Kent Finlay’s Historic Ode to The Hill Country

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Texas Music owes its roots to one man: the late Kent Finlay. This Hill Country legend can single-handedly be credited for launching countless music careers and co-writing loads of hit songs. Born in Brady, Texas, Kent always knew he was meant for music. Finlay fondly recanted taking time to write song lyrics between plowing his family’s farm. Kent just seemed to perpetually have music on his mind. After graduating high school, Kent attended Southwest Texas State (today’s Texas State) in San Marcos, where he earned not only a Bachelor’s in English, but a Master’s in Education. Through the early ‘70s, he traveled to Luckenbach, Texas, to play with famous songwriters such as Hondo Crouch, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Willie Nelson.

Not long after, in June 1974, Finlay opened Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos. Here, he created a home away from home for songwriters to experiment with their talent. Wednesday’s songwriters’ nights would become a place where artists could bring in their original work and receive honest yet loving criticism. Writers would sign up on a yellow legal pad and showcase their newest work. Kent insisted on giving full attention to the artists and did not allow any loud talking or disruptive behavior during the performances.

Kent Finlay standing on the Cheatham Street stage with a Texas flag hanging next to him


For the next 40 years, Kent would mentor and nurture songwriters from all types of backgrounds on Wednesday nights, even through a bout with cancer. Kicking off each session with his classic, “I’ll Sing You A Song, I’ll Tell You A Story”, Kent then opened the floor to any singer wanting to give it a shot.

Some call it fate that Kent Finlay would pass away on Texas Independence Day in March of 2015. His love for The Lone Star State, and particularly the Hill Country, was just as legendary as he was.  So much so, he even wrote a song about it. This video of Kent crooning his fabled “They Call It The Hill Country” is timeless, just like Kent Finlay.