In Memoriam: Kent Finlay

Kent Finlay (1938-2015) Photograph by Charlie Stout.

Kent Finlay (1938-2015) Photograph by Charlie Stout.

by: Thomas D. Mooney

I never personally knew Kent Finlay. I cannot speak to any personal interactions or words of wisdom from a firsthand perspective. But I knew how essential Finlay was to an entire music scene–how essential he was to a way of life and the craft of songwriting and storytelling.

It’s difficult to fathom the impact one individual can have on something so vast and expansive. But the simplest and most pure is to read the words written by those who were impacted, influenced, and touched most by Finlay’s life, words, and friendship.

As posted by the Cheatham Street Music Foundation, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Cheatham Street Music Foundation here.

On behalf of the Cheatham Street Warehouse Family, it is with the deepest sorrow that we announce the passing of Kent Finlay in the early morning Monday, March 2. Kent was surrounded by family and friends telling stories and swapping songs when he passed.

Kent was the long time owner of Cheatham Street Warehouse, the legendary San Marcos-based venue known best for the songwriter circle he hosted Wednesday nights. Kent was a dedicated songwriter, mentor to hundreds of others and perhaps most importantly a dreamer. Kent’s limitless passion for music and songwriting inspired him to create Cheatham Street Warehouse, a launching pad for countless young artists. His inspiration, talent, humor and guidance truly will be missed.

Jenni, Sterling, HalleyAnna and the rest of the entire Cheatham Street Family wish to thank you for your thoughts, prayers and support during this time.

Plans for a memorial service are still pending at this time and will be announced as soon as details emerge.

In lieu of flowers, donation can be made to the Cheatham Street MusicFoundation.

Read the following thoughts, stories, and reflections on Finlay.

“Country music–and just music in general really– lost a great friend today. His legend will live forever in Texas, though. We’ll never forget our friend Kent Finlay. Sad day.” — George Strait

Kent Finlay (1938-2015) Photograph by Charlie Stout.

Kent Finlay (1938-2015) Photograph by Charlie Stout.

“‘Yesterday is all we have that’s sure to last forever; today will end in darkness, there’s no doubt. But you could never make him stop believing in tomorrow; tomorrow’s all today is all about.’

“The Songwriter”
Kent Finlay (1938-2015)
#ripKentFinlay”–Charlie Stout

“Kent Finlay, rest in peace brother. Thank you for all you gave to us. You gave us a family of musical brothers and sisters. You gave us a home at Cheatham Street. You nurtured us and watched us grow and gave so many of us wings to fly…and now you have yours. You are the reason this band exists. We are eternally grateful.”–Randy Rogers

“Hurts this morning to hear about Kent Finlay passing away. He was a good man for so many reasons. His gentle smile always made me feel at ease and it created many late night Cheatham Street conversations about songwriting, life…whatever came up. I always looked forward to playing there just to catch up with him and I always wanted to make a good impression on him with my music. It was rough the last few times through stepping on that stage and not having him there.

He loved songs and songwriters and there are a countless number of them that owe him everything. He pushed kids to be their best. I love hearing Randy Rogers talk of the early days when he was trying to figure it all out. His one comrade and mentor was Kent. And I know we will never stop talking about him. Ever.

Kent, you will be missed no doubt. But I feel you know you left a mark and did what you were called to do on this earth. It will be tough to find a sweeter, kinder man, as long as I live. We love you and will do our best to continue to carry the torch I know you held so dear!”–Wade Bowen

“RIP Kent Finlay. Not sure it’s even possible to measure the man’s influence on Texas Music. He was a friend, and mentor to so many artists we respect and admire. Thoughts and prayers to his family…what a loss.”–Reckless Kelly


“Kent Finlay never quit doing work for his beloved Cheatham Street. He called me from the hospital to book a last minute show with Jamie Wilson and me. He said, “I’m so glad I’m in the hospital, because I was just laying here thinking about you. Wasn’t that a great thought I had?”

