A History of the Union Bar



A History of the Union Bar
Advertisement from Sweet Potato, August 27, 1981
A History of the Union Bar
Prepared for
Minnesota Blues Society
December 2015
Prepared by
Penny A. Petersen
Charlene K. Roise
Hess, Roise and Company
The Foster House
100 North First Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
Note: The building that housed the Union Bar is located at the intersection of East Hennepin and
Central Avenues Northeast. Both street names are used interchangeably in primary sources that
refer to this site, but the address of the Union Bar is most commonly 507 East Hennepin. For the
sake of consistency, this account will use East Hennepin for the building numbered 505–507 and
Central Avenue Northeast for the building numbered 509–513, even though the name “East
Hennepin” was not adopted until 1913.
James Sargent Lane, age nineteen, settles in Saint Anthony. There, he joins his older
brothers Silas and Isaac, who had arrived in 1848. The brothers work in the lumber
The Lane brothers were born in New Brunswick, Canada, although both their parents are
natives of Maine. Their father, Silas Nowell Lane, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a
lumberman, moved to Canada, continuing to harvest the pine forest across a national
The Lane brothers are joined in Saint Anthony by their parents, Silas and Velona (or
Velma in some sources), and younger brother, Leonidas.3
By this year, the entire family lives on a parcel of land at the corners of Fifth Street, Bay
Street (present-day East Hennepin), and Mill Street (present-day Central Avenue
Northeast). Silas Lane purchases Lot 1 in Block 15 of the Mill Company Addition to
Saint Anthony from the Saint Anthony Water Power Company.4
Leonidas Lane purchases Lot 2 in Block 15 of the Mill Company Addition to Saint
Anthony from the Saint Anthony Water Power Company. The Lane family members own
the entire corner at Fifth Street and present-day Central Avenue Northeast and many
members of the family reside on this property. In time, a portion of this land will become
the site of the Union Bar.5
James Lane marries Aubine Dorman. Over a period of twenty years, the couple will
produce seven children. The first five are girls. The sixth, the first son, is born in 1877
and named Mark; his brother, Frank, follows three years later.6
James Lane purchases Lots 1 and 2 in Block 15 of the Mill Company Addition from Silas
and Leonidas Lane.7
George E. Warner and Charles M. Foote, History of Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis (1881;
reprinted, Marceline, Mo.: Walsworth, 1977), 579; Alonzo Phelps, Biographical History of the Northwest: Being
Volume Four of American Biography of Representative Men (Boston: Ticknor, 1890), 114–15.
Phelps, Biographical History of the Northwest, 114–15.
Warner and Foote, History of Hennepin County, 579.
Hennepin County Deeds Book D, page 735 (recorded December 9, 1856).
Hennepin County Deeds Book N, page 468 (recorded July 9, 1859).
Phelps, Biographical History, 114–15.
Hennepin County Deeds Book 10, page 423 (recorded April 27, 1866); and Book 10, page 512 (recorded May 22,
The town of Saint Anthony on the east side of the Mississippi River votes to become part
of the town of Minneapolis across the river.
James Lane builds a large brick house that still stands at 625 Eighth Avenue Southeast.
He and his large family move from Fifth and Mill Streets, but he retains the property
there. By this time Lane is a very successful lumberman as partner of Merriman,
Barrows, and Company and has extensive real estate holdings.8
The Minneapolis City Council establishes the Minneapolis Liquor Patrol Limits. The
patrol restricts saloons to the city’s core along the riverfront and parts of several
residential neighborhoods. The boundaries are determined by the area that can be
monitored by a horse patrol starting from city hall on an evening’s rounds. One of the
neighborhoods with a large area in the limits is Cedar-Riverside, which has a strong
contingent of Scandinavian immigrants; another is northeast Minneapolis, where many
immigrants with drinking traditions, such as the Germans, reside. On the east side of the
river, the patrol limits stretch to the northern city limits west of Fourth Street Northeast.
