It was not only one of the most special performances of the festival, but according to Wynonna, for her it symbolized something else too: Passing the baton to a new generation.
Wynonna discussed the performance in Hulu’s new documentary CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair, and admitted that for the first time in her career, she felt out of place:
“We walked to the stage, and we go up the stairs, and I look around. And I know nobody! I know nobody. You know why? Because I’m the mom at the prom at the punch bowl watching the kids.
And I don’t know who some of them are. So bizarre.
First time in my entire career that I don’t know who people are, and I felt so weird about that, that I sat down and I just watched.
I watched people come off stage, and go on stage, and come off stage, and I thought, ‘Times have changed. And I’m now in a different generation.'”
When it came time for the legend to take the stage, she says she felt like it was a moment where she was passing the baton to the next generation of country artists.
“I walk out in front of how many thousands of people, and I look over at Carly, and I go, ‘Oh my gosh. I am passing the baton.’
And I passed the baton. And it was the strangest thing for me to stand there as “Wynonna F’in Judd” as the t-shirts say, to handing off to the next generation of greatness. It’s your turn.”
But from there, Wynonna gave the performance of a lifetime – if for no other reason than to prove that the “old guard” still had it:
“And I had a choice to make in that moment. I could either be a victim or a victor. So I sang from my toenails. Not arrogance, but confidence.
I let it go like it was the last time I could ever do anything that spectacular…
And that’s what I remember. And walking off and getting in the car and going home, and going, ‘It’s a kid’s game. It’s a kid’s game, and I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with this.'”
Of course there’s never not going to be a place in country music for a legend like Wynonna, not only on the stage but as a leader for that next generation of artists:
“And the thing I keep getting is, just do your thing and be you, because that generation is going to call upon you to give back to them in some way.”
There may be a new generation of artists out there, but Wynonna is still one of the best in the game.
After her mother’s death, she decided to continue on with the scheduled The Judds: The Final Tour, where she was joined by many of that next generation of artists. But it was clear that Wynonna was still the star of the show – and will be for as long as she wants to be.
Oh, and who were those artists that Wynonna said she didn’t recognize that night at CMA Fest? Well on the lineup along with Carly that night were Cole Swindell, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini, Lainey Wilson and Thomas Rhett.
We know the legend is friends with Kelsea Ballerini, and even took her out on the final The Judds tour. But there were apparently some other names on that list she didn’t recognize…
Check out Carly and Wynonna’s show-stopping performance of “Why Not Me.”