Kent Finlay made a dream into a reality in June 1974 when he first opened the now legendary honky-tonk Cheatham Street Warehouse. The music venue has helped kick-start the careers of music legends George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Finlay bought his first guitar during freshman year of high school and began writing songs. He moved to San Marcos in 1959 and attended Southwest Texas College. Finlay earned his bachelor’s degree in English and later got a master’s in education.
Finlay leased a run-down warehouse along the railroad tracks on Cheatham Street with his business partner Jim Cunningham and brought a new era of music to the City of San Marcos.
Finlay’s vision was to nurture the progressive country movement. Finlay said he desired to provide young singer-songwriters with the opportunity to exhibit their talent and work. The small stage tucked in the back has introduced numerous musicians who helped mold the rise of the progressive country movement in Central Texas.
Casey Monahan, director of the Texas Music Office, said the warehouse has played a pivotal role in commercializing new country music in Central Texas, according to the Cheatham Street website.
Monahan said young artists at Cheatham Street are provided with an enthusiastic crowd, a historic stage and advice from Finley.
The warehouse has introduced local acts and talent such as the Randy Rogers Band to the music community.
Finlay said he started a non-profit organization called Cheatham Street Music Foundation, which was devoted to promoting, continuing and preserving Texas country music. The foundation is predominantly involved in all nuances of songwriting. The objective was to encourage the development of education in songwriting by directing classes, workshops, seminars, public lectures and concerts for young inspiring musicians.
Interaction between musicians, writers and management at the warehouse has given a deeper appreciation for San Marcos music to audiences for more than 50 years.