The boundary runs east on Spring Street, turning on Tyler Street to Division Street, then
turning at Ninth Street Southeast to Second Avenue Southeast, and continuing along
Second until reaching the eastern shoreline. While the boundaries expand somewhat over
time, the patrol limits remain in force for the next ninety years.9
James Lane erects a wood dwelling and store at 505–507 East Hennepin, the site where
the Union Bar will eventually stand.10
James Lane takes out an $18,000 construction permit for 509–513 Central Avenue
Northeast. He hires prominent local architect Adam Lansing Dorr to design the building
and contractor F. G. McMillan to erect it. Lane spends almost $20,000 to complete the
three-story brick building, which has stores on the first level and apartments above. A
newspaper article pointed to this development as “another indication of the confidence
which Minneapolis property owners have in the future of the city as a place for
investment.” This building is well within the Liquor Patrol Limits. In time, after being
put to many other uses, it will house a portion of the Union Bar.11
Dorr, a native of New York, was born in 1854. He received his professional training in
architects’ offices in Canada and New York. He and his wife moved to Minneapolis in
1882, and he worked for Plant and Whitney as a draftsman and later for George and
Fremont Orff. By 1886, he had his own practice. His son William later joined him and
the firm became Dorr and Dorr in 1910. Scholar Alan Lathrop notes, “The firm
specialized in designing fine residences and commercial building, including hotels and
Warner and Foote, History of Hennepin County, 579; “Real Estate—Building Matters,” Minneapolis Tribune, April
2, 1881.
Proceedings of the City Council, Minneapolis, Minn., 1884–1885 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis City Council, 1885),
59–60; “The City Circuit—Patrol Limits,” Minneapolis Tribune, February 13, 1893; Jim Hathaway, “The Liquor
Patrol Limits of Minneapolis,” Hennepin History, Fall 1985, 3–7; Jay Edgerton, “Patrol Limits—A Lumberjack
‘Hangover,’ ” Minneapolis Star, September 26, 1956. The Tribune article includes a map of the entire Liquor Patrol
Limits. Some of the streets that were boundaries no longer exist.
Minneapolis Building Permit No. B13583 (dated January 3, 1888).
Minneapolis Building Permit No. B33994 (dated January 28, 1895); “The Lane Building,” Minneapolis Tribune,
January 29, 1895.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 2
apartment houses.” Some of Dorr’s designs include the Bull residence, 1628 Elliot
Avenue South (1887); C. F. Keyes residence, 2225 East Lake of the Isles (1904); and the
Continental Hotel, 66–68 South Twelfth Street (1910).12
James Lane calls the new building the “Nowell Block,” apparently using the maiden
name of his paternal grandmother. A hardware store owned by Otto Rood is among the
first commercial tenants. Lane’s sixteen-year-old son Frank is listed as the manager of the
Nowell Block.
In March, James Lane and his sons Mark and Frank incorporate the Lane Company, and
this entity, which sells hardware, soon occupies the storefronts at 509–511 Central
Avenue Northeast. About the same time, James and Aubine Lane sell Lots 1 and 2 in
Block 15 of the Mill Company Addition to the Lane Company for $45,000.13
The Lane Company hardware store sells, among other items, bicycles. A newspaper
remarks that “this concern caters to the East Side trade and expects to get its share of it
during the season.”14
Mark Lane, acting for the Lane Company, begins to sell off the holdings at Fifth and East
Hennepin. This year a portion is sold to the Gluek Brewing Company.15
In June, James Lane dies from complications of a stroke. Prior to this, he has served eight
years on the Minneapolis City Council.16
Mark Lane sells off more of the land at Fifth Street Northeast to the Gluek Brewing
Company. Before Gluek Brewing buys the rest of the property at 505–507 East Hennepin
Avenue, it apparently holds a grocery store run by F. J. Hogan.17
By this year, the Gluek Brewing Company owns the property at 505–507 East Hennepin
and razes the wood buildings that stand there. In their place, Gluek erects a two-story
brick building with two storefronts, hiring architects Boehme and Cordella to design what
will be a saloon. In time, the Union Bar will occupy both of these storefronts.18
By late November, Charles A. Swenson is operating the building at 507 East Hennepin
Avenue Northeast as a saloon.19
Established in 1903, the firm Boehme and Cordella designed number of saloons for
Gluek including buildings that still stand at 15 North Sixth Street (which continues to
Alan K. Lathrop, Minnesota Architects: A Biographical Dictionary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010),
Minnesota Secretary of State File number 14859-AA, March 7, 1898; Hennepin County Deeds Book 488, page
386 (recorded March 31, 1898).
“The Whirr of the Wheels,” Minneapolis Tribune, March 25, 1900.
Hennepin County Deeds Book 567, Page 278 (recorded December 24, 1903).
“Former Alderman Lane Is Stricken,” Minneapolis Journal, June 4, 1906.
