HUNTINGTON — Local radio DJ Cledus T. Judd of WTCR-FM is known for making country music comedy videos.
He built a career in Nashville by creating parodies of country hits and country stars before moving to the Tri-State to be near his daughter while she grew up.
But recently, he decided to make a serious video — one that took on the deadly opioid epidemic from a different angle: the eyes of children living with drug and alcohol abusers.
Three weeks ago, Judd released a new video and song called “Kid In Trouble” on his Facebook page. That video went viral and was shared to the point that it garnered over 1 million views in less than a week.
One of the reasons why the video has hit home with so many people is that it is unflinching and harsh. The opening scene shows a man sitting in a bathroom, shoving a needle into his veins with his son knocking on the door to see if his father is all right.
While getting one million-plus views is an amazing feat, what is truly emotional and rewarding for Judd is to sit and read through the thousands of comments found underneath the video. That is where you will find the truth unvarnished.
“The way people responded with comments was unbelievable,” said Judd. “I can’t even begin to describe it. The response was overwhelming. You can hear the heartbreak in every sentence. And then, people began to send me messages and started hashtagging, ‘I was also that kid.’ Unless you were that kid, then you don’t understand that kid. Somebody who was not raised in the environment that we were raised in, subjected to what we were subjected to; there is no way you can understand what we went through.”
Adding to the impact of the video and song is the story is partly based on Judd’s own life. At one point, Judd began abusing illicit substances as well, after growing up in a home where a parent unsuccessfully fought a brutal battle with alcoholism.
Back before oxycontin was created and before fentanyl showed up to add to the death toll, Judd was doing cocaine and meth.
When his daughter was born, he was standing in the delivery room with a pocket full of $1,500 worth of cocaine and another pocket full of $2,500 in drug money. Within 10 minutes of his daughter’s birth, he was in the bathroom getting ready to snort up a line of drugs when he caught himself looking in the mirror.
The reality of that dichotomy, happening during one of the most important hours of his life, shocked him into realizing the crossroads he was facing. It was then that he vowed to his God that he would stop being an addict and that he would use his career to help others who are also trying to live a life free of addiction.
This video was a long time coming.
With Judd at the piano, singing his song about true life, scenes are acted out by child actors, showcasing the sad story of addiction that hovers over those who have little choice but to live it out every day as a child. In an especially poignant scene about three-quarters of the way into the video, the music stops as Judd and a young actor named Jackson Roach create a heartbreaking scene between an addicted father and his son.
“Making that video was a tough one there,” Judd said. “That little boy Jackson was awesome. His dad Dave works with me at the radio station. That was the first time that Jackson had acted or done anything like that and I thought he was brilliant.
“I started looking for somebody that could play me as a little boy and while there are so many people talented in this area, when I met with Jackson and his family, he was just awesome. I think he has a future in the entertainment business. I think he is a great actor, and that is a tough role to be in, especially when he has never been exposed to that kind of lifestyle.”
With Roach, Judd took a chance on figuring out if the young actor could grasp the overall story line and realize it could help those who watched it.
“Jackson listened to the song several times and he just got it,” Judd said. “A lot of that stuff, he did on the first take. He just had the ability to go there. I explained to him that he was lucky that he had never lived in that kind of home life, but a lot of kids do. And, a lot of kids are going to be watching this and he needed to just play the part of a child living with an addict, and he did a phenomenal job. I am super proud of him.”
For Judd, who is known as a comedy artist, it was a hard decision to wade into the complicated and deadly serious subject matter of addiction.
“I’ve always been pretty open with my past because I hope that it helps somebody,” said Judd. “I just went and spoke to about 400 high school kids over at the college career center here and it is always a great experience to be able to talk to kids like that.”
Not only is Judd a former addict, he was also one of those children who had to watch an addicted parent play out their consumed lifestyle.
“My dad was a solid drunk alcoholic and that ran rampant in my family,” said Judd. “I had my dad tell me a thousand times, ‘It’s OK. It’s over. I’m getting help. I’m going to fix myself.’ It would last two weeks and then I’d come home and there would be a refrigerator full of beer and liquor. Then, if you say something to them, they would cuss you out for asking them something. That was why in that scene with Jackson, I was moved to tears.
“For me, it wasn’t acting.”
The end of the “Kid In Trouble” video is also special because it features non-actors playing themselves and admitting to the camera one after another, “I was that kid,” something many teens and adults in the region can also say.
“A friend of mine here in town Katy Keeny, who works at the Huntington Addiction and Wellness Center, I sent her the song and asked her if she would be willing to ask any of the people in her program if they would be interested in doing it on-camera,” said Judd, “and every one of them wanted to do it. That just shows the willingness of them to want to help, because helping others sometimes helps yourself. They were great. The problem with addicts, sometimes, is we always want to help everybody else while we have a bunch of dope in our pocket. Until you help your own self, you can’t help other people.”