Local Cat Gets The Ultimate Country Music Wink
Two years ago, Cindy Cashdollar was contacted by the Country Music Hall of Fame, saying they’d like to honor her as one of the Nashville Cats, the most elite supporting band in the business. “I was thrilled, of course,” says the five-time Grammy Award winner, a Woodstock native who, by her own admission, has played “thousands” of gigs. “But, I said, I only lived in Nashville for six months, in 1992. They said, it doesn’t matter…”
And so, on May 14, 2022, in a ceremony in one of the Hall’s auditoriums, this most consummate performer of nearly everything slide guitar has to offer, including Dobro, lap steel guitar, guitar steel no -pedal, Weissenborns, took her into the Hall of Fame of the Nashville Cats (yes, so named after John Sebastian’s song, Lovin’ Spoonful) alongside more than 40 of the finest musicians and backing vocalists Country Music has offered in the world. “As they say,” says Cindy, “the sometimes anonymous, faceless people who create the music behind the artist. It honors people on the side, which is wonderful. It includes people like James Burton, Buddy Spicher, Duane Eddy, Charlie McCoy, Leon Rhodes, Jim Horn, Weldon Myrick, Norbert Putnam…
It turns out that Cindy is only the second woman to be so honored as the Nashville Cat. Looks like the program has some catching up to do. The first female Nashville Cat, is Andrea Zonn, the superb violinist who plays with James Taylor’s All Star Band.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville claims that it “collects, preserves, and performs country music and its history for the education and entertainment of diverse audiences. Through exhibitions, publications and educational programs, the museum explores the cultural significance and enduring beauty of this art form. She was chartered by the State of Tennessee in 1964.
The Nashville Cats program, with a permanent exhibit, began at the Hall of Fame in 2006.
“The first steel guitar player was Lloyd Green, who’s done so many sessions over the years, I can’t even begin to tell you which, thousands…” Cindy says. “He was one of the great sounds of pedal steel heard on the landmark Rodeo sweetheart (by The Byrds) record… It was such an inspiration to a lot of us, I know it was for me, by the way it was country music but it wasn’t country music that my dad used to listen to AM radio… so I met Lloyd Green, it was so exciting to meet him….
And Cindy found herself on stage at the Hall’s Ford Theatre, with a moderator, Michael McCall, in front of “a giant screen that shows a montage of film clips and photographs from the early years of infancy, through… .. he asked me ‘how does that feel, looking at your life’, and I said, I never really thought about it, I’m just always on this hamster work wheel… and because you’re a musician backing, you’re on tour, you might be working with someone for a year, you might be working with someone for a night, you come and go, and you don’t really have time to sit down and go, well, I did this and I did that, you don’t have time.
In preparation for the ceremony, however, Cindy was able to take a look back.
“My mother had recorded every TV appearance I had made from 1983. I had carried around all these plastic bins of VHS tapes thinking it was on the ‘one day’ list, like ‘one day I am going to convert them to digital.’ You wouldn’t believe how long it took us (Cindy and her husband, instrument maker Harvey Citron) to find a VCR that not only worked but had a time counter in front of it, because I had to go through all the tapes VHS, find the performance of me – like here Cindy does an intro, here’s a solo, here’s Cindy presented by Van Morrison at the Ryman Auditorium, all those moments…”
Included was a clip from Johnny Carson’s show with Leon Redbone… performances with Marty Stuart, Willie Nelson…
“It wasn’t so much of a surprise that it was just kind of crazy to go over everything in such a concentrated form. Pictures…they wanted you when I was little, there’s a picture of me with my first guitar when I was 11, my mom took it A photo of me with my first acoustic trio when I lived in Fort Lauderdale… just over the years Harvey scanned 50 photographs and sent them to the Hall Curator of Fame.