Hennepin County Deeds Book 615, page 491 (recorded November 24, 1906); and “F. J. Hogan, 507 Central”
(advertisement), Minneapolis Tribune, March 30, 1906.
Minneapolis Building Permit No. B71545 (dated May 15, 1907); “Building Permits,” Minneapolis Tribune, May
19 1907; and Minneapolis Building Permit No. B74174 (dated November 12, 1907).
“Hold-up Men Foiled,” Minneapolis Tribune, November 25, 1907.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 3
carry the Gluek name), 219 Third Avenue North (now the Monte Carlo Club), 1500
South Sixth Street, and 915-815 Cedar Avenue (now The Joint). The firm also gained
prominence for its design of the Swan Turnblad mansion at 2600 Park Avenue South
(now the American Swedish Institute).20
In September, Charles A. Swenson applies for a liquor license at 505 East Hennepin,
apparently as an expansion of his saloon at the adjoining storefront.21
Mark Lane, acting for the Lane Company, sells the remainder of the heavily mortgaged
Lane holdings at Central Avenue to John D. Fagan.22
In February, thirty-one-year-old Frank Lane dies.23
In July, the Lane Company remodels the space at 509 Central Avenue Northeast with a
new storefront.24
By year’s end, another saloon appears at Fifth and Central Avenue Northeast. This one, at
501 East Hennepin, is owned by the Minneapolis Brewing Company. Meanwhile, the
saloon at 505 East Hennepin, still owned by Gluek Brewing Company, is operated under
the name of Olson and Aretander.25
County Attorney James Robertson reports that 159 of the city’s saloons are owned by
brewing firms such as the Minneapolis Brewing Company, Gluek Brewing Company,
and Schlitz. While operated by individual saloonkeepers, these are “tied houses” that
serve only the product of the brewery that controls them. Robertson’s list shows that it is
not difficult to get a drink on Central Avenue as at least fourteen saloons are located
there—from J. S. O’Keefe’s place at 3 Central to P. Ludwig’s establishment at 965
The Lane Company hardware store is still in business at 509 Central Avenue Northeast
when it is robbed by two armed young men.27
The Lane Company at 509 Central Avenue Northeast offers garden tools, seeds, and
“everything in the Garden Tool line at popular prices.”28
Penny Petersen and Charlene Roise, “The Joint and the Cabooze,” January 2005, prepared by Hess, Roise and
Company for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society.
“Official Publication,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 11 and 18, 1908.
Hennepin County Deeds Book 678, page 243 (recorded November 15, 1909).
Death Certificate for Frank S. Lane, February 18, 1911, Certificate Number 1911-MN-000111.
Minneapolis Building Permit No. B94013 (dated July 10, 1911).
“Building Work in 1911 Cost Over $13,000,000,” Minneapolis Tribune, December 10, 1911; “Fred Briggs’
Defense Enters Insanity Plea,” Minneapolis Tribune, November 8, 1911.
“Drink Shops Lined Up as Brewery Controlled,” Minneapolis Tribune, July 20, 1912.
“Walking Arsenals Caught,” Minneapolis Tribune, June 21, 1912; “Youthful Robber Dying; Owns Up to Other
Thefts,” Minneapolis Tribune, October 21, 1912.
“Garden Tools and Seeds” (advertisement), Minneapolis Tribune, April 11, 1913.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 4
By December, plans are afoot to straighten and extend Central Avenue to Division Street.
The extension will be renamed “East Hennepin.”29
The Lane Company hardware store is bankrupt and holds going-out-of-business sales. By
year’s end, it appears as if a different store with another name, “The Cash Hardware
Store,” is also holding going-out-of-business sales at 509 Central Avenue Northeast.30
On January 17, the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans the
manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol, goes into effect. During Prohibition
saloons cannot sell alcohol, although the sale of “near beer” (containing less than 0.5
percent alcohol by volume) is allowed. Saloons, such as those at 501 and 505–507 East
Hennepin, can no longer legally sell alcohol.31
The Western Importing Company at 509 Central Avenue Northeast suffers a fire. The
twenty-four families living upstairs make plans to leave, but the flames are contained
before they spread.32
By this year, the space at 509 Central Avenue Northeast is occupied by Western
Importing Company, importers of Swedish Hardware Specialties. The store is managed
by Bendix Skrutvold.33
Western Importing Company, still at 509 Central Avenue Northeast, expands its line to
include Swedish Steel Edge Tools, Tool Steel, and Scandinavian Cooking Utensils.
