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San Marcos music legend remembered at memorial service

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Photo by: Preslie Cox | Multimedia Editor
Fellow songwriters, friends, and family of Kent Finlay gathered May 10 in the Evans Auditorium to celebrate his life and music career.

Kent Finlay dedicated his life to the San Marcos music scene and on May 10, the community dedicated their time to him.

Friends, family and admirers of the Cheatham Street Warehouse owner gathered in the Evans Auditorium for a tribute concert. Finlay died March 2 in his Martindale home at 77-years-old.

Finlay owned Cheatham Street Warehouse since 1974 and helped kick-start music careers of various local artists. The warehouse served as a stage for local musicians and many contribute their start to Finlay.

“Every now and then you run into somebody who seems to be a saint of music,” said Tom Ash, performer at the Cheatham Street Warehouse and Finlay’s lifelong friend. “Kent had a good ear for music and really believed in everyone who came through.”

Ash met Finlay in 1976. Originally, he owned a bar and was a competitor to Finlay’s business.

“He actually helped me get a kick-start with my business,” Ash said. “You can’t find that in a lot of people today. There are a lot of sharks in this business, but Kent always pushed on and continued.”

Noel McKay, another Cheatham Street Warehouse performer, said Finlay was an encouraging and kind person.

“Kent took interest in my songs when no one else would, and he gave me that hope as a songwriter,” she said.

Finlay booked McKay to play at the warehouse in the early stages of her career. McKay said Finlay wanted his musicians to keep playing and pursuing their talents. She said Finlay cared about the San Marcos community.

Finlay would house a songwriter’s circle every Wednesday night, said John Arthur Martinez, musician and close friend of Finlay. He said the circles gave musicians the opportunity to grow while writing songs and improving their works.

“I started coming to the songwriter circles decades ago,” Martinez said. “In those days we didn’t play on a stage or anything like that. We sat completely unplugged and just played.”

Martinez said he was one of the oldest members of Finlay’s musical reach. He said many influential artists were impacted by Finlay.

“I remember Kent would tell us that our education was great, but sometimes you had to let that go and write about things you truly know about,” Martinez said. “He wanted us to write from the heart and write about what was real to us.”

Finlay’s daughter, HalleyAnna, spoke at the tribute. She said the death of her father on Texas Independence Day was a joyful way for him to rest in peace.

Kent Finlay sang “They Call It the Hill Country” the day before his death. The song served as one of his favorites. The song played at the closing of the tribute concert as friends and family joined on stage to sing together.

“I’d just like to say to Kent, ‘Thank you (for) liking my songs and pushing me to be the musician I wanted to be,’” Martinez said. “’It’s crazy to think of the amount of lives you’ve touched all around the world. There will never be another quite like you.’”