Cindy Cashdollar

This month we are shifting gears here a bit and featuring a brilliant Dobro/Steel guitar player. Here name is Cindy Cashdollar (yes, that is her real last name). Born and raised in Woodstock, NY Cindy became interested in the unique sound of the Dobro and honed her talent with bluegrass legend John Herald, Paul Butterfield, Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band, along with many others. She traveled thousands of miles over the course of eight years with premier western swing band Asleep at the Wheel playing non-pedal steel which brought her 5 Grammy Awards leading to opportunities to work with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks, Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, Jorma Kaukonen and the “Telewacker” Redd Volkaert. These days Cindy finds herself in the studio and on the road calling Austin, Texas her home. You can also catch her guest appearances on Garrison Keillor’s live radio program “A Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio. She also has instructional DVD’s on Dobro and steel playing as well as her own solo CD called “Slide Show”.

I was introduced to the talents of Cindy Cashdollar through my friend Colin Cripps. Through his high praise of her as a person and a player I felt that I had to check her out for myself. Let me be one of many to say that her playing does not disappoint and will absolutely mesmerize you! Her lyrical use of slides and swells on the steel guitar takes you on a journey tinged with yesteryear authenticity. Her call and answer with Redd Volkaert is stunning and when it is time for her to solo, look out!

So this month we talk to a real master of the Dobro and steel guitar. Cindy shares with us some tips and favorite tunings as well as details about her instruments and what she has been up to lately.

300guitars: Hi there Cindy please tell us where were you born and raised and what got you interested in music?

Cindy Cashdollar: In Woodstock, NY, it’s in the Catskill Mt. area. I got my first taste of music from listening to my parent’s record collection and picking out records to play. My dad liked country music; my mother’s taste leaned towards jazz, world beat, and everything else in between

300guitars: What kind of music did you start listening to?

Cindy Cashdollar: I think my earliest influences, as far as what kind of music I started out actually playing, were folk and blues. There were a lot of musicians living in the Woodstock area at that time, as well as traveling through. My mom took me to my first live show when I was was a benefit concert, so a lot of  acts were on the bill that night…Van Morrison, blues artist John Hammond Jr.,  the great folksinger Odetta…it was a great experience. I started going out to the small clubs in town when I was in my early teens,  so I got to see  many different artists over  the years,  so I became interested in a lot of different styles.  Obviously Woodstock was a very musically rich town in it’s heyday, and I was very fortunate to have grown up there during that time.

300guitars: What was your first guitar? Did you start on a standard guitar or Dobro and then get into steel guitar?

Cindy Cashdollar: I got my first guitar when I was 11…it was a Kay, (and it’s true what they say about the wretched action on those).  Years later, when I was about 20, I got a Dobro.  My father got me a Model 27  from a friend of his, which of course I still have. The steel guitar came much later, and it was a Fender Double Neck Stringmaster. I had tried a Sho Bud Maverick pedal steel first, without much luck. Could never keep it in tune, and the few pedals and knee levers on it were too just too many mechanics for me to keep track of at the time.

300guitars: When did you start to play professionally?

Cindy Cashdollar:  The first gigs weren’t too professional! I had moved to Florida right out of high school, to go where it was warm in winter. I played at a Happy Hour bar with two other guitar players. When I moved back to Woodstock and started playing Dobro, I gave up guitar and was eventually playing a lot of local gigs. In the early ’80’s I joined John Herald’s bluegrass band, and that’s really when I started touring and playing on a more professional level.

300guitars: What guitars are you using these days?

Cindy Cashdollar: I use a lot of different guitars, depending on the recording sessions or gigs. Travelling  really cuts down on the options these days, unless it’s an extended tour, because the airlines really nail you with excess baggage charges. But for basics, I use a Fender Double Neck Stringmaster or a single neck Sierra 8 string.  If it’s lap steel, I have one that my ex husband made with Telecaster pickups, tuned up to G, or an Asher lap steel, in D tuning. For resonator guitars, I use a Beard (Mike Auldridge signature model) with a Fishman pickup and Fishman’s Jerry Douglas Aura Imaging box.  Or National Resophonic’s Baritone Tricone,  with a National lace pickup.