Harold Johnson Wicks is the manager.34
Western Importing Company remains at 509 Central Avenue Northeast.35
The city directory shows Gamble Stores, Inc. at 505 East Hennepin, the Empire Hotel at
505-1/2 East Hennepin, and the East Hennepin Cafe at 507; the storefront at 509 Central
is vacant.36
E. J. Fagan and D. S. Delvin pull a building permit worth $900 for remodeling and
repairs at 509–511 Central Avenue Northeast.37
“New Street Names Talked,” Minneapolis Tribune, December, 19, 1913; “Great Boulevard Prospects Opened,”
Minneapolis Tribune, April 12, 1914; “Ordinance Changing Central Avenue into East Hennepin Is Upheld by
Council Committee,” Minneapolis Tribune, January 12, 1916.
“Complete Closing Out of Hardware Stock” (advertisement), Minneapolis Tribune, May 3, 1919; “Finished!”
(advertisement), Minneapolis Tribune, December 24, 1919.
“Many Events on Program to Mark J. Barleycorn’s Demise,” Minneapolis Tribune, January 16, 1920. The article
noted that nationwide enforcement of Prohibition begins at 12:01 a.m. on January 17, 1920.
“Storekeeper Fires on Two Arsonists,” Minneapolis Tribune, November 25, 1920.
Davison’s Minneapolis City Directory 1923 (Minneapolis Directory Company, 1923), 2313.
Davison’s Minneapolis City Directory 1925 (Minneapolis Directory Company, 1925), 2372.
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Minnesota) City Directory, 1929 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis
Directory Company), 2443.
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Minnesota) City Directory, 1930 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis
Directory Company, 1930), 1767.
Minneapolis Building Permit No. A20504 (dated June 20, 1931).
A History of the Union Bar—Page 5
E. J. Fagan takes out a building permit worth $90 for alterations to the store at 513
Central Avenue Northeast.38
The storefront at 509 Central Avenue Northeast is now occupied by LaFrance Industries,
which apparently sells upholstery fabrics.39
In March, the manufacture and sale of beer and wine is made legal when President
Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Cullen-Harrison Act. By year’s end the Eighteenth
Amendment establishing Prohibition is repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment, and on
the national level alcohol becomes legal again.40
The space at 509 Central Avenue Northeast is still vacant, according to the city
In February, Henry Mitchlin, who operates the East Side Liquor Store now located at 509
Central Avenue Northeast, takes out a building permit worth $500 to alter the storefront
and add a partition. The architects for this project are Liebenberg and Kaplan.42
In April, the East Side Liquor Store, Inc. files articles of incorporation with the
Minnesota secretary of state. Its address is listed as 509 Central Avenue Northeast in
The East [Side] Liquor Company receives a permit for $200 worth of changes to the
storefront of 509 Central. The permit indicates that the company is the owner.44
In addition to the East Side Liquor Store, the city directory shows several businesses at
505 East Hennepin: Cole Combination Service Company, an oil business; Gamble Stores
Agency, a broker; and Gopher State Fuel. The Empire Hotel remains at 505-1/2. Charles
Olson operates a restaurant at 507 East Hennepin, which will soon offer beverages of an
alcoholic nature.45
By this time, the East Side Liquor Store has relocated to 429 East Hennepin, while the
East Side Sports Center, previously at 503 East Hennepin, moved into the 509 Central
Avenue Northeast space. East Side Sports offers “beverages” (alcohol), according to the
Minneapolis Building Permit No. A20857 (dated June 18, 1932).
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Minnesota) City Directory, 1932 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis
Directory Company), 1394.
“Bottling to Start Now,” New York Times, March 23, 1933; “Final Action at Capital,” New York Times, December
6, 1933.
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Minnesota) City Directory, 1933 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis
Directory Company, 1933), 1443.
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Minnesota) City Directory, 1934 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis
Directory Company, 1934), 335; Minneapolis Building Permit No. A21419 (dated February 2, 1934).
Minnesota Secretary of State File No. B-406 (April 30, 1935).
Minneapolis Building Permit No. A22216 (dated September 27, 1935).
