Home Music Music Country Lists

See the 11 Coolest Items in the ‘Nashville Cats’ Hall of Fame Exhibit

From Jonny Cash’s handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan’s Western suit, we look at the best memorabilia in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s new exhibit.

Nashville Cats

A new Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit celebrates Dylan, Cash and Nashville's famed session musicians.

Artwork by John Langford

Muscle Shoals had the Swampers. Los Angeles had the Wrecking Crew. Detroit had the Funk Brothers. And Nashville had the Nashville Cats, a group of top-shelf session musicians whose skill and reputation helped lure artists like Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Joan Baez, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and countless others to Tennessee during the Sixties and Seventies. From Dylan's Blonde on Blonde to Young's Harvest, the Cats worked on some of the era's most groundbreaking music, building a musical bridge between the Bible Belt and the rest of the country during one of America's most politically charged periods. Hometown hero Johnny Cash helped strengthen that bridge, thanks to a close friendship with Dylan and a short-lived yet influential TV program, The Johnny Cash Show, whose roster of guest performers included everyone from Derek & the Dominos to Linda Ronstadt. 

Opening today and running until New Years Eve 2016, the Country Music Hall of Fame's newest exhibit — Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City — will shine a light on those influential years, focusing not only on the stars who recorded their landmark albums in Nashville, but also the behind-the-scenes musicians who chipped in. From western suits to wah-wah pedals, here are the 11 coolest artifacts on display. 

 
Wanted Man lyrics

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash’s Handwritten Lyrics

This piece of "House of Cash" stationary contains the handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Wanted Man," which Johnny Cash covered on his own album, Johnny Cash at San Quentin, in 1969. That's Dylan's script up top, with Cash's penmanship at the bottom. In the upper righthand corner, Dylan has also scribbled a note to fellow songwriter Marty Stuart, who received the stationary as a gift.  

Lloyd Green

Lloyd Green, early 1970s. Photo by Kathy Gangwisch, courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Lloyd Green’s Pedal Steel Guitar

Session musician Lloyd Green played this 1967 Sho-Bud Fingertip pedal steel guitar on literally thousands of recording sessions. In addition to being featured in songs by Paul McCartney, George Jones and Jerry Lee Lewis, the instrument can be heard kicking off "You Ain't Going Nowhere," the first track from the Byrds' 1968 landmark album, Sweethearts of the Rodeo.

Charlie Daniels, Bob Dylan

UNITED STATES - MAY 03: Photo of Bob Dylan. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Michael Ochs Archives

Charlie Daniel’s Telecaster Guitar

Long before he won a Grammy with 1979's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," Charlie Daniels was a session musician who played on albums by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Loaned to the Country Music Hall of Fame by Daniels himself, his mid-1950s Fender Telecaster was used on sessions for Dylan's Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait. In this photo from the studio, Daniels can be seen at far right playing the instrument with Dylan at left. 

Charlie McCoy datebook

Charlie McCoy’s Datebook

Being a Nashville Cat was a full-time job. Here, Charlie McCoy's datebook shows the multi-instrumentalist — who played harmonica, drums, guitar and bass — booked solid with sessions for Charlie Louvin, Bob Dylan and Roy Clark, all during the same week in March 1970.

Bob Dylan suit

Bob Dylan’s Manuel Suit

When Bob Dylan met Pope John Paul II in 1997, he wore a western jacket made by Manuel Cuevas, the same Nashville-based designer who'd dreamt up Elvis' infamous gold lamé suit and convinced Johnny Cash to go black. While 1970's Self Portrait may have been Dylan's final album recorded in Nashville,  his Manuel suits — which he wore throughout the Nineties — are proof that he hasn't left the town's influence behind.

Johnny Cash

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 21: JOHNNY CASH - "The Johnny Cash Show" - 10/21/70, June Carter cash, Johnny Cash, guest Tennessee Ernie Ford, (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

ABC PHoto Archives/Disney ABC Television Group

Johnny Cash’s “Cash Show” Suit

This Eaves Costume Company suit was worn by Johnny Cash during multiple episodes of The Johnny Cash Show. Filmed at the Ryman Auditorium, the show launched in June 1969 and ran until March 1971. Along with performances by the host, the series included guests ranging from Bob Dylan and "Mama" Cass Elliot to Marty Robbins and Tennessee Ernie Ford (pictured, with June Carter Cash and Cash in his stage suit). 

Wah-wah pedal

Mac Gayden’s Wah-Wah Pedal

Although it's clearly seen better days, this Gibson Maestro wah-wah pedal was used by session guitarist Mac Gayden on the 1972 J.J. Cale song "Crazy Mama." Paired with his Lincoln electric guitar, the pedal helped create a unique slide-guitar sound that reached far beyond Nashville's country roots for inspiration. 

Bob Dylan's "4th Time Around"

Acetate of Bob Dylan’s “4th Time Around”

Bob Dylan recorded "4th Time Around" on February 14, 1966, during his very first recording session with the Nashville Cats. This is the 10-inch reference disc of that song, which was released later that year on Blonde on Blonde.

Joan Baez Letter

Joan Baez’s Letter to the Nashville Cats

When Joan Baez began recording at Nashville's CBS Studios in September 1968, security guards were hired to guard the building. Baez's history of activism and left-wing politics put her at odds with the more conservative South — and, likely, a few of the Nashville Cats — and her presence in Nashville was highly controversial. Inside CBS Studios, though, Baez and the Cats found a common bridge — music — and developed a close bond while recording Any Day Now and David's Album. After those sessions, Baez sent a handwritten letter to the musicians, thanking them for their work and friendship. 

Johnny Cash's Grammy

Johnny Cash’s Grammy for ‘Nashville Skyline’

Bob Dylan had already recorded most of Nashville Skyline by February 1969, when he and longtime friend Johnny Cash booked a pair of days at a Nashville-area recording studio. Two days later, they'd recorded more than a dozen duets. One of those duets, "Girl From the North Country," became the first track on Nashville Skyline. Cash wrote the liner notes for the album, too, later winning a Grammy for his work.

Bob Dylan ticket

Bob Dylan Ticket Stub

Ten days before the start of his Nashville recording sessions for Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan played the Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky, on February 4, 1966. Admission cost just six bucks.