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:

October 21, 2021
  • Out of the House: Irish Re-trad $5

    October 21, 2021  6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    An uncommon mixture of Celtic Folk. Blistering jigs to lilting reels, and gorgeous vocal melodies. Irish gutter punk with a dash of original material. A seriously fun night of music.

    See more details

  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

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

    See more details

October 22, 2021
October 23, 2021
October 24, 2021
October 25, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    October 25, 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 25, 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 26, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    October 26, 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 26, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

October 27, 2021
  • Paul Nelson $12adv./$15dos

    October 27, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Paul Nelson - is recognized as one of today's top modern contemporary guitarists, songwriters and sought after record producers. He not only has the distinction of being the hand picked fellow guitarist to the legendary rock/blues icon Johnny Winter in the 2000's but he has toured the world over performing and or recorded along side an endless who's who of top artists.

    Tickets are now available at The Zoo and online at https://www.ticketweb.com/event/paul-nelson-zoo-bar-tickets/11331235?pl=fourwinds

    See more details

October 28, 2021
  • Gabe Stillman $10

    October 28, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    The Gabe Stillman Band is a three-piece machine that runs at full tilt for every performance. While their sound is unmistakably rooted in the blues, the band draws from the deep well of all American roots music.

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  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    October 28, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    See more details

October 29, 2021
  • Wags and the Recess Players $8

    October 29, 2021  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

    See more details

October 30, 2021
October 31, 2021
November 1, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    November 1, 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!

    November 1, 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

November 2, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    November 2, 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!

    November 2, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

November 3, 2021
November 4, 2021
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    November 4, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    See more details

November 6, 2021
November 7, 2021
November 8, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    November 8, 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!

    November 8, 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

November 9, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    November 9, 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!

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

    See more details

November 11, 2021
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

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

    See more details

November 12, 2021
  • 23rd Vibration

    November 12, 2021  9:00 pm - November 13, 2021  12:30 am

    See more details

November 13, 2021
  • Big Daddy Caleb and the Chargers $8

    November 13, 2021  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    See more details

  • 23rd Vibration

    November 12, 2021  9:00 pm - November 13, 2021  12:30 am

    See more details

  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    November 13, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

November 14, 2021
November 15, 2021
  • Emily Bass and Friends Happy Hour

    November 15, 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!

    November 15, 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

November 16, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    November 16, 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!

    November 16, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

November 17, 2021
November 18, 2021
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    November 18, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    See more details

November 19, 2021
November 20, 2021

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