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Minnesota) City Directory, 1935 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis
Directory Company, 1935), 1526.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 6
city directory. There is also a barbershop in part of the 509 Central Avenue Northeast
Owner E. J. Fagan takes out a building permit for $250 to make “minor repairs to [the]
store and apartment” at 511–513 Central Avenue Northeast.47
In August, E. J. Fagan takes out a building permit to make $1,800 worth of alterations to
the store at 509 Central Avenue Northeast. In October, he takes out another permit for
$1,000 to make alterations and repairs to the storefront at 509.48
The city directory shows the 501 Building at 501 East Hennepin houses the offices of
many local unions. Ideal Plumbing, Gopher State Fuel, and Sewell Manufacturing
(lightning rods) are at 505 East Hennepin, with the Empire Hotel on the upper floors at
505-1/2. Mrs. Sadie Collins has a restaurant at 507 East Hennepin, and she apparently
shares the space with Chris Olson, who sells “beverages.” Meanwhile, the East Side
Sports Center, operated by George Geankoplis and Anthony DeMuse, is at 509 Central
Avenue Northeast, and Leon V. Barnum has a barbershop at 509-1/2 Central Avenue
The upper floors of the 501 Building at 501 East Hennepin serve as offices for several
unions, such as the International Union of Electrical and Radio Machine Workers and the
United Mine Workers. Possibly, it is this association that inspires the name of the Union
Bar, which will soon be located nearby. Sewell Manufacturing Company, which makes
lightning rods, occupies the storefront at 505 East Hennepin; its neighbor at 507 is a
The Union Bar is now listed at 507 East Hennepin, and John J. Enright is the proprietor.
There are several electrical permits taken out for neon signs that suggest the space had
new use or ownership. There is one sign permit as well.50
La France Industries, a supplier of upholstery, occupies the storefront at 509 Central
Avenue Northeast.51
The Sanborn Insurance Map shows a hotel (Empire Sleeping Rooms, 505-1/2) on the
second floor of 505–507 East Hennepin and unnamed “shops” at 509–513 Central
Avenue Northeast.52
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Minnesota) City Directory, 1938 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis
Directory Company, 1938), 1681.
Minneapolis Building Permit No. A25304 (dated September 1, 1943).
Minneapolis Building Permits No. A26924 (dated August 9, 1946); No. A27021 (dated October 7, 1946).
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1946 (Saint Paul:
Minneapolis Directory Company, 1946), 1470, 345.
Minneapolis Electrical Permits No. F440432 (dated March 16, 1950); No. F447167 (dated August 8, 1950); No.
F457341 (dated January 26, 1951); Minneapolis Sign Permit No. H26995 (dated March 17, 1950).
Minneapolis Directory Company’s Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1950 (Saint Paul:
Minneapolis Directory Company, 1950), 1310, 1583. There is no city directory for 1949, so it is possible the Union
Bar was there before 1950.
Sanborn Insurance Map, 1912–1951, 754.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 7
In December, World Enterprises takes out a permit to make “miscellaneous alterations”
to the third floor of the building at 511 Central Avenue. Meanwhile, the Union Bar
remains at 507 Central Avenue Northeast and La France Industries at 509.53
The owner of the Poko Apartments takes out a building permit to repair fire damage at
511 Central Avenue Northeast.54
The Union Bar remains at 507 East Hennepin, and Mack Furniture is in the 509
storefront. A father and son, Joseph M. and Joseph L. Elsen, are now the proprietors of
the Union Bar.55
The Union Bar is at 507 East Hennepin, while the space at 509 Central Avenue Northeast
is occupied by the Minnesota Veterans of World War I, 5th District.56
Owner Carl Herman takes out a $500 building permit to erect a smoke enclosure between
the second and third floors at 511 Central Avenue Northeast, as ordered by the fire
In June, the Union Bar files as a domestic corporation with the Minnesota Secretary of
In July, Joseph M. Elsen, 76, dies. He is survived by his wife, Rose, son, Joseph L.,
daughter, Mrs. Gerald (Lil) Piper, and daughter-in-law, Mavis Elsen. Perhaps this event
precipitates the sale of the Union Bar about a year later.59
The Union Bar remains at 507 East Hennepin. The space at 505 East Hennepin is
occupied by the International Molders and Allied Workers Local Union 63 and the
storefront at 509 Central Avenue Northeast houses the Minnesota Veterans of World War
I, 5th District.60
Bernice E. Mus and her son Daniel F. Mus buy the Union Bar at 507 East Hennepin, later
described as “your average northeast Minneapolis blue-collar neighborhood bar.” The
pair has no experience in bar management.61
Minneapolis Building Permit No. B350249 (dated December 2, 1955); Minneapolis Directory Company’s
Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1955 (Saint Paul: Minneapolis Directory Company, 1955),
Minneapolis Building Permit No. B358135 (dated July 10, 1957).