Cindy Cashdollar & Friends

300guitars: Do you play pedal steel as well?

Cindy Cashdollar: After my aborted attempt long ago with that Sho Bud Maverick, I’ve only tried a few times since then!  I love it, but I think it’s something you should start on very young…a lot of people think the non pedal and the pedal steel are about the same, but to me there’s a vast difference with the tunings and mechanics and all. It’s on my continuous “Hobby Wish List”, and someday I’m sure I’ll  play one just for my own enjoyment.  It’ll be a good retirement hobby!  In the meantime, I’ve gotten to do so much interesting work over the years, and have somehow been able to sometimes transfer and apply a sort of pedal steel  sound and approach to the non pedal when needed.

300guitars: What are the tunings that you like to use?

Cindy Cashdollar:   For acoustic slide and lap steel, I mainly use G, or sometimes G6th to suggest a swing tuning. Also D, Dsus,  E, or C, depending on who I’m working with.  For steel, C6th and E13. If I use a triple neck steel, I’ll add an A6th for a lower and richer sounding version of the’s nice to have a choice, depending on the favored keys /styles of music certain artists will sing in, or if there are a lot of fiddle tunes in A, or whatever else comes into the picture.  

300guitars: Can you suggest a tuning for our readers that want to get started on 6-string lap steel?

Cindy Cashdollar:  I usually ask what style of music people are interested in before I can recommend a tuning. I think G is the “workhorse” of tunings, it seems to get the job done in any style, and it’s a bit more friendly for minor chords and inversions, so you’re not just limited to flatting that third on one string. (I cover some of that in an instructional DVD I did for Homespun Tapes called “Dobro Variations”), but of course it can be applied to lap steel. 

For straight ahead blues (and also the more modal Americana style types of music), I would say D or E.  If it’s western swing and you want to play around with it before committing to an 8 string, I recommend a modified C6th that can be applied to 6 string.  I also have an instructional DVD  on Homepsun Tapes for western swing, so this could be applied to it.  I have most of these tunings and string gauges listed on my website, at

300guitars: What amps are you using?

Cindy Cashdollar:  If it’s just the steel guitar and I need a clean sound in a large band, or for recording, I use a transistor amp; a Fender Steel King.  It’s my favorite transistor amp. Otherwise, I use a Fender Twin 65 Reissue (has 15″ speaker), or for small club dates, a Fender Deluxe.

300guitars: Are you using any effects?

Cindy Cashdollar: A Boss Analog delay, and two pedals that are made here in Austin by Durham Electronics…the “Mucho Boosto” for overdrive, and the “Sex Drive” for clean gain, bottom, and sustain.

300guitars: Is your live rig different than your studio rig?

Cindy Cashdollar: I tend to use the same amps for both. On some sessions for a different type of overdrive sound, I’ll use a vintage Gibson Crest amp, using the “microphone” input .

300guitars: Do you collect guitars and amps?

Cindy Cashdollar: I have a good variety of things, but don’t find myself seeking stuff out to collect, although I think that’s a great thing to do. I guess whatever I’ve bought or come into over the years was due to a need more than collection purposes, plus I like to offer different sounds and tones when I’m hired for certain gigs or the studio. In addition to what I’ve mentioned before, I also have a four neck Fender steel, a Fender triple neck Stringmaster, an early 30’s National Style 1 Tricone, a Style 1 Weissenborn,  a late ’30’s Rickenbacher lap steel, a ’50’s Gibson lap steel, and an old Stella square neck, which sounds great with a Rare Earth pickup. I also have a triple neck steel that Herb Remington made for me, which has a great sound, and I use that on sessions as well.  A lot of people ask me exactly what I have, so here it is!

