San Marcos venue launched many Texas stars to national fame
By Christian Wallace ‘10
At the time of Cheatham Street’s opening in 1974, a certain musical phenomenon was taking place throughout the Central Texas area. In the early 1970s, Austin became the epicenter of what would later be called the Progressive Country movement.
This movement was the result of a unique blending of various genres including rock’n’roll, traditional country, R&B, blues, zydeco and others. The musicians and fans promoting Progressive Country were equally eclectic – hippies, cowboys, bikers and students – coming together at such venues as the Broken Spoke, the Split Rail, Soap Creek Saloon, Threadgill’s, the Skyline Club, Antone’s and the Armadillo World Headquarters.
With such an atmosphere of excitement and unique music existing only 25 miles up the interstate from San Marcos, it took no time for Kent Finlay, the owner of Cheatham Street, to start booking the area’s top acts. The artists who played his little stage during the 1970s reads like a list of Progressive Country all-stars: Willie Nelson, Ernest Tubb, Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez, Gatemouth Brown, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kinky Friedman, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt, Dough Sahm, Augie Meyers, Joe Bob’s Bar and Grill Band, Ponty Bone, Joe “King” Carrasco and many others.
Among the bands playing at Cheatham Street during the peak of the Progressive Country era was the Ace in the Hole Band. The band’s lead singer was a Southwest Texas student named George Strait. Continue reading