Polk’s Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1960 (Saint Paul: R. L. Polk and Company, 1960),
193 (reverse section), 1527.
Polk’s Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1970 (Saint Paul: R. L. Polk and Company, 1970),
267 (reverse section).
Minneapolis Building Permit No. A39407 (dated March 22, 1972).
File No. H-162 (http://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us, accessed June 22, 2012).
“Obituaries and Funerals—Elsen,” Minneapolis Star, July 11, 1974.
Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1975 (Saint Paul: R. L. Polk and Company, 1975), 1180,
235 (reverse section).
Karin Winegar, “Union Bar’s Latest Pitch Is a Big Hit,” Minneapolis Star, October 27, 1978. Apparently, Bernice
and Daniel Mus were assigned the mortgage for the Union Bar in in 1975 (Document No. 4155859, Book 75,
recorded July 11, 1975). Oddly, Bernice Mus received a Warranty Deed from Joseph L. Elsen, Lillian Piper, Gerald
A History of the Union Bar—Page 8
In January, co-owner Bernice Mus takes out a $500 permit for the removal of an interior
partition at 505–507 East Hennepin. The Union Bar has begun to expand.62
By May or perhaps earlier, the Union Bar is offering live music. An advertisement in the
Minnesota Daily notes the West Bank Trackers will play May 5 through 9 from 9 p.m. to
1 a.m. By this time, the bar also has a “game emporium” for its customers.63
In June, the Explodo Boys appear at the Union Bar and Game Emporium Wednesday
through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.64
Charlie Campbell, who has been involved with the Minneapolis music scene since 1967,
recalled that the Union Bar had a great setup for music and a good sound system. There
was one large room with a stage, and on either side was a room with a bar. Among other
capacities, Campbell served as the musical director for the Cabooze and for a time was
the manager and booking agent for Lamont Cranston. Campbell recalled that about 1976,
Lamont Cranston started playing at the Union Bar. He also noted that the Cabooze, the
Tempo on Franklin Avenue, and the Union Bar were part of a regular circuit for many
local bands.65
Harmonica player Pat Hayes, an original member of the Lamont Cranston band, recalls
that the Union Bar was the first real competition for the Cabooze, which had opened a
few years earlier. Hayes remembers that “you could play the blues at those places [the
Union and Cabooze]; otherwise it was Top Forty music only.”66
The city directory suggests more changes at the Union Bar. It is still listed at 507 East
Hennepin, but now 505 East Hennepin is called the Union Bar Dining Room. The
organization representing World War I veterans remains at 509 Central Avenue
In June, the Union Bar presents the Mystics (June 1–4); the Explodo Boys (June 8–11);
and Danny’s Reasons (June 15–18).68
During the first half of July, the Union Bar offers Herman Jones and the X-citiers,
Flamingo, George “Mojo” Buford, as well the “New Giant Game Room.” Later in the
month, Free & Easy and the Explodo Boys play, and one advertisement publicizes “WetShirt Contests Every Wednesday” with a $75 first prize. Buford, a native of Mississippi,
who plays blues harmonica, relocated to Chicago in 1952 at age twenty-three. In 1959, he
joined Muddy Waters’s band. In 1963, Buford had settled in Minneapolis, and this is
apparently where he received his nickname “Mojo,” “because concert goers at Mattie’s
Piper, and Mavis M. Elsen (Joseph’s wife) that was not recorded until March 7, 1989, at the Hennepin County
Property Records office.
Minneapolis Building Permit No. A41792 (dated January 27, 1976).
“Union Bar and Game Emporium” (advertisement), Minnesota Daily, May 5, 1976.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Minnesota Daily, June 3, 1976.
Telephone interview with Charlie Campbell, conducted by Penny Petersen on July 23, 2012.
Telephone interview with Pat Hayes, conducted by Penny Petersen on July 27, 2012.
Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1977 (Saint Paul: R. L. Polk and Company, 1977), 231
(reverse section).
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Minnesota Daily, June 3, 1977.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 9
Barbeque on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis constantly requested that his new band play
‘Got My Mojo Working.’ ”69
During August, Whiskey River, Gypsy, and Lamont Cranston perform at the Union
In December, the Union Bar presents Gypsy, Willy and the Bees, and the Mission Mt.
