The Judds Enter the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Wynonna Says, 'It's About Damn Time!'

The legendary mother-daughter act, with 14 No. 1s, joins R&B pioneer Ray Charles and master musicians Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake in the 2021 class

The Judds have long been on the shortlist for probable induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, so perhaps Wynonna Judd's reaction to their ultimate arrival on Monday was no surprise.

"It's about damn time!" she said during the announcement on the Country Music Association's YouTube channel.

But the younger half of country's most famous mother-daughter act tells PEOPLE that the reason she's been so impatient wasn't about her.

"I'll be honest," the 57-year-old icon says. "I've talked to three people, and immediately the first thing they said was, 'It's about damn time,' and as a daughter, I went, 'Yes, it is.' My mother, to me, is the queen of my parade — and it's time to celebrate her."

country music hall of fame
Naomi and Wynonna Judd. Kristin Barlowe

The reaction reflects just one side of the famous yin and yang of Wynonna and Naomi Judd's joined lives. Ever since the two women reached stardom in 1984 with their groundbreaking hit, "Mama He's Crazy," they have lived out their tight-knit bond and fraying edges in the public eye, making no secret that they sometimes weren't even speaking to each other.

But on this day — the pinnacle of any country music career — the Judds obviously were most grateful to be enjoying it together.

Naomi makes that point clear when asked what she's proud of in this moment.

"I have to say sitting here with Wy after all we've been through," the 75-year-old artist quickly answers, adding, "and the fact that we're still together. There's so much stuff that gets entangled in the personal stuff, and you take it wrong, and you get upset and then it gets bigger and worse, and it can really fester and become something. That's absolutely not supposed to be."

Joining the Judds in the 2021 class of the Hall of Fame is another stage legend: the late R&B pioneer Ray Charles, whose multi-faceted career had a profound impact on country music, thanks to a series of albums. In 1962, Charles bucked his label to record Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, a landmark collection of country classics, including "You Don't Know Me" and "I Can't Stop Loving You." That album, along with two follow-up volumes, is almost single-handedly credited with broadening the appeal of the genre in the 1960s and laying the groundwork for its popularity today.

ray charles perfomring
Jack Vartoogian/Getty

In a tie, two of Nashville's most esteemed musicians also have earned induction: steel guitarist Pete Drake (who died in 1988) and drummer Eddie Bayers.

In remarks during the announcement, Drake's widow, Rose, identified her own four favorites among her husband's tracks. Together, they illustrate both Drake's versatility and his indelible mark on popular music: Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man," George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today," Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" and George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord."

Bayers' work can be heard on the 1980 Urban Cowboy movie soundtrack and on Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 album. He also has longstanding working relationships with such artists as George Strait, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney and the Judds, and he has been selected ACM drummer of the year 14 times.

In the Judds' interview with PEOPLE, Wynonna Judd explained she found out just five days ago that she and her mother were entering the Hall of Fame. In Sturgis, South Dakota, for a show during its famous motorcycle rally, she learned the news from her husband and bandmate, Cactus Moser, who shared it just as they were walking onstage.

"I know that the brain takes time to focus and process," she says. "It's like when they say, 'And the winner is,' you kind of go blank. I went on stage and sang the Judds trilogy of three songs, and I just kinda stood there, like I'm in a movie. It's a very surreal thing."

Naomi Judd says her reaction has been mostly disbelief: "It's like I'm hyper-vigilant and look over my shoulder and think, wow, are they going to kick us out? Did this really happen? Did we really do all that?"

Indeed they did: 14 No. 1s, including "Why Not Me," "Turn It Loose," "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)" and "Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain"; 16 gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums; five Grammys; nine CMA awards; seven ACM awards, not to mention the legions of fans who regularly turned their arena shows into sellouts. After Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis C, the duo disbanded in 1991. Wynonna went on to a successful solo career, and she continues to actively tour and record today.

Yet despite the hoopla and honors generated by their years of performing together, Wynonna picks perhaps their most private moments as her most significant highlights.

"They all happened at therapy sessions, believe it or not," she says. "It was learning how to live off stage and be a family and not end up not speaking to each other. To me, the highlights are personal. ... The fact that we're here together and that we even speak ... It's been a long road, and we're here, and I'm just here to celebrate."

Knowing now that she's headed into the Hall of Fame, Wynonna says she wishes she could tell her younger self a few things: "Quit worrying and trying so hard to please everybody else. And don't get distracted. Pick one thing, do it well and enjoy yourself ... It's going to be over really fast, and just enjoy yourself. Enjoy the gift that God gave you and just play."

The induction for this latest Hall of Fame class is scheduled for May 2022, and both Judds are already thinking about what they want on the plaque that will join the other 145 in country's most exclusive circle. Naomi Judd believes their longtime manager, Greg Hill, deserves a mention. Wynonna said she simply hopes there's something for young artists to read and think "if they can do it, I can do it, too."

And after years of seeing her unique (and self-chosen) first name mangled, she does have one more request: "If you could please spell my name right, that would be awesome."

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