternoon, O’Dell took a break from writing and was watching an afternoon soap opera on television (it was called “Texas,” a short-lived knock-off of the runaway hit “Dallas”). Kenny became intrigued by some of the crazy things that were happening on the show. Grabbing a legal pad, he began to scribble down some of the lines that came right from the dialogue, and one phrase in particular jumped out at him when an actress uttered, “Mama he’s crazy.” At that point, O’Dell began writing a new song around that line, actually using the Judds as his inspiration. He imagined what it would be like for a mother to have a daughter dating (Wynonna was still in high school at the time, and had a boyfriend), and very quickly Kenny finished his song. He grabbed a boom-box recorder and guitar, and dubbed off a very rough copy of “Mama He’s Crazy,” to play for the Judds the following week.

Soon after Kenny had written “Mama He’s Crazy,” the Judds moved away and their weekly sessions ended. Within a few months, O’Dell lost track of the mother/daughter duo. He also forgot about the song he had written for them. Realizing that a career in music was a long shot at best, Naomi went back to her old job as a nurse at the Williamson County Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, 25 miles south of Nashville. One day, while working in the ER, Judd came face-to-face with Diana Maher, daughter of RCA record producer Brent Maher. Diana had been admitted after being involved in an automobile accident. Naomi was Diana’s nurse while she was recuperating in the hospital, and the two became fast friends. They learned about each other’s backgrounds, and ultimately Diana offered to help Naomi and Wynonna by getting one of their homemade audition tapes to her dad at RCA. Within a few days, Brent Maher himself called and set up a live audition for March 2, 1983. Maher liked what he heard and offered the ladies a recording contract.

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