Notes from the Road – Cheatham Street Warehouse, San Marcos, Texas Well, I saved the best for last. Last night, Wednesday April 25th, Judy and I trekked down to San Marcos, Texas, about 45 minutes south of Austin towards San Antonio, for Kent Finlay’s Songwriter Circle at the Cheatham Street Warehouse. The Warehouse is a true, beer soaked into the wood, Texas honky-tonk. Don’t let the ramshackle exterior or rough, weathered, seemingly makeshift interior fool you – this is a revered music room that has stood the test of time. Stealing freely from their website, Kent Finlay opened the doors of Cheatham Street Warehouse in June of 1974 as a music hall, to develop, perpetuate and promote Texas music in its most natural state - the honky-tonk. During the last three decades, Kent has earned an impressive track record for developing new writers and artists - George Strait and Ace in the Hole played their first 50 or 60 gigs on this very stage. A myriad of others have graced this stage including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Gatemouth Brown, Asleep at the Wheel, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Butch Hancock and on and on and on and on . . . . Cheatham Street Warehouse is renowned for its quality sound and it seems that the old wooden walls enhance the sound like an old beloved fiddle. Al Barlow said, “Cheatham Street Warehouse is the Ryman Auditorium for Songwriters.” Kent Finlay, who has himself been called the “Godfather of Texas Songwriters,” hosts one of the premier songwriter nights in Central Texas. It is the nucleus of Cheatham Street Warehouse and while the packed houses and sold out advance tickets for big shows may pay the bills, the Songwriter Circle is the reason Kent continues to keep it open. The songs must be original compositions by the performer, no cover material whatsoever. And here’s the very best part - The songwriters who perform at Kent’s Songwriter Circle have always been treated as equals – and with equal reverence. It is a “golden rule” listening night – and Kent begins the night with a polite but stern admonition that everyone who attends pay as much attention to the artist on stage as they would expect others to listen to them. This has kept it from becoming one of those places were people go to play and then pack up and leave as soon as they finish performing. The pool tables shut down, cell phones are off and people shut up – conversation during the music is clearly not welcome or tolerated. It is heaven on earth for a performing artist!! Because I had been warned that the performer’s list fills fast Judy and I got there early and caught the end of a local band that had played from 5 to about 7:30 for happy hour. Songwriters toting guitars began filing in and just before 8:00 the bartender, with appropriate ceremony, picked up a clipboard and whacked hell out of a cowbell hung over the bar – sign up had begun!! Have you ever seen a nonchalant stampede? Well that’s what I’d call it – everyone trying to look cool and not over anxious, but wanting to be sure to get on that list. Fortunately, I had chosen a seat near the bar so I was able to easily get in the first part of the line. At that, I was still 9th on the list that only had 18 two song slots, many were disappointed not to get to play. The show started promptly at 9 with a good crowd of performers and listeners and ran until midnight. It was my best performance of the three nights. I played That Old Songwriter’s Gone, my tribute to songwriting great and Texas favorite, Mickey Newbury, and This Old House. The response was incredible and I made many new friends, including Kent Finlay who was very complimentary. At midnight I would have gladly pulled up a ring of chairs and swapped songs with Kent and the other writers until all hours. I hated for the evening to end. If you are out in the Austin / San Marcos / San Antonio area DO NOT miss the Cheatham Street Warehouse! No place to play tonight. I might go catch some music at one of the hundreds of choices. On Friday I’m going to tour the Collings Guitar factory and take my OMH2 for a little check up. I’ll let you know how it goes. All the Best – Doug