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T. JUDD (NO RELATION)
the point of heart surgery if you can't have some fun with it?
T. Judd says he got the inspiration for "Coronary Life"--the
lead single from his new album Juddmental--as he was
being rolled into the operating room for ticker repair. "You
know you're in trouble," he riffs, "when the doctor
looks at your chart and says, 'Damn! "
the dead-on parody of Chad Brook's "Ordinary Life,"
Juddmental also boasts the deliciously dizzy "Livin'
Like John Travolta" (a sendup of Picky Martin's "Livin'
La Vida Loca"), "Shania, I'm Broke" (Shania Twain's
"Honey, I'm Home"), "Where The Grass Don't Grow"
(Tim McGraw's "Where The Green Grass Grows"), "In
Another Size" (Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood's "In
Another's Eyes"), "Christmas" (Faith Hill's "This
Kiss") and "She's Inflatable" (Diamond Rio's
out Judd's fourth Razor & Tie collection are the spoof-a-second
ditties "Ricky Tidwell's Mama Is Gonna Play Football"
(with guest vocals by country hitmaker Daryle Singletary), "Cledus,
The Karaoke King" and "Hillbilly Honeymoon".
co-wrote nine of the 10 songs and co-produced the album.
One of country music's most inventive wordsmiths, Judd crafts
lyrics that are pointed, precise, witty and, quite often, intricately
rhymed. He dotes on rap music, and its influence on his own
work is pervasive. "You'd think we just sit around and
make this stuff up as we go," he says. "But it took
us a month, for example, to write "Cledus Went Down To
Florida." I don't want to make it sound like I'm doing
brain surgery, but I do study the business. It's got to be a
big record before you can parody it. If it's not, the general
public won't know the song and they won't get the gist of the
had his eye on "Ordinary Life" from the moment it
came out. "I called [Brock's record label] and told them
I was thinking about doing a parody of it. They said they weren't
sure it was going to be a hit--that it wasn't taking off the
way they thought. But I told them, 'That's a hit record.' It
was only up to No. 63 when I wrote the parody. I'll be danged
if two months later it wasn't a No. 1 record. I'm proud of that
one because I took a shot long before it was a hit." Usually
he waits until a song is near the top of the charts before he
begins his lyrical renovations.
a courtesy Judd always requests permission to parody other artists
songs. He wanted to cover "In Another's Eyes" on his
last album, but Garth Brooks' people wouldn't give him the go-ahead.
This time around they did. Judd thinks Brooks may have feared
a parody would have hurt the song's chances for a Grammy award
(which it did go on to win). Says Judd, "I'm walking around
thinking that if my song can keep Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
from getting a Grammy, I ain't making near enough money."
Not surprisingly, Judd uses the parody to poke a bit of fun
at Brooks' rock star alter ego, Chris Gaines, The comedian credits
"In Another Size" as being performed by Waite Gaines
and Patricia Earwood.
is Judd's cleverness better displayed than in his tongue-in-cheek
homage to John Travolta, his role model from Saturday Night
Fever. "lf you come to my apartment, you'll see why I wrote
that song," he explains. "All I have in there are
black-light posters, a disco ball and a 1971 olive-green leather
recliner that has temperature control and vibrates. Everything
in my apartment is from the 70s. I was highly influenced by
disco music. It was all I listened to. This song was the hardest
one to write. We researched it. We pulled off webpage after
webpage about Travolta. We read his bio--everything about him
we could find.
Elsewhere on the album, Judd parades his twisted takes on inflatable
toys ("She's Inflatable"), the aggravations of holiday
shopping ("Christmas"), his own spotty finances ("Shania
I'm Broke"), legends in their own minds ("Cledus The
Karaoke King") and passions peculiarly South- ern ("Ricky
Tidwell's Mama Is Gonna Play Football," "Hillbilly
real name is Barry Poole. In 1993, he was well on his way to
a career as a hairdresser in his hometown of Crowe Springs,
Georgia, when he heard about a talent contest being held every
week at the Buckboard, a country music nightclub near Atlanta.
"I went down to the club on a dare," he says, "and
I took eight buddies with me in a van. The piano player asked
me what I was going to do, and I told him I had these two funny
rap songs. He said, 'We don't play rap songs.' I said, 'OK,
then you just play Delbert McClinton's "Shaky Ground,"
and I'll make it fit.' I sang the first song, and there was
this guy in a suit and tie who kept coming up and putting 20-dollar
bills on the stage. By the second song, he'd put down 80 bucks.
I told him that if I had another song, I'd do it for him and
make some real money. And he said, I'm paying you to shut up,'
I figured if I could sing this bad and make this kind of money,
I'd found my niche."
to make it in show business, Cledus soon set out for Nashville
in a critically battered pickup truck. He remembers there were
holes in the doors where the speakers had been ripped out and
gaps in the floorboard that were wide enough to enable him to
count the white lines creeping along below. The vehicle did
have one functioning windshield wiper, but it was on the right-hand
estimates he never made more than $4,000 a year his first three
years in Nashville--most of that from doing odd jobs around
of his employers, country dance impresario Wynn Jackson, suggested
the name "Cledus T. Judd," and a grateful Barry Poole
promptly snapped it up. Initially, Judd recorded for Cross Three
Records, a small independent label. It was here that he attracted
his first industry-wide attention before moving up to New York-based
Razor & Tie Records in 1996.
had about three goals when I came to Nashville," Judd recounts.
