Johnny Nicholas Reveals How He Gave Wynonna Judd Her Name

July 2, 2018

Johnny Nicholas is a blues legend, and throughout his long career, he's certainly gathered up his fair share of amazing stories.

One of his most notable, though, might be how he helped Wynonna Judd become...well...Wynonna Judd.

While guesting on Behind the Mic with Pam Rossi this week at MusicTown, Nicholas explained how he gifted the "No One Else on Earth" singer, who was born Christina Claire Ciminella, with her stage name.

At the time, Nicholas was dating Wynonna's mom Naomi Judd, who tipped him off to her daughter's talent and her desire to become a singer.

"I was up at their house (in California) and Christina was about 15 at the time," he recalled. "I was teaching her how to play guitar and she was learning how to play guitar and sing."

"Naomi told me one day, 'Christina is special, she's really talented. I think she's going to be famous,'" he continued. "I said, 'Yeah, I think she's got it.'"

Naomi then expressed that she thought her daughter needed a stage name, to which Nicholas said he would think it over.

Due to Judd's love for the blues and her confident style of singing, Nicholas took inspiration from the iconic blues shouter and R&B artist, Wynonie Harris. He suggested the female counterpart, "Wynonna," which was already a popular name within the black community, with artists like Wynona Carr.

A month after pitching the name to Naomi, Nicholas received a Valentine's card in the mail from none other than the newly-minted, "Wynonna Judd."

"It was all hand decorated," he remembered. "It said, 'Dear Johnny, my favorite person. Everyone loves my new name.'"

Years after Judd rose to huge success, a story came out that she had actually been named after the town mentioned in the song "Route 66," which Nicholas says is untrue.

"I talked to her last winter and I said, 'This thing needs to be out, it's too signifcant,'" he said of her name's origin.

Nicholas sent her a photo of the thank you card she had given him way back when, and it jogged her memory. That same card will now be included in the Judd's new exhibit in the Country Music Hall of Fame, which launches on August 10 in Nashville.