300guitars: Who does your tech work or do you maintain your own equipment?

Cindy Cashdollar: For instruments, Bill Giebitz at Guitar Services, or Dick DuBois. For amps, Bill Webb at Austin Vintage.  Redd Volkaert also repairs a lot of things for me, he can fix anything…give him a soldering gun, duct tape and a wire coat hanger, and he performs miracles on the fly!

300guitars: What are your interests outside of music?

Cindy Cashdollar: It seems that music is the all consuming interest, so I love spending time doing anything involving that.  But, if I have true time off, I like being outdoors hiking, walking, anything, esp. when I go home to Woodstock to visit…there’s a lot of great mountain trails there. I love antiques, so I like finding the off the beaten path places and vintage stores for that. I collect vintage cowboy boots, so always enjoy the scouting aspect. 

300guitars: How much time is spent on the road vs in the studio these days? Who are you currently working with?

Cindy Cashdollar: That time really varies month to month, year to year.  This past fall/winter I was in the studio more than doing live shows, but it literally changes all the time.  I’m currently free lancing, but will also be doing a lot of live dates with Dave Alvin this year, and really looking forward to that, he’s great to work with and I love his songwriting.

Cindy Cashdollar

300guitars: What is it like working with Redd Volkaert?

Cindy Cashdollar: I always enjoy working with Redd, he has a great sense of humor, which also reflects in his playing. He’s also a walking music encyclopedia, so the variety of  things he can sling it at you on any given gig really keeps you on your toes.  You can try to throw a curve ball back at him, but he’ll usually catch it and then send it back twice as hard, so there’s never a dull moment. He’s a blast to travel with as well. We do duo shows once in a great while too, and that’s a bit of a challenge for just steel guitar and guitar, but somehow we make it work and always have fun with it. 

300guitars: What are some of the most memorable highlights of your career?

 Cindy Cashdollar: That’s a very hard question to answer because there’s been so many. If we were doing an audio interview and paring down the question into segments, it might be a bit easier to answer!  I guess my bio reads kind of like a quilt, there’s been so much variety over the years, and every bit of it has made for memorable experiences.  You find yourself in situations you never dreamed of. 

Before I started touring, I had never even been on an airplane. So the early travel experiences, esp. to Europe, were definately memorable ones.  Getting to work with people I had been influenced by or had admired at a very early age or over the years is another.  Being able to bring my father and brother to the Grammy Awards was great, as well as my mom to the CMA awards.  She had never ridden in a limo before, so she was really looking forward to the ride over to the venue. The limo broke down before it even got to us, so we had to hop into a golf cart instead…we still have a good laugh about that experience. Doing my own CD (“Slide Show”) is another…I never thought I’d do my own, but I’m glad I did it. It was a very enjoyable time, esp. having a lot of my favorite steel and slide players on there; it was like this ongoing celebration of slide. It’s not often that I get to play with other people that play the same instrument.  I was very happy with the way it turned out.

300guitars: What are your future plans?

Cindy Cashdollar:  I’ve never been a planner, and my life seems to change so frequently that I would be afraid of what would happen if anything actually got planned out!

300guitars : Thank you very much Cindy for this great  interview and all the helpful information in it. You are a great player and we all look forward to hearing more from you in the future!!

Cindy Cashdollar : Thanks for inviting me to be part of 300guitars; you bring a lot of great information to people and it’s a nice honor to be “Spotlighted”!

Go to Cindy Cashdollar’s website here.

CD- Cindy Cashdollar- Slide Show
DVD- Learning Bluegrass Dobro
DVD- Learn to Play Western Swing Steel Guitar Vol. 1
DVD- Learn to Play Western Swing Steel Guitar Vol. 2
DVD- Dobor Variations- Explorations in Minor, Swing and Rockabilly Styles

You can catch some of Cindy’s playing on YouTube here. The clips of her playing with Redd Volkaert are just brilliant!