“It was very interesting…and also for me it was very emotional…watching all these VHS tapes and photos…Charlie Ferrara, my Dobro teacher, there’s a great photo of him and me at a bluegrass festival…he was one of the photos they used on the giant screen…and i sent it to his niece rebecca, and he was really happy to see this photo, and i I said, see, me and Charlie went to the Country Music Hall of Fame…yeah, there were a lot of emotional moments for me, and also a lot of very happy moments going through these things…”
Of course, there was music playing in the presentation.
“John Hall played with me…it was so nice to have a touch of home on stage with me…he lives (in Nashville) now and it worked out. We played ‘Foggy Mountain Rock’ as a nod to Josh Graves, who was Charley Ferrara’s favorite Dobro player, and then the title track I wrote for my album, Waltz for Abilene. And then I demonstrated different styles of steel guitar, and did a little history on the Dobro, the lap steel – I had the lap steel that Harvey made me, and the baritone National Tri- cone, and the eight-string double-neck Fender steel I borrowed from Pete Finney. I played a little Somnambulisma little Don Helms, a little Bob Wills swing style, sort of identified what a pedalless steel looks like.
“The other cool thing is there were friends there, Pat Alger came over and Conor Kennedy was there. It was great to have two, three good friends from Woodstock there.
Ask her how many shows she’s played and she laughs.
” Concerts ? I couldn’t begin to guess…thousands and thousands…I forget when I started with The John Herald Band, was it 80, 81, before it was Whiskey Before Breakfast, and the acoustic trio from Ft. Lauderdale… So yes, from 1978, maybe 77…
“The records, I literally lost count…what I always wonder is how many miles my body has traveled…I should have kept track…and I should have kept a diary, that’s what my mother always told me…”
She describes her process and praises the program at the same time.
“I do so much research online…if an artist hires me I like to research them, even though I know their music, I like to research their history, their albums, I will listen to their music …oh who is on drums or piano it’s amazing but now it’s really hard to get those album credits online… you do a search online for album credits and it brings you still at allmusic.com, it’s very basic and doesn’t really tell you what you want. All the more reason for the Nashville Cats to put names and faces to people. Worker bees as I call them. People are always so surprised when they buy my album that I bother to put so many liner notes, but that’s what I like to read.
And the work continues.
“Next? I have local gigs, July 13th at the Falcon with Conor Kennedy and the One Star Band, then July 23rd at the Maverick with Happy Traum and Friends…and then in early September I’m recording with Leif Vollebekk, an amazing singer songwriter from Canada He played at the barn a few weeks ago…end of September I’m off on the road with Sonny Landreth, we’re doing our duo show in New England and down south, then a little break and we’re going west…two and a half weeks here, then a little break, and a bit more, they add more dates. The studio work has been pretty good…”
When Cindy, a Woodstocker native, moved from Austin several years ago, she wondered if work would follow her.
“Yeah, it’s been pretty busy…obviously not a lot of touring. Last year I went out with Asleep at the Wheel and then did their 50th anniversary tour with alumni… but I’m glad I’m not traveling and flying, air travel isn’t nice right now . Even going to Nashville for this event in May, the flight was delayed, returning canceled and still delayed.
The journey of Cindy Cashdollar
Dobro and lap steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar, who is her real name, grew up in Woodstock, where she was part of the blues and folk scenes, playing with local legends John Herald, Paul Butterfield, and the band’s Rick Danko and Levon Helm . After working with Leon Redbone in the late 1980s, Cashdollar moved to Texas in 1992 to join Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel.
During his ten years with the band, Cashdollar appeared on Austin city limits, recorded seven albums, won five Grammys and collaborated with legendary musicians such as Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. Since leaving Asleep at the Wheel to pursue a wider variety of musical styles, Cashdollar has toured and recorded with a long list of notable artists including Ryan Adams, Marcia Ball, BeauSoleil, Bob Dylan, Sonny Landreth, Albert Lee, Van Morrison, Pinetop Perkins. , Rod Stewart and Dwight Yoakam.
In 2011, she was the first woman to be inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, and she was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Her latest album, Waltz for Abilenecame out in 2020.
— Country Music Hall of Fame text