History of the Cheatham Street Music Foundation

For the family of Kent Finlay, Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas, was home–a fountain of treasured personal and musical memories–ever since Kent opened the historic honky tonk in June 1974 with a young hippie country band Freda (Marcia Ball) and the Firedogs playing the grand opening. Through the years, Kent and his family leased the creaky old warehouse along the railroad tracks and transformed it into a music hall and songwriter’s oasis of world renown and integrity that left an incredible mark on popular music in Texas and well beyond.

After Kent’s first brush with multiple myeloma in 2003, he initiated discussions with several of us about the need to create the Cheatham Street Music Foundation (CSMF) to preserve the property and its history as a special place for songwriters. The publication of a peer-reviewed scholarly article, “It’s the Music”: Kent Finlay’s Cheatham Street Warehouse” in the Journal of Texas Music History in the spring of 2005 further reinforced the importance of the honky tonk’s place in American music history and the need to preserve it.

In early 2005, we undertook to create a non-profit foundation to carry on Kent’s legacy at Cheatham Street Warehouse, and held our first board meeting in April. Later that year, however, owners of the property sent Kent a letter to inform him that they planned to sell the property. They said they had an offer from a local realtor who planned to bulldoze the building, but emphasized they would sell the property to Kent if he could match the offer. The owners gave Kent a deadline of November 27, 2005, by which to respond.

Kent was unable to meet the asking price, and with the deadline fast approaching, Texas State University professors Gregg Andrews (Vice-President of our board of directors at the time) and Vikki Bynum, his wife, stepped forward and secured a personal mortgage to buy and maintain the property until the Foundation could raise enough funds with which to buy it. The purchase was finalized in March, 2006.

On August 28, 2007, the IRS notified us that we had been granted our status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation, and in November 2010, the Foundation secured a mortgage and bought the property from Andrews and Bynum.

Upon Kent’s death on March 2, 2015, a Limited Liability Corporation comprised of Jenni, HalleyAnna, and Sterling Finlay and managed by Sage Allen–continued to lease the CSW building from the Foundation and to operate the business to keep Kent’s dream alive.

On December 20, 2016–nearly two years after Kent’s death, the torch of ownership and preservation passed to Randy Rogers, who bought not only the assets of the business but the physical property as well. Randy’s career began on the CSW stage, and his devotion and loyalty to Kent as his songwriting mentor have never wavered.

Randy is fully committed to preserving Kent’s outstanding legacy in cooperation with the Cheatham Street Music Foundation. We look forward to such cooperation through a number of special performances, seminars, workshops, talks, and other events related to Wednesday night’s Songwriter’s Circle, the heart and soul of the rich legacy that Kent Finlay left behind.