Thursday, we will play our show with the heaviest of hearts. I am so thankful to have this voicemail.”–Courtney Patton

“I remember one night around 2008… It was my third or fourth time to play Cheatham Street Warehouse and I had managed to build my crowd there to a whopping 10 people. After the show I walked down to talk to Kent Finlay at his usual spot on his stool at the end of the bar. I was feeling pretty discouraged and a little guilty for not covering the guarantee and costing him money, again. Kent looked at me and said “Jason, I watched Stevie Ray Vaughn sit on that stage night after night and sometimes the only people here were me and the bar staff. He did that for a lot of nights before anyone paid any attention. You just keep showing up and doing what you do and it’ll come around.” And he kept booking me (and losing money) until it did. I still think about that conversation to this day. He was a believer in music and his belief was infectious. I know that anyone who ever met him would say the same thing. He and his words will always be a part of me. I will miss him.”–Jason Eady

“We lost one of the lifelines of Texas Music this morning. There are no words to convey the level of heart and dedication that Kent Finlay has contributed to Texas Music. Not only was this man completely selfless, he was truly a visionary. There are things to be said about someone who books bands to play at their bar, and there’s something much greater to be said about a man who radiates an immutable passion for helping a few pickers unite and become something bigger than themselves. Kent was a friend to all that came in contact with him, and a true believer in the power of music. Our band is a perfect example of this, as we had our first acoustic show at Cheatham Street Warehouse back in 2008, and played the coveted Tuesday Night spot for over 2 years. If it weren’t for people like Kent Finlay, there wouldn’t be a Midnight River Choir. Thank you for giving us a shot Kent. We love you like a father. Rest in Peace.”–Midnight River Choir

“I do not believe it is a coincidence that Kent Finlay passed on Texas Independence Day. He was one of the greatest men, songwriters, and Texans I know. I love you, Kent, and so does everyone else. We will all miss you terribly.”–Jamie Lin Wilson

“I was only around Kent Finlay a few times. I remember one time I drove down to Cheatham Street to do the wednesday night songwriter circle and I was the last one to sign up. I wasn’t happy about it, because I knew I would be the last one to go (which turned about to be a little after 12am that night). I told Kent I didn’t want to be last on the list and that I had driven a long way (From Austin..heh) to be there. He told me if I had a problem with where I was on the list that he would kick me out. That shut me up pretty fast. And taught me a pretty good lesson. Anyhow, I stayed til the end, played my song, and watched Kent close out the night with those still in the circle to “They Call It The Hill Country.” Thanks for all you’ve done for countless others, and for teaching me a thing or two. RIP Kent Finlay.”–John Baumann


“Never met a kinder soul or someone who believed in songwriting more than Mr. Finlay. Prayers go out to your family and envy goes out to the Angels!”–Casey Berry

“We will both be celebrating Texas Independence Day and remembering the late great Godfather of Texas Music, Mr. Kent Finlay. Despite these mixed emotions, I think Kent would like it. I don’t think anybody cared about songwriting as much as he did. Hope to see you there.”–Benton Leachman

“Prayers to The Finlay family and to Cheatham St. Texas truly lost something today. Long live Kent Finlay.”–Dalton Domino

“God bless Texas & God bless Kent Finlay. We’re going to miss him.”–Doug Moreland

“Kent had a twinkle in his eye. A real light. It was dependable, from the 1st time I met him, through when he was sick a few years ago, up to when we hung out together a few days ago. A true authentic Texas-sized soul. Songwriter, singer (my God, that voice), Mentor & Friend to so many of us with kind words, sly humor & a dependable Light in his eyes.”–Walt Wilkins

“I have a feeling if George Strait came back on a Wednesday night, Kent Finlay would say, ‘That’s great, George, but Wednesday’s songwriter circle. If you get here early enough, put your name on the list, but it’s gotta be something you wrote, George.”’–Drew Kennedy


“Kent Finlay, Dreamer (1938-2015) Thank you for all you gave us while you were here. You will live on in our hearts and every night a song gets played at Cheatham Street Warehouse. If there’s a songswap in heaven then the master himself just showed up.”–Jonny Burke

“We lost a great friend and a great Songwriter today. God Bless Kent Finlay the Godfather of Texas Music.”–William Clark Green

