Mama He's Crazy

Album: Wynonna & Naomi (1984)
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Songfacts®:

  • The second single from The Judds debut EP, Wynonna & Naomi, this was the first of their 14 #1 country hits. The song was written by Kenny O'Dell, who is best known for writing Charlie Rich's country hit "Behind Closed Doors."
  • This was only the second country chart-topper sung by a female duo ever. The first was The Davis Sisters featuring Skeeter Davis whose "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" reached the summit back in 1953.
  • Brent Maher produced the EP. The Nashville producer/songwriter helped discover The Judds, helmed all of their albums, and co-wrote many of their classic hits. He told Songwriter Universe that Wynonna & Naomi was focused largely around "Mama He's Crazy" and another track.

    "We probably worked together for about nine months, just tossing ideas around," Maher said. "We came up with two songs that really defined the initial boundaries of the Judds. The first song was 'Mama He's Crazy,' which was your traditional, great country song, a mid-tempo ballad. Then there was 'Had a Dream,' which was a bluesy/country/rock song that defined the funky side of the Judds."
  • The song earned The Judds their first Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

    They were also nominated for Best New Artist. Although they lost to Cyndi Lauper, they made history as the first Nashville act to be nominated for the prize since "Harper Valley P.T.A." singer Jeannie C. Riley was recognized in 1969 (Jose Feliciano won that year).
  • Before The Judds partnered with Maher, O'Dell had his eye on the duo and wanted to develop the country act. Inspired by a line of dialogue from a soap opera, he wrote this track specifically for them. He told The Billboard Book Of #1 Country Hits the story:

    "Workin' out of home, I fell into a groove where my wife and I would have lunch around 2:00. There was this soap opera on TV at the time, a short-lived one called Texas, a take-off on Dallas. I had my legal pad there by me to write down lines and anything that came off the dialogue, and 'Mama, He's Crazy' was one of the dialogues they had used on this particular show."
  • Eighteen-year-old Wynonna, who had just started a romance with her first boyfriend, particularly related to the song and was eager to record it. But that's where O'Dell's role in the story ends. To make ends meet, Naomi was working as a nurse at a hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, where she treated Brent Maher's daughter after a car accident. She passed along the duo's homemade demo tape to her dad, who helped them land a record contract at RCA. Under Maher's guidance, they made the ballad their own.
  • The country duo Pinkard & Bowden released a parody called "Mama She's Lazy" in 1984. It went to #39 on the Country chart.
  • This was used on the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun in the 1996 episode "Father Knows Dick." It was also featured in the 1989 TV movie The Outside Woman, starring Sharon Gless.
  • Ranking at #22, this was included on CMT's list of 40 Greatest Love Songs in a 2011 TV special and its accompanying soundtrack.
  • Songwriter Kenny O'Dell also garnered a nomination in the Best Country Song category at the 1985 Grammy Awards, but he lost the title to the late Steve Goodman for Willie Nelson's cover of "City Of New Orleans."
  • The Judds' down-to-earth appeal was reflected in the music video, directed by David Hogan, which was shot at their modest home in Franklin, Tennessee.

    "That took less than a half a day to film," says Wynonna told New Musical Express in 1985. "Because we shot it at our house, we did our own makeup and hair, and we wore our own clothes. Even the '50s dress was an old one Mom had saved. So it was real personal... But now we'll be on the road and we'll see it on TV, see our house just sitting out there. It's weird."

    "That's about the only time we do see it, too," Naomi added. "But you know, we had been sittin' in this production meeting in Los Angeles, talking about a video and this fella that does the videos says, 'Now we want this old, quaint, Victorian kind of frame house for this....'"

    Wynonna continued: "And he was from LA! Saying how he wanted it to look so old-fashioned. I was just sitting rollin' my eyes around and after he said all this I couldn't resist, so I said, 'Maybe you better see our house 'cause it sounds like exactly what you want.'"

Comments: 2

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyAs noted above, "Mama He's Crazy" was composed by Kenny O'Dell; he also wrote two other songs that peaked at #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart, "Behind Closed Doors", which Charlie Rich took to #1 for two weeks in 1973, and Loretta Lynn's "Trouble In Paradise", it reached the top spot for one week in 1974...
    In 1967 the Rose Garden took his penned "Next Plane To London" to #17 on the Top 100 chart...
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaUnderstand the title came from a line in a soap opera. One of my fav tunes of the Judds.
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