Every glance at the old pictures and posters on the wall of Cheatham Street Warehouse confirms its role in the country music movement. The neon lights of this honky-tonk warehouse by the railroad tracks that opened in 1974 have been home to the start of big names such as Kyle Park, Randy Rogers and George Strait himself.
Cheatham Street Warehouse began “Kent Finlay’s Annual 29th Birthday” on Monday with a line-up of artists to last all night. The two-day festivities will continue with another list of those who want to support Finlay, the owner of Cheatham Street Warehouse since its opening nearly four decades ago. Finlay is the owner of the Cheatham Street Music Foundation, which includes Kyle Park, William Clark Green and Sons of Fathers.
The Cheatham Street Music Foundation, established in 2008 to carry forward the work of Finlay, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion, development, preservation and perpetuation of Texas music. It is involved with the art, craft and business of songwriting and its education. All of the funds raised at the birthday benefit concert will help to continue the work of the foundation.
The University Star got the opportunity to sit down with Finlay during his 29th birthday benefit concert on Monday. Finlay smiled when asked his actual age and said, “Well, I’m 29.” He continued on to talk about the foundation and its work, the beginning of Cheatham Street and the preservation of Texas music.
RB: Tell me about your Cheatham Street Music Foundation. Why did you want to start something like this?
KF: After everyone is gone, there will be kids who will carry on and promote the music. A hundred years from now, people can hear what happened today.
RB: Why did you want to devote your life to Texas music?
KF: It’s important. There wasn’t any music in San Marcos back then, and someone had to do it.
RB: How did Cheatham Street Warehouse come to be?
KF: We looked for a place that had character and none had soul until here. This place was an old warehouse by the railroad tracks. It was exactly right, and it sounds beautiful in here. So, we started Cheatham Street.
RB: I know there is a songwriter’s circle that is a part of the foundation’s work. How did that get started?
KF: Back in the day, songwriters didn’t get any attention. Being a songwriter myself, I wanted to have a night where songwriters can come and listen to each other.
RB: What does it feel like for you to know that you had a part in helping so many artists get their careers started?
KF: I’m proud of every one of them. I’m glad I had a little hand in it, but it is them and not me. It’s good when the good guys win, you know.
RB: Is there anything else that you would like to tell me about the Cheatham Street Music Foundation and its work?
KF: It is so the magic that comes out of this room doesn’t go away. We want the foundation to continue doing its work. The mission of the foundation will always be the same: to perpetuate and celebrate Texas music.