Wood Band.71
The city directory shows another expansion of the Union Bar. It occupies 505 and 507
East Hennepin, and the Union Bar Game Room is located at 509 Central Avenue
Northeast. Mrs. “Beatrice” [Bernice] Mus manages the Empire Sleeping Rooms upstairs
at 505-1/2.72
An advertisement for the Union Bar appears in the Minnesota Daily, noting that Whiskey
River, Gypsy, and Lamont Cranston will perform during the month of August.73
A newspaper article recounts the transformation of the bar to a venue for live music,
because “without bands, the Union Bar wasn’t exactly setting attendance records.” At
some point, “Dan Mus let a friend hold a softball team benefit dance in the bar; the
celebration packed the house with jocks, dancers and the curious. The next day, the
partners scurried downtown to apply for an entertainment license.” The Union has two
distinct sets of customers. It “remains the province of the bowling-jacket set from 8 a.m.
until midevening,” then it “turns up the volume after dark and the clientele becomes
younger, louder and decidedly boisterous.” One customer explains: “ ‘The Union Bar is a
good place to hear music for people who don’t analyze things.’ ” A reporter calls the bar
a “three-room establishment” with “all the swank of plastic, beer-company chandeliers,
and at night the air is horrendously close and smoky. The congestion between the stage,
the bar and the tables is bruising, and there is just enough space on the dance floor to
wiggle in place.” The game room, equipped with pinball, foosball, and video-game
machines, has a tin ceiling, and the entire bar has a capacity of 600 people, although
sometimes it seems to hold more. The newspaper reporter notes that a variety of
performers, ranging from national celebrities to local musicians, have performed at the
Union Bar. Bonnie Raitt and Gary Busey dropped in to play there after their advertised
shows elsewhere. Others, such as country-rock bands Daisy Dillman, Gypsy, Lamont
Cranston, City Mouse, and Whiskey River, or Shangoya, a local reggae group, and the
West Bank blue-jazz-rock band, Willie and the Bees, regularly appear at the Union Bar.74
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Minnesota Daily, July 6 and 15, 1977; “Mojo Buford,” Twin Cities Funk and Soul,
September 25, 2012, 4.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Minnesota Daily, August 11, 1978.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Minnesota Daily, December 2, 1977.
Minneapolis (Hennepin County, Minn.) City Directory, 1978 (Saint Paul: R. L. Polk and Company, 1978), 229
(reverse section).
“The Union Bar Presents” (advertisement), Minnesota Daily, August 11, 1978.
Winegar, “Union Bar’s Latest Pitch Is a Big Hit.”
A History of the Union Bar—Page 10
The Union Bar is recalled by one reporter as one of the serious competitors of the
Cabooze Bar on the West Bank.75
On January 20, Big Walter “Shakey” Horton plays at the Union Bar and is recorded live.
One source describes his blues harmonica performance as “blowing with inventiveness
that only he possessed and mumbling his way through the vocals in his own inimitable
Dan Emerson, self-described as having “Rainman-like, musical geek recall for this trivia
stuff,” recounted that in the summer of 1979, “James Brown (with entourage) showed up
[at the Union Bar] and sat in on organ with Lonnie Brooks.” Brown was in town to play
the Carlton Celebrity Room.77
In August, an advertisement for the Union Bar appears in the very first issue of Sweet
Potato, a monthly arts and entertainment newspaper. The ad lists the variety performers
and musical styles scheduled for the month: Short Stuff, “The Wisconsin Boogie Kings”;
Downchild Blues, “Canada’s Most Popular Blues Band”; Daisy Dillman, “The Midwest’s
Most Popular Group”; Eddie Harris, “an All-time Jazz Great on Saxophone”; Albert
Collins, “The Boss of Blue’s Guitar”; Salt Creek, “Goodtime Country/Rock”; and Willie
and the Bees, “Twin Cities’ Legends.”78
In September, an advertisement lists artists that will perform at the Union Bar over the
course of the month including Vassar Clements, “the King of Fiddlers”; Papa John
Creach, “formerly with the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna”; John Lee Hooker, “The
Greatest Living Delta Bluesman”; and Marshall Chapman, “The Rock and Roll, Rave
Epic Recording Artist.”79
On September 25 and 26, Hank Williams Jr. plays at the Union Bar. Reviewer Deborah
Miller writes, “His best song of the night was his current chart hit, ‘Family Tradition