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.


March 23, 2023

    March 23, 2023  10:30 pm - 11:55 pm

    Sing with a LIVE karaoke band! They know a TON of songs! No cover charge

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March 24, 2023
  • Scallywags $8

    March 24, 2023  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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  • Wick O'Rya w Madeline Reddel and Swaul Pope - $6

    March 24, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    Wick O'Rya is made up of three different artists who came together as friends through their shared love of music and formed a trio through their shared direction in music and stylistic compatibility.

    Riley Agena's storytelling lyrics and soulful vocals could lend themselves to any genre, but these three multitalented musicians like to groove with elements of jazz and funk infused into their individual styles. Malcolm Opoku's Dilla-inspired chops and experimental flow blends harmoniously with Jonathan Leach's R&B background and heavy jazz roots. With the fun and free-spirited Agena leading the way, you are guaranteed to be 100% entertained by this trio!


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March 25, 2023
  • Sailing in Soup $10

    March 25, 2023  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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  • Andy William & The Nebraska All Stars! - $12

    March 25, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    It's time to DANCE!
    Andy William & The NE All Stars at ZOO Bar
    Saturady March 25


    Andy William of Havana, Cuba and currently living in Nebraska has assembled a stellar cast of musicians for the birth of a new Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. The musicians originating from all over the world like Cuba, Panama, Columbia, Mexico and America. They all reside in Nebraska and offer different styles of Cuban music such as Latin Jazz, Danzón, Guaracha, Cha Cha Cha, Guaguanco, as well as some American rhythms. Also, always doing tributes to Buena Vista Social Club of Cuba. Andy William and Nebraska All Stars are here to unite the universal language of music and welcome the diversity of the world.

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March 27, 2023
  • Roosevelt Collier w Vibe Check - $15adv/$20 dos

    March 27, 2023  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm


    ZOO Bar

    Monday, March 27 - $15adv/$20dos




    Soft spoken by nature, South Florida-bred ROOSEVELT COLLIER does his hollering on the pedal steel guitar. Brought up in the "sacred steel" tradition of the House of God Church, Roosevelt built his reputation alongside his uncles and cousins in The Lee Boys, known for their spirited, soul-shaking live performances. Seated front and center, "The Dr." leaves an indelible mark on listeners, flooring audiences with his lightning-fast slide work on the pedal steel.

    At festivals, he is a regular "Artist at Large," performing alongside many of music's most prestigious acts, from the Allman Brothers, Tedeschi-Trucks, Los Lobos , the Del McCoury Band and countless others. In 2017, Roosevelt debuted his new project Bokanté - a "World Music All-Star Band" created by Snarky Puppy founder Michael League and featuring the vocals of Malika Tirolien.

    As a bandleader, Roosevelt leads his world famous "get-downs" featuring a mixture of "superstars and church folk", his own "Jimi Hendrix Experiment"-style all-star trio, and in 2018 has released the long-awaited Roosevelt Collier debut record, featuring an incredible mixture of blues, gospel, rock, and funk all rolled up by producer and bandmate Michael League.

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March 28, 2023

    March 28, 2023  7:00 pm

    Join the Jazzocracy every Tuesday for Lincoln's longest running weekly jazz Jam session. Open to students and jazz musicians to come jam or for anyone to come listen. Featuring wide variety of modern and classic jazz compositions. No cover charge.

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  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    March 28, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:30 pm

    Come downtown and hear the sounds of the Bridge Gap Brothers ( DJ Funk Tonne & DJ Relic). Playing all of your favorite dance tracks on wax! There is No Cover so stick around and move the ground!

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March 29, 2023
  • Mezcal Bros. $10

    March 29, 2023  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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    March 29, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

    soulful | groovy | moody | no cover charge
    VIBE CHECK continues its run at The Zoo Bar every Wednesday night.
    The music and vibes continue to elevate with every show.

    See more details

March 30, 2023

    March 30, 2023  10:30 pm - 11:55 pm

    Sing with a LIVE karaoke band! They know a TON of songs! No cover charge

    See more details

March 31, 2023
  • Tony Meza & El Chupacabra $10

    March 31, 2023  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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  • Ivy Ford - $12

    March 31, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm


    Ivy Ford is versatile, talented, an old soul. From singing the blues to being sultry, she is an indigo artist whose gift connects those around her and those who listen. Whether leading a full band or serenading a small audience solo on stage, Ivy Ford commands an energy that is most magical.

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April 1, 2023
  • Blue House with the Rent To Own Horns

    April 1, 2023  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    Blue House and the Rent to Own Horns will
    rock you with a mile-wide groove!

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  • Secret Formula w/ Neon Zoo - $10

    April 1, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    Saturday, April 1
    Secret Formula w/ Neon Zoo

    Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secret Formula is a psychedelic fusion trio based out of Omaha, NE. With Luke Thiele on guitar, backed by a rhythm battery consisting of Adam Eschliman (bass) and Danny Berger-DeRoos (drums), this versatile group has an eclectic sound combining classic tones with modern ideas.

    Neon Zoo is Groove-rock band based out of Lincoln, Nebraska. Bryce Lawson - DrumsDJ Oestmann - Bass GuitarEvan Kobler - Percussion/Keyboards/Lead VocalsJacob Champoux - Guitar/Lead Vocals

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April 3, 2023
  • Emily Bass and Friends

    April 3, 2023  5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

    Join us on Mondays at The Zoo Bar for Emily Bass and friends playing up close and personal next to the bar and taking requests 5:30 to 7:30. Good company and always the best way to start your week! No cover charge.

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    April 3, 2023  7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

    Four blues veterans from the Star City of Lincoln, Nebraska form All Star City Blues. The quartet features heavy blues harmonica and tasty blues guitar out in front backed by a rock solid rhythm section.

    On harp is Brad Hayes. A multi instrumentalist, Brad draws inspiration from the greats like Junior Wells, James Harman, Charlie Musselwhite and more.

    Tim Budig has spent over two decades honing his guitar and singing. In addition to fronting his own blues band Tim has spent years as one of Shawn Holt’s backing musicians for regional blues shows.

    Chris Mackie is a multi instrumentalist with decades under his belt making the low end thump.

    Jom Ven Gelder rounds out the line up on drums. A transplant from Iowa music scene, Jom has quickly elevated himself to one of the most in demand drummers in the area.This line up conjures up hints of the rowdy, raucous vibe that embodies Chicago blues!   

    No cover charge.  Sit back, relax and enjoy OR join the band for a jam.

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April 4, 2023
  • Yates McKendree (Best New Blues Artist Nominee)- $12

    April 4, 2023  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Tuesday, April 4



    Born in Nashville and raised in a recording studio, multi-instrumentalist Yates McKendree grew up hearing and playing with many great musicians. Self taught from the age 3, music came to him naturally.

     Although just 21 years old, his experience as a professional musician goes back 10+ years. That early experience includes playing regularly in some of Nashville’s most notable venues (The Bluebird Cafe, The Ryman Auditorium, 3rd & Lindsley). It also includes North American and European tours and multiple appearances on national television (Imus In The Morning, CBS Mornings).

    During Yates’s high school years, he played on and engineered many recording projects; most notably for Delbert McClinton and John Hiatt, who told Rolling Stone Magazine, “Yates was our secret ingredient.” In January 2020, Yates earned a Grammy™ Award for his role as an engineer and a musician on Delbert McClinton’s “Tall Dark & Handsome.”

     His debut LP “Buchanan Lane” on the Qualified Records label released on October 28, 2022 to critical acclaim worldwide. The album features both classic tunes and 4 original compositions, 2 of which's Yates co-wrote  with stellar Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame 2022 inductee and multi-Grammy winner Gary Nicholson. Produced with his father, Kevin McKendree, “Buchanan Lane” highlights Yates’ skills, remarkable style and taste as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist with an emphasis on guitar.

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  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    April 4, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:30 pm

    Come downtown and hear the sounds of the Bridge Gap Brothers ( DJ Funk Tonne & DJ Relic). Playing all of your favorite dance tracks on wax! There is No Cover so stick around and move the ground!

    See more details

April 5, 2023

    April 5, 2023  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Looking more in person like a woman who could be your next-door neighbor rather than the scorching blues rock guitar goddess that she is, Joanna Connor is an atypical and unassuming guitar heroine who absolutely shreds or tenderly caresses notes out of a Gibson Les Paul. Those who are in the know rave about a musician who has played behind Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush and Luther Allison; and shared stages with the likes of Jimmy Page, Robben Ford, Robert Cray, the Doobie Brothers, Etta James and numerous other legends. Having her performances passed along on social media by heavy hitters Slash, Bootsy Collins, Vernon Reed and others only give credence to her immense and intriguing talents.

    WATCH: Joanna Connor - "I Feel So Good" - Official Music Video - YouTube
    WEBSITE: Home | My Site (

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    April 5, 2023  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

    soulful | groovy | moody | no cover charge
    VIBE CHECK continues its run at The Zoo Bar every Wednesday night.
    The music and vibes continue to elevate with every show.

    See more details

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