"One was for my mama to meet Vince Gill, because that's
really what got me into the business. We were sitting there
in front of the TV in 1992 and watching him sing "When
I Call Your Name.' And my mama cried. I told her, 'One of these
days, you'll meet him.' When we were doing my video for 'Wives
Do It All The Time,' Mama came up to watch. She didn't know
Vince was going to be in it. Then he walked in. Man! After a
moment like that, it's all down hill. Fulfilling my mama's dream
out- weighs all mine. I also wanted to work with George Jones
and Tammy Wynette and do the Grand Ole Opry. I got to work with
Tammy in Vegas a few years ago, and I actually toured some with
George Jones. Then, this year, I did the Opry. Knowing where
I was 10 years ago and knowing where I am now is the most fascinating
thing that could happen to somebody.
parodies are seldom played on radio and because neither the
Academy of Country Music nor the Country Music Association gives
awards for comedy recordings, Judd turned to music videos. He
has made 11 of them to date (counting the forthcoming "Coronary
Life" and "Christmas". And he gives them credit
for helping him sell more than 770,000 albums so far. "Most
people write songs with radio in mind, Judd says. "But
I write for CMT and TNN. They're my radio. Hardly anybody comes
up to me and says, 'I love that funny song.' It's 'I love that
first collection of music videos will be released later this
year. "Because of these videos," he reflects, "I
have an image. And that's so hard to get in this business."
His entries have won CMT's Independent Video of the Year awards
for two of the past three years.
spite of his successes, Judd still views the country music world
with sense of wonder. It both thrills and humbles him, he says,
when another artist strikes up a conversation with him or volunteers
to appear in one of his videos. Among those who have done cameos
for him are Gill, Shania Twain, David Ball, Joe Diffie, Buck
Owens, Deana Carter, Trace Adkins and Charlie Daniels.
Now in fine shape physically, Judd discusses his recent round
of health problems as if they were sitcoms. They were rolling
me in through the double doors for my heart operation,"
he relates, "and here they'd pulled my picture off my website,
blown it up and put it on the operating room door. Inside they
were playing my album over a computer, blasting it like it was
a car stereo. I went under listening to 'Every Light In The
House Is Blown' and came to with 'If Shania Was Mine.'
was born with an extra heart valve," Judd continues, "so
they went in and destroyed it. I know good and well that when
I'm 80, the doctors are going to come to me and say, 'If you
just had one more heart valve, we could save you."
over-equipped heart wasn't his only affliction, he adds. "I
was on the road in Virginia when my gall bladder starting acting
up. l'd been hurting all night. It got to the point that I told
my bus driver, 'Either take me to a hospital or let me get out
and you run over me.' So he took me to the hospital. I walked
into that emergency room at 4:30 in the morning, and there were
35 people ahead of me. The nurse looked up and said, 'My God!
You look like Cledus T. Judd.' I said, I'II be Robert Redford
if it'll help me get in here. I'm about to die.' Two hours later,
I had my gall bladder out. That's where celebrity pays off,
and I used it to the limit. I promised them free albums, Shania's
phone number, anything they might want.
will take a long and vigorous life for Judd to complete the
projects he has scheduled or aspires to do. He is already looking
toward his next album, which he says will be called Cledus T.
Judd: Songs To Eat By. He's also signed a book deal for his
autobiography. Then there is his mega-dream-recording a duet
with his idol, Weird Al Yankovic, "I've done wrote the
song," he reveals. "it's a takeoff on Donny &
Marie's I'm A Little Bit Country/I'm A Little Bit Rock &
Roll." Beyond that, he plans to do a re-make of Andy Griffith's
1954 spoken-word classic, "What It Was Football.
that it? Well, not quite. "l'd want to do a duet album
with all the top country female chicks. Serious music. I'm not
the greatest singer, but I can sing. And I want to do a rap
record. I'm a big rap fan. As my career grows, I like to do
more standup comedy. People don't go to Jeff Foxworthy to hear
him sing parodies, and they don't come to me to hear me tell
redneck jokes. But I'II branch out eventually."
knows and reveres the great country comics who came before him
and sprinkles his conversation with references to Minnie Pearl,
Homer & Jethro, Jerry Clower, Stringbean, Junior Samples,
Ray Stevens and Pinkard & Bowden.
just want to carry on the tradition," he says. "I
was backstage at the TNN/Music City Awards this year. I'd had
all that surgery, plus root canals-- you name it. Michael Peterson
came up to me and said one of the nicest things anyone's ever
said to me. He's got this real soft voice, you know, and he
asked me how I was feeling. I told him I felt great now. And
he said, 'Take care of yourself. We need you.' I had to turn
away. I didn't know that they need me. This business will go
on long after I'm gone. But I hope that I've made an impact."
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