An outgrowth of a New York concert series aimed at increasing the exposure of Irish-American women in the then-male-dominated Celtic music scene, the group's first iteration was assembled in 1985 by veteran Irish musician Mick Moloney. Led by Bronx-born whistle and flute player Joanie Madden, and using a name taken from a traditional jig, the group played a series of sold-out gigs at Manhattan's Ethnic Folk Arts Center which then yielded the 1985 album Irish Women Musicians in America. Initially billed as more of a one-off collaboration, the group's combined stellar musicianship drew an enthusiastic response and created the demand for further work. Beginning in the early '90s, Cherish the Ladies established themselves as a powerhouse of talent, employing a core lineup that revolved around Madden and at various times included musicians like Cathie Ryan, Maureen Doherty Macken, Siobhan Egan, Mary Coogan, Aoife Clancy, and Eileen Ivers, among others. Playing a mix of songs and traditional jigs and reels and featuring live Irish step dancing and rich harmonies, they became known as a thrilling live band who toured internationally. After several albums for Celtic specialists Green Linnet Records, Cherish the Ladies issued a pair of major-label albums in the late '90s for RCA, the latter of which, 1999's At Home, included collaborations with members of the Clancy Brothers. Collaboration has been a recurring theme for the group, who played with the legendary Boston Pops Orchestra in 1998 on the Grammy-nominated collection The Celtic Album. Their 2001 release The Girls Won't Leave the Boys Alone featured a range of outside musicians, from American folk luminaries like Pete Seeger and Tom Chapin to pop-oriented Irish artists like Luka Bloom and Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí. In 2004, the band recorded their first holiday album, On Christmas Night. They followed up a year later with another guest-heavy outing, Woman of the House, which featured friends like fiddle legend Phil Cunningham, accordionist Sharon Shannon, and singer Eddi Reader. Their 2011 album Country Crossroads was a career standout and musical cross-pollination that paired them with country artists like Vince Gill and Nanci Griffith.
In addition to their many recordings, Cherish the Ladies also developed a popular Celtic pops program that they toured around the country, performing hundreds of dates over the years with many of the world's major orchestras. In 2013, they released the Emmy-winning live DVD An Irish Homecoming, filmed during their performance at Bucknell University. They have continued to tour and record, returning in 2015 with a second holiday set, Christmas in Ireland, then in 2018 with the spirited Heart of the Home album. ~ Timothy Monger, Rovi