While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Laurie E. Jasinski

Cheatham Street Warehouse
Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos opened in 1974. The honky-tonk and its owner Kent Finlay have provided such notable artists as George Strait and Ace in the Hole, Todd Snider, and the Randy Rogers Band their first start in music. Courtesy Kent Finlay, Cheatham Street Warehouse.

CHEATHAM STREET WAREHOUSE. Cheatham Street Warehouse is located at 119 Cheatham Street in San Marcos. The building originally functioned as Reed Grocery Warehouse, a distribution center that received goods by train and sold supplies to local grocers. Kent Finlay, along with business partner Jim Cunningham, leased the structure and in June 1974 opened a music hall to serve as a venue for a variety of genres, including country, blues, rock, and folk. The honky-tonk soon provided an outlet for area talent, and many musicians, both famous and lesser known, began their performing careers on the stage at Cheatham Street. Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) student George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band played their first shows at the club in 1975. In 1980 a young Stevie Ray Vaughan performed there every Tuesday night.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the music hall played host to an impressive roster of musicians. Patrons heard country legends such as Ernest Tubb and Willie Nelson, the blues of Omar and the Howlers and Lou Ann Barton, the songwriting prowess of Townes Van Zandt;and Jerry Jeff Walker, as well as notable players such as country fiddler Alvin Crow, accordionist Flaco Jiménez, and guitarist Eric Johnson. Over the years the wealth of artists has also included Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers, Marcia Ball, Gatemouth Brown, Charlie and Will Sexton, Gary P. Nunn, Joe "King" Carrasco, Ponty Bone, and Ray Benson's Asleep at the Wheel.

In 1988 Finlay sold the business, and during the next few years Cheatham Street changed hands between Finlay and other buyers. For a time in the early 1990s the establishment hosted primarily Tejano bands. In 1999 Finlay bought back the club, which returned to its original honky-tonk format. The official reopening occurred on December 31, 1999.

A mainstay of the hall throughout its existence has been Finlay's songwriter nights on Wednesdays, when both professional and novice players are encouraged to perform their original compositions. Finlay, called the "Godfather of Texas Songwriters," endeavored to cultivate new tunesmiths and musicians, and his establishment has gained the reputation as a premier songwriter venue in Central Texas. The club has also been the scene for many live recordings, from early demos of players like George Strait and Todd Snider to full-length albums for commercial release, such as Terri Hendrix's Live in San Marcos (2001).

Finlay launched his new independent label, Cheatham Street Records, with the release of Mudcat by Dr. G and the Mudcats in 2005. That same year the Cheatham Street Music Foundation was organized as a non-profit corporation "dedicated to developing, promoting, preserving and perpetuating Texas music…." The goals of the foundation include maintaining Cheatham Street Warehouse as a public venue and promoting songwriter educational activities through workshops, lectures, classes, and other programs intended to promote the history of Texas music. In 2007 Kent Finlay was honored with the Coach Darrell K. Royal Texas Heritage Songwriters' Patron Award from the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association. By 2008 Cheatham Street’s recording studio, the Cheatham Street Woodshed, had opened near the establishment. 

After Finlay’s death on March 2, 2015, his children, Jenni, Sterling, and HalleyAnna, carried on his legacy of songwriting at Cheatham Street. Cheatham Street Warehouse continued to present musical acts as well as special anniversary events, record release parties, songwriting seminars, and music panel discussions. In December 2016 the Finlay children sold the business, and the Cheatham Street Music Foundation sold the property to Randy Rogers, a professional singer-songwriter who had made his start at Cheatham Street’s songwriter nights. The Cheatham Street Music Foundation continued its sponsorship of various educational and musical activities at the venue, including the weekly songwriter nights, which were hosted by Finlay’s son Sterling Finlay.


Gregg Andrews, "'It's the Music': Kent Finlay's Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas," The Journal of Texas Music History, 5 (Spring 2005). Cheatham Street Warehouse (http://www.cheathamstreet.com), accessed October 30, 2018.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski, "CHEATHAM STREET WAREHOUSE," accessed June 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xdc02.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 30, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...