Wynonna Judd's first single as a solo artist is a country-pop ballad that tells the story of Billy, a small-town loner, who finds his purpose when he meets the vivacious Bonnie. He works overtime to afford the things she wants because "she is his only need."
The tune was a #1 hit on the Country chart and allayed Wynonna's fears that the public wouldn't accept her without her mother, Naomi (the other half of the defunct duo The Judds). Two more chart-toppers followed: "I Saw The Light
" and "No One Else On Earth
This was written by "Please Come To Boston" singer-songwriter Dave Loggins (Kenny's second cousin). The Nashville veteran already had something - or rather someone - in common with The Judds. Their longtime producer, Brent Maher, helmed two of his solo albums, One Way Ticket To Paradise (1977) and David Loggins (1979).
Loggins also sang backing vocals on the track, along with his good friend Judy Rodman, who had a #1 Country hit with "Until I Met You" in 1986.
Loggins almost didn't demo the track because he thought it was just a little song no one would be interested in. He wrote it in the late '80s while he drank his morning coffee and watched the cows in the field outside his front door. He suddenly got an idea about a small-town loner and created the character of Billy first, followed by Bonnie.
"I was just interested in making the song perfect. Lyrically, melodically perfect," he told Judy Rodman's All Things Vocal podcast in 2021.
A few years later, Wynonna and her producer, Tony Brown, visited Loggins' office to listen to his song catalog in the hopes of finding material for her debut. After Wynonna rejected a handful of tunes, Loggins became frustrated but one of his song pluggers suggested "She Is His Only Need."
"I swear when we played it, Wy just wept in her lap, and Tony, as well, went teary-eyed," Loggins continued. "She said, 'If I can sing this, my mother will die.' And I said, 'God, don't go that far.' She said she really wanted to try to sing that song… and she'd call me at the house and I'd teach her the phrases, 'cause you gotta be able just to be a free-flow singer to do that."
When Loggins was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995, Wynonna sang this at the ceremony. She remarked before the performance, "This is the only song that's ever made Tony Brown cry."
Wynonna started working on the album when she was halfway through The Judds' farewell tour (prompted by Naomi's ailing health). She was so nervous about the prospect of going out on her own, she pulled the plug on the project in the middle of the recording sessions.
"I called it off," she told The Washington Post. "I freaked Tony Brown out - it was like, 'I don't want to do this, this is too much, I'm going to take a year off, I might take five years off, I can't stand the pressure.'"
She continued, "But one fan sent MCA $20 and said she wanted to be the first to buy Wy's record and that literally made the difference between me feeling sorry for myself and getting up off my butt and driving myself to the studio."
A month before the album came out, Wynonna made her official solo debut when she sang this at the American Music Awards
. She recalled the moment to The Washington Post
in 1992. "I walked out and saw James Brown sitting in the front row, and my mom, and I thought, 'This can't be real, take me home!'," she said. "But Mom would always say, 'Go to the light, spread your wings and fly.'"
Tony Brown first met The Judds when they auditioned at RCA in 1983 and was taken by Wy's powerful voice. "Naomi gave her little spiel about being from this small town and all and she was real charming, but then Wy on this guitar and she just knocked me out. Her voice blew me away, and it has just gotten better," he told the Tampa Bay Times in 1992.
"That's why I couldn't understand it when a lot of people around town seemed to have thought that Wynonna's career was all over after Naomi's illness. I felt bad for Naomi and was worried about her health, but career-wise all I see is that it is a sooner beginning for what was going to be anyway - Wynonna's solo career."
Brown also oversaw a number of other notable country albums of 1992, the same year Wynonna's debut dropped, including George Strait's Pure Country, Vince Gill's I Still Believe In You, Reba McEntire's It's Your Call, and Jimmy Buffett's Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads.
The album also reunited Wynonna with Don Potter, The Judds' longtime guitarist who was credited with creating the duo's sound. Potter is also credited as an associate producer on the album.
Wynonna sold 5 million copies in the US, where it peaked at #4 on the albums chart. It also went to #1 on the Country Albums tally.
Joining the ranks of Cher and Madonna, Wynonna dropped her last name for her rebirth as a solo artist. She wasn't trying to detach herself from The Judds' legacy; it was purely a mercenary decision made by her team. "They wanted me under the W's and the J's," she told Larry King in 1994.