The Cheatham Street Warehouse has hosted Willie Nelson, George Strait, Bruce Robison, Todd Snider, Guy Clark, Stevie Ray Vaughn and many others throughout its 40 year history.
“We started out at the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas, a honky-tonk by the railroad tracks. We’d play Wednesday night, 50 cents at the door and ladies free. You’d be playing the song and — whoosh! — you’d hear the train go by. It was a cool place back then. We didn’t make much money. One time we left a club with $7 apiece in our pockets. But we always got the beer free.”
– George Strait to USA Weekend in 2007
On December 20, 2016, Randy Rogers, along with partner KRR Entertainment, became the official owner of the Cheatham Street Warehouse, a legendary venue in San Marcos, TX. Kent Finlay founded, owned and operated Cheatham Street from 1974 up until his death on Texas Independence Day in 2015.
Cheatham’s imprint on the history of Texas Music is immeasurable. In 1975, George Strait made his debut at the venue, and Guy Clark once sat in with Townes Van Zandt, playing well past midnight closing time. In 1980, Stevie Ray Vaughan had a regular Tuesday night gig, and Charlie and Will Sexton, then 12 and 10, would open for Vaughn and sometimes join him on stage. There was a time when each Strait and Vaughan played one night a week at the venue.
“Wow! Played there in 1974! George [Strait] and I were jusst talkin’ about when we played Cheatham Street, we thought we’d MADE IT!!,” says Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson.
Finlay and Cheatham Street became a haven for Texas’ greatest songwriters. Over the course of more than four decades, the likes of Bruce Robison, James McMurtry, Todd Snider, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughn and George Strait graced the Cheatham stage.
“I still get butterflies when I step on that stage. I’m going to make sure other songwriters and musicians young and old get to experience that same feeling for many years to come. That’s my goal,” says Rogers, who purchased from Kent Finlay’s children, Jenni, Sterling and HalleyAnna.
In 2000, Randy Rogers was a student at Southwest Texas State University, pursuing a mass marketing degree and cutting his teeth in the world of songwriting. Every Wednesday he would make his way to the unpretentious building by the railroad tracks to add his name to the “list” of those who would perform the open “songwriter night.”
Like so many before and after him, he credits those songwriter nights for kick starting his career. It was also those nights that spawned his relationship with Finlay. Over the course of their 15+ year friendship, Finlay would serve as a mentor, a songwriting partner, a life-coach, a sounding board, and sometimes even a critic for Rogers both personally and professionally.
Rogers met and formed Randy Rogers Band within the walls of Cheatham Street, and when they signed their first major label deal years later, they did it there, with Finlay by their sides as a nod to him and “where they came from.”
“George [Strait] is obviously too big to play Cheatham Street,” Finlay said in a San Marcos Mercury interview in 2013. “If we had him in here for 10 minutes they’d tear the place apart. [laughter] But that’s like our goal, for them to get too big for us. That’s good, when that happens. [But] Randy Rogers keeps coming back. He says he always will. He comes back two or three times a year.”
Although a few cosmetic changes and updates are in the works (addition of a permanent patio and food service at the top of the list), the primary goal is to maintain the beloved character of the venue and to continue the legacy of Finlay. Rogers has partnered with KRR Entertainment, an Austin based event production company that co-founded Lone Star Jam and produces events at the Nutty Brown Amphitheatre, to ensure the venue continues to provide a top notch environment for both artists and fans.
Updates on the venue will be shared as they become available. For more on the iconic space, please visit cheathamstreet.com.