The Best Little Honky Tonk in Texas
Not many venues have a history quite like Cheatham Street Warehouse. Opened in 1974 in San Marcos, TX, the place epitomizes owner, Kent Finlay’s, life-long vision for performers and songwriters who share his insatiable taste for country music.
Finlay grew up surrounded by music (his family played music together at home )–and this passion developed into an arguable obsession. By the 70s, he was driving from San Marcos to Luckenbach in order to play with folk musicians including his hero, Hondo Crouch, and Willie Nelson. It was there, working with Crouch, that Finlay acquired his taste for collaborative music-making.
A decrepit warehouse along the San Marcos railroad tracks offered Finlay the opportunity to share the music he loved with his neighbors. He rented it and opened Cheatham Street Warehouse’s doors to local audiophiles in mid-1974. But he’d tapped into a greater common passion–the modest warehouse would become a cultural hub of Central Texas.
Now a legendary honky tonk, this was the stage where George Strait emerged, as a member of Ace in the Hole. He’d play more than 50 gigs at Cheatham Street–almost every Wednesday nights until the warehouse couldn’t control the crowds.
Other performers would follow, many of them discovering their careers on the Cheatham Street stage. There was Steve Ray Vaughn, who began his international career playing on Tuesday nights. Then the Sexton brothers, James McMurtry, Hal Ketchum, and Jimmy Collins.
The dynamic performances on stage continue today. Finlay still runs the joint with the help of his three children who also perform at the venue.
And Cheatham Street is definitely a family affair. Join the audience and you’ll sense a common bond with those around you. It’s precisely this connection that transforms from an old warehouse into a golden civilization.