Inside The Zoo Bar

The Creation

In a downtown Lincoln, Nebraska building built in 1921 sits the ZOO BAR, a narrow nightspot that’s been a staple for live music in downtown Lincoln since 1973. Some big time acts have walked through the hallowed club’s doors including Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Otis Rush. Throughout 2020, a variety of bands will play on the same stage graced by those blues legends in honor of ZOO Bar’s 47th Anniversary.

The History

The Zoo Bar is a blues music venue and nightclub located in downtown LincolnNebraska, on 136 North 14th Street. Styled around the Chicago blues clubs, it is a long, narrow venue in a building built in 1921.

Around 1971, Jim Ludwig, Bill Kennedy, and Don Chamberlin purchased the bar. Larry Boehmer, a Master of Fine Arts student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln at the time, promoted the bar to his fellow artists. He booked the first band in 1973 and was sole owner by 1977.

Boehmer met Chicago musician and promoter Bob Riedy and formed a connection that brought many revered Chicago artists to the Lincoln club. Because of this connection, the Zoo Bar was the first white club that Magic Slim ever played. In 1975 he had never ventured outside the clubs in Chicago’s African-American neighborhoods.

In 1977, Boehmer was the sole owner and the Zoo was established as an important stop for bands on the touring circuit. The first band Boehmer booked to play in the club was The Cotton Blues Band in the summer of 1973. The first national act to play at the bar was Luther Allison in September 1974.

Numerous live albums have been recorded in the club including the famed double album by Little Jimmy Valentine and The Heart Murmers.

Magic Slim and his band were regular performers at the bar, playing week-long stints. In the 1990s, Magic Slim moved his family from Chicago to Lincoln.

In 1993 the Zoo Bar won the Blues Foundation‘s Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Club of the Year.

James Harman wrote a song on behalf of the club called “Everybody’s Rockin’ (At The Zoo Bar)”, which can be found on Harman’s 1995 Black And White CD.

In 2000 Larry Boehmer retired and passed the bar on to his sons, Jeff and Tim Boehmer, and Pete Watters; Pete Watters now owns the club. On September 4, 2012, Larry Boehmer died after struggling with lung cancer. Many not only remember Larry as a visual artist and an incredible blues bass player, but as a community builder who stands out as one of Lincoln’s finest.

In July 2021, the bar celebrated its 48th anniversary.

The Front Door of The Zoo Bar
Pete Watters and the Boehmer Boys
Pete Watters The Zoo Bar
The Zoo Bar Posters

The Bands

Over the years, there has been a long list of absolute legends grace the stage at The Zoo Bar.

Musical acts have included: Bernard AllisonLuther AllisonDave Alvin, Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs, Tab BenoitTommy CastroAlbert CollinsRobert CrayDeke DickersonBo DiddleyChris Duarte, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Tinsley Ellis, Rick Estrin, Anson FunderburghBuddy Guy, the Hacienda Brothers, John Hammond, The Belairs, James Harman, Mark Hummel, Candye KaneJay McShannMatt “Guitar” MurphyCharlie MusselwhiteRod PiazzaAna PopovicOtis RushDoug SahmCurtis SalgadoGina SiciliaMagic SlimWatermelon SlimSon SealsKoko TaylorJunior WellsKim Wilson, and Link Wray. Eddie Clearwater, Mighty Joe YoungClarence Gatemouth Brown, Carey Bell, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and the list goes on.

What’s Happening and When:

September 22, 2021
  • Vanessa Collier featuring Hadden Sayers $12adv./$15dos

    September 22, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Vanessa, who is not yet 30 years old, is a powerful saxophone player, passionate singer and award-winning songwriter who has been nominated for seven Blues Music Awards, winning two (so far). A favorite on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, she was named the "Jammingest Pro Onboard." -MikeCarlin
    Hadden Sayers will be joining Vanessa.
    Tickets are now available at The Zoo and online at https://www.ticketweb.com/event/vanessa-collier-zoo-bar-tickets/11331175?pl=fourwinds
    Hadden Sayers will open the show with a solo acoustic set and then join Vanessa's band for her evening performance.

    See more details

September 24, 2021
  • DJ Relic(no cover)

    September 24, 2021  9:00 pm - September 25, 2021  12:30 am

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September 25, 2021
  • DJ Relic(no cover)

    September 24, 2021  9:00 pm - September 25, 2021  12:30 am

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September 26, 2021
  • ZOOLARIOUS: GEOFFREY ASMUS

    September 26, 2021  8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Geoffrey Asmus began performing stand-up in 2013 immediately after wasting $143,548 in college. Within a short time Geoffrey won Comedy on State’s “Funniest Person in Madison 2015” and Penguin Comedy Club’s “Funniest Person in Iowa 2015,” both times beating out the guy who invented meth, Quentin.
    Onstage and offstage Geoffrey will not make eye contact, which is a blessing for all.
    $10 COVER AT THE DOOR

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September 27, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    September 27, 2021  5:15 pm - 7:15 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Emily Bass and Friends perform every Monday night for Happy Hour. Her performances are intimate, up close and pure joy. Don't miss these unique appearances by one of Lincoln's finest.

    See more details

  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    September 27, 2021  7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Open Blues Jam
    Join a rotating mix of musicians including Tim Budig, Nebraska Jr., Jeff Boehmer, Jom Van Gelder, Fred Riddick and Mike Herman for a night of Blues at the ZOO Bar!
    7-10pm.
    No cover. Tips highly encouraged!
    Jammers bring your axe. Back-line provided.

    See more details

September 28, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    September 28, 2021  7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Come sit in @ Lincoln's longest running jazz jam.
    Your hosts welcome you: Bill Wimmer (sax), Aaron Stroessner (gtr), Michael Frederickson (bass), and Canyon Skare (drums)
    DJ RELIC and DJ FUNK TONNE spin classic vinyl to close the night ...

