Radio legend Karl Shannon remembers friend, and country music icon Naomi Judd

It’s a voice you recognize before you see his face.
Published: May. 1, 2022 at 10:43 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It’s a voice you recognize before you see his face.

“I met The Judds in the early 80s after they had their first hit, ‘Mama He’s Crazy’. And both being from Kentucky, we just built a friendship,” said Hank 105.5′s Karl Shannon.

With almost 50 years in radio, Karl Shannon has made plenty of friends, from Waylon Jennings to Garth Brooks. But the bond he built with Naomi Judd was something different.

“I said I’m having a real tough time. I told her, you know, my mom’s only got a few months to live. So she gave me that to give my mom. And then she gave this to me. Signed it and all stuff. But..yeah, she was real special to me,” Shannon said while showing the book of prayers Judd gifted him for the hard times.

It was back stage at a telethon a decade after the two first met. Shannon confiding in his friend that his mother was dying.

“I came back in and there was this guardian angels nightlight. She said Ashely had one, Wynonna had one, one of her bestfriends had one and I want your mom to have the fourth.”

Then a few months later, Judd would notice Shannon was off the air for a week.

“She said your mom passed away didn’t she. I said, ’Yeah.’ She said, ‘Well I’m thinking about you and I love you.’ ‘Well I love you, too.’ Then we went up to Louisville for Christmas. That’s where I’m from. She called the station, left me a message. She said when you get back, make sure you go by the station, I left you something. And she left me a Christmas present. There was a note that said, ‘I know your mom couldn’t get you anything this year, but I wanted to make sure you had something special.’ And it was a Seiko Mickey Mouse watch.”

Shannon said it’s clear Judd was always a mom first.

“What you see is what you got. I don’t think there’s anything phony about Naomi Judd.”

And a trailblazer in country music.

“There was a lot of rockabilly type stuff. But they just wanted to keep it real, keep it natural and keep it country.”

Which is why Shannon said her music will live on forever.

The Judds were set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday evening. Red carpet arrivals were cancelled, but the ceremony did go on.

The AP said Wynonna and Ashley Judd accepted the honor in tears. They held onto each other and recited a Bible verse together.

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