Road Trip: Music History in Lincoln
Last week I had the opportunity to take a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, to celebrate the wedding of two of my friends. The wedding party was held in a Lincoln music venue called The Bourbon; this is where I talked with locals and learned that Lincoln has a history of excellent music venues and a strong community of music supporters. Lincoln is a fairly small town compared to Denver but swells every year when the University of Nebraska is back in session. Surrounded by country, a sense of community is strong, as the population of year-round locals is small and the next mid-size city nearby is Omaha, 50 miles away. The small population seems to contribute to the enthusiasm for supporting local talent and celebrating touring musicians.
The Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln has been on 'O' Street since 2009 and has hosted many national and local acts. The location was once a movie theater named The State Theatre. The State Theatre was opened in 1932 and closed in 1992.
Opening in 1936, Duffy's Tavern in Lincoln is known for hosting local bands as well as several bands that hit it big after playing Duffy's. Before they were all over MTV, Nirvana played a memorable show at Duffy's in 1990 that locals still talk about. The Tavern is known for having a good ear for booking rock and punk bands that will later go on to big fame. According to Duffy's website, other acts that have played in the small tavern include 311, Bright Eyes, and Wesley Willis. Duffy's has also hosted a comedy night since the current owners purchased the venue in 1986.
Perhaps the most famous music venue in Nebraska is Zoo Bar. Zoo Bar is in a building that was built in 1921. The bar was purchased in 1971 and through connections with a Chicago music promoter the owners were able to book Chicago blues musicians, most notably musician Magic Slim played his first show outside of clubs in Chicago's African American neighborhoods. Eventually Magic Slim moved to Lincoln and played regular sets at the Zoo Bar. Notable blues acts to play the Zoo Bar include Bo Diddley, Tinsley Ellis, Dave Alvin, Albert Collins, and many more. In 1993, Zoo Bar won the Blues Foundation's Keeping Blues Alive Award for Club of the Year. This July, famed New Orleans blues singer Irma Thomas headlined the 2015 "Zoo Fest." Blues fans will know that Thomas rarely tours out of New Orleans. The much-loved owner of Zoo Bar passed away from cancer in 2012 and his son now co-owns the bar.
To read more about the history of the Zoo Bar take a look at this article written by Hear Nebraska, Everybody's Rockin' at the Zoo Bar.
To learn about other aspects of Lincoln, Nebraska's history check out some of the books in the library's collection. Western History/Genealogy also has several photographs, maps, and references to newspaper articles about Lincoln in our Digital Collections.
Like Lincoln, Denver has a great local music scene; if you are curious about checking out some of the great local music in Denver take a look at the Denver Public Library's Volume project.
Most exciting thing I ever did in Lincoln was tour the state capital building to see the bats that live in the cupola. I think you got the better tour guide.
I had excellent locals for guides. Watch in the future for a post I'm planning where I will mention my visit to the National Roller Skate Museum in Lincoln!
Thanks for the memories, Morgan! It was such a pleasure to meet you and have you as our guest. Hope you plan to write about "the wine scene" in Nebraska. PS You forgot to mention Larry's legacy of being ejected from Duffy's twice... 40 years apart! LOL. Hope to see you again soon!
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