“Thoughts and prayers to all of the friends and family who are dealing with the loss of Kent Finlay today, he was as solid as they come and we will really miss him.”–Micky & The Motorcars

“I can’t remember how long I’ve been playing Cheatham Street Warehouse. I can barely remember a time when we weren’t playing there. I do remember the first time I met Kent Finlay though. I was of course nervous to meet him him given his impressive status and resume in music. And I knew that it was a privilege to stand on that stage and sing my songs, and I didn’t want to mess it up. I was instantly struck by Mr. Finlay’s kindness and gentleness. Show after show for probably 10 years have followed since that first night. And you win some and lose some. But even on nights where we were playing to just a handful of folks, the end of the night has always been the same as it was that first time: “Thanks so much for having us Kent. Sorry about the draw. Maybe next time we’ll have a few more.” To which Kent would smile and say, “You just keep doing what you’re doing and I promise you one of these days this place will be sold out.” Then he’d throw in some extra money for us that we in no way deserved, and buy us some extra rounds that we in no way needed. That kind of generosity and optimism are hard to come by in this business. Rest in peace Mr. Finlay, you will be very sorely missed.”–Rodney Parker

I didn’t know Kent Finlay as well as a lot of other Texas artists but he was always so kind to me when I played his venue. He is a legend of a man and it is a very sad day today.–Charlie Shafter

“Rest in Peace Kent Finlay. We will be posting a full and proper tribute on the site later. Our hearts are broken for his family and the Texas Music Family at large.”–Galleywinter, Read their entire thoughts on Finlay here.

“I just heard about Kent Finlay … and on Texas Independence Day. Fitting. For a stretch of about 5 years or so I had the honor of playing Cheatham St for the Texas Independence Day show. Such wonderful times we had. It’s hard to put in to words what Kent meant to me. To all of us. Always encouraging. Always honest. Always sincere.

Kent believed in me when I didn’t believe in my self. Especially when I didn’t believe in my self. He picked me up when I fell, called me out when I was faking it, and always made me want to be better. A better songwriter. A better person. He even let me record his great song “Reaching For The Stars (And Playing For the Door)” although I’m not sure he much cared for the liberties I took with the arrangement. Was never negative about it though, always encouraging, always kind.

And play for the door we did. More nights at Cheatham St. than I can count. Many of those nights the crowd was light. No complaints from Kent. “I judge the success of a night by the music, not by the money” was always his general sentiment. One night we lost power, no worries, we’ll just gather ‘round by the bar and play the show that way. His open writer’s nights are stuff of legend. I can only imagine the amount of talent and music we would be robbed of but for his nurturing hand.

And what a talent Kent was himself. Never brazen or boastful… just quietly brilliant. I’m going to miss Kent deeply but at least we’ll have his songs. I’m going to miss playing my new songs for him. I’m going to miss joking with him about places like Pear Valley and Fife. I’m going to miss getting to hear him sing his songs just one more time. But at least we’ll have his songs.
My heart goes out to his family that he loved so. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

I remember one of those Texas Independence Day shows I was trying to talk Kent into having a beer special, maybe half-price Lone Star or something like that. Kent, in his particular own way of speaking and a twinkle in his eye said “Oh, I don’t know… if we do anything with the beer prices on Texas Independence Day… maybe we should just charge twice as much for Mexican beer!”

They say what you do for yourself dies with you but what you do for the world remains. Kent Finlay will remain.”–Dub Miller

“Thoughts and prayers go out to the Kent Finlay family….and a lot of that family being my fellow Texas/Red Dirt Artists who got their start at Cheatham Street Warehouse! He truly was like the Pastor of a sacred church house of music, where Kent allowed me to share my music and where I had the first date with my now husband. Much love!”–Charla Corn

“Today we have lost a special friend and mentor to the Texas music community – Mr. Kent Finlay. Thank you for all that you have done for us dreamers. Time may have taken you, but your music and influence will continue to live on in our hearts and minds. Cheers Kent, and thank you for having us at Cheatham Street Warehouse throughout the years. You will be missed.”–The Dirty River Boys



One response to “In Memoriam: Kent Finlay

  1. Pingback: Interviews: Jonny Burke | New Slang·

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