    See more details

  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    September 28, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

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September 29, 2021
  • HECTOR ANCHONDO BAND

    September 29, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Hector Anchondo took first place in the Blues Foundation 2020 International Blues Competition solo/duo act that is held in Memphis every year. Competing against the winners of local competitions held by Blues Societies all around the world, he not only won the overall competition but won the Memphis Cigar Box Award as the best guitar player in the solo/duo act competition.
    Coming from just up the road in Omaha, Hector has played the Zoo Bar many times over the years. His latest album, “Let Loose The Chains” is currently ranked #1 on the Roots Music Report Acoustic Blues chart.-Mike Carlin

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September 30, 2021
  • Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal $5

    September 30, 2021  7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    September 30, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

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October 1, 2021
October 2, 2021
October 3, 2021
October 4, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    October 4, 2021  5:15 pm - 7:15 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Emily Bass and Friends perform every Monday night for Happy Hour. Her performances are intimate, up close and pure joy. Don't miss these unique appearances by one of Lincoln's finest.

    See more details

  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    October 4, 2021  7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Open Blues Jam
    Join a rotating mix of musicians including Tim Budig, Nebraska Jr., Jeff Boehmer, Jom Van Gelder, Fred Riddick and Mike Herman for a night of Blues at the ZOO Bar!
    7-10pm.
    No cover. Tips highly encouraged!
    Jammers bring your axe. Back-line provided.

    See more details

October 5, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    October 5, 2021  7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Come sit in @ Lincoln's longest running jazz jam.
    Your hosts welcome you: Bill Wimmer (sax), Aaron Stroessner (gtr), Michael Frederickson (bass), and Canyon Skare (drums)
    DJ RELIC and DJ FUNK TONNE spin classic vinyl to close the night ...

    See more details

  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    October 5, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

October 6, 2021
  • J.W. Jones $10

    October 6, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Billboard Top 10 Blues Artist, 2020 IBC Winner, and JUNO Nominee, Canadian singer/guitarist JW-Jones is known for his high-energy shows! 

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October 7, 2021
  • The McGovern String Band celebrates John Prine

    October 7, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    After losing John Prine to COVID in 2020, it is fitting that we pay tribute to his music just three days shy of his 75th birthday. Please join The McGovern String Band on Thursday Oct. 7 from 6pm-9pm for this special tribute. Band members include Kelly McGovern (Guitar), Brian McGovern (Mandolin), Dave Morris (Bass), Steve “Fuzzy” Blazek (Steel Guitar) and special guest Mark Leeker of The Jerry Pranksters (Lead Guitar

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  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    October 7, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

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October 8, 2021
  • Mezcal Bros. $8

    October 8, 2021  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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  • Cory Grinder and the Playboy Scouts $8

    October 8, 2021  9:30 pm - October 9, 2021  12:30 am
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    These guys sere here a couple months ago and we were blown away. Zoo Bar Fans, if you enjoy Country music, don't miss this one!

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October 9, 2021
  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    October 9, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

  • Cory Grinder and the Playboy Scouts $8

    October 8, 2021  9:30 pm - October 9, 2021  12:30 am
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    These guys sere here a couple months ago and we were blown away. Zoo Bar Fans, if you enjoy Country music, don't miss this one!

    See more details

October 10, 2021
October 11, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    October 11, 2021  5:15 pm - 7:15 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Emily Bass and Friends perform every Monday night for Happy Hour. Her performances are intimate, up close and pure joy. Don't miss these unique appearances by one of Lincoln's finest.

    See more details

  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    October 11, 2021  7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Open Blues Jam
    Join a rotating mix of musicians including Tim Budig, Nebraska Jr., Jeff Boehmer, Jom Van Gelder, Fred Riddick and Mike Herman for a night of Blues at the ZOO Bar!
    7-10pm.
    No cover. Tips highly encouraged!
    Jammers bring your axe. Back-line provided.

    See more details

October 12, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    October 12, 2021  7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Come sit in @ Lincoln's longest running jazz jam.
    Your hosts welcome you: Bill Wimmer (sax), Aaron Stroessner (gtr), Michael Frederickson (bass), and Canyon Skare (drums)
    DJ RELIC and DJ FUNK TONNE spin classic vinyl to close the night ...

    See more details

  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    October 12, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

October 13, 2021
  • Michael Charles $10

    October 13, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    The concert by Grammy elected Chicago Blues Hall of Fame artist Michael Charles and His Band will take you on a guitar driven journey through thirty seven years and thirty seven releases of original music.

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October 14, 2021
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    October 14, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    See more details

October 16, 2021
October 17, 2021
October 18, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    October 18, 2021  5:15 pm - 7:15 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Emily Bass and Friends perform every Monday night for Happy Hour. Her performances are intimate, up close and pure joy. Don't miss these unique appearances by one of Lincoln's finest.

    See more details

  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    October 18, 2021  7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Open Blues Jam
    Join a rotating mix of musicians including Tim Budig, Nebraska Jr., Jeff Boehmer, Jom Van Gelder, Fred Riddick and Mike Herman for a night of Blues at the ZOO Bar!
    7-10pm.
    No cover. Tips highly encouraged!
    Jammers bring your axe. Back-line provided.

    See more details

October 19, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    October 19, 2021  7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Come sit in @ Lincoln's longest running jazz jam.
    Your hosts welcome you: Bill Wimmer (sax), Aaron Stroessner (gtr), Michael Frederickson (bass), and Canyon Skare (drums)
    DJ RELIC and DJ FUNK TONNE spin classic vinyl to close the night ...

    See more details

  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    October 19, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

October 20, 2021
October 21, 2021
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    October 21, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    See more details

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