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:

December 7, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    December 7, 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!

    December 7, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

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December 8, 2021
  • Indigenous $15

    December 8, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Pop Up Show!! $15 at the door.
    We are also offering advance tickets ($15) available to purchase IN PERSON at the bar beginning 12/5/21.
    The Native American blues-rock group Indigenous consists of three brothers, Mato Nanji (vocals and guitar), Pte (bass), and Horse (percussion), and their sister, Wanbdi (drums, vocals). The Nakota Nation members grew up on South Dakota's Yankton Indian Reservation and were inspired by their father, Greg Zephier, who had been a musician in the '60s and '70s and later became a spokesperson for Native American rights.

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December 9, 2021
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

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

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December 10, 2021
  • Matt Cox and the Marauders $8

    December 10, 2021  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    "...a stellar slice of Americana, bringing to mind traces of The Band, the Sir Douglas Quintet, a bit of Bob Dylan, BeauSoleil and the honky-tonk side of Merle Haggard. Cox is, quite simply, one of the best singers around." - Lincoln Journal Star

    Showtime: 5pm
    Tickets: no advance tickets available, $8 at the door

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  • Lloyd McCarter and the Honky Tonk Revival $10

    December 10, 2021  9:30 pm - December 11, 2021  12:30 am

    Whether selling out a dive bar, theater, or headlining a music festival Lloyd's combination of great showmanship, musical prowess and traditional country style always leaves the crowd eager for the next show. Lloyd McCarter is the real deal!
    $10 at the door. No advance tickets are available.

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December 11, 2021
  • Womanish Girl $10

    December 11, 2021  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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  • Lloyd McCarter and the Honky Tonk Revival $10

    December 10, 2021  9:30 pm - December 11, 2021  12:30 am

    Whether selling out a dive bar, theater, or headlining a music festival Lloyd's combination of great showmanship, musical prowess and traditional country style always leaves the crowd eager for the next show. Lloyd McCarter is the real deal!
    $10 at the door. No advance tickets are available.

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  • Jerry Pranksters $8

    December 11, 2021  9:30 pm - December 12, 2021  12:30 am

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December 12, 2021
December 13, 2021
  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    December 13, 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 Reddick 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

December 14, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    December 14, 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!

    December 14, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

December 15, 2021
  • Kent Burnside $12adv./$15dos

    December 15, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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  • Vibe Check (no cover)

    December 15, 2021  9:30 pm - December 16, 2021  12:30 am

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December 16, 2021
  • Vibe Check (no cover)

    December 15, 2021  9:30 pm - December 16, 2021  12:30 am

    See more details

  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    December 16, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

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December 17, 2021
  • Wags and the Recess Players $8

    December 17, 2021  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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  • The Hanyaks with Soul Ghost $6

    December 17, 2021  9:30 pm - December 18, 2021  12:30 am

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December 18, 2021
  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    December 18, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

  • The Hanyaks with Soul Ghost $6

    December 17, 2021  9:30 pm - December 18, 2021  12:30 am

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December 19, 2021
December 20, 2021
  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    December 20, 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 Reddick 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

December 21, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    December 21, 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!

    December 21, 2021  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

December 23, 2021
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    December 23, 2021  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    See more details

December 25, 2021
December 26, 2021
December 27, 2021
  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    December 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 Reddick 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

December 28, 2021
  • Jazzocracy

    December 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!

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

    See more details

December 29, 2021
  • Stan and the Chain Gang $10

    December 29, 2021  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    See more details

  • Vibe Check (no cover)

    December 29, 2021  9:30 pm - December 30, 2021  12:30 am

    See more details

December 30, 2021
  • Vibe Check (no cover)

    December 29, 2021  9:30 pm - December 30, 2021  12:30 am

    See more details

  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

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

    See more details

December 31, 2021
  • Bel-Airs $15adv./$20dos

    December 31, 2021  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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  • Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal $15adv./$20dos

    December 31, 2021  9:30 pm - January 1, 2022  12:30 am

    See more details

January 1, 2022
  • DJ RELIC no cover!

    January 1, 2022  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

  • Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal $15adv./$20dos

    December 31, 2021  9:30 pm - January 1, 2022  12:30 am

    See more details

January 2, 2022
January 3, 2022
  • Zoo Bar House Band and Open Blues Jam - No Cover!

    January 3, 2022  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 Reddick 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

January 4, 2022
  • Jazzocracy

    January 4, 2022  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!

    January 4, 2022  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

    See more details

January 6, 2022
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    January 6, 2022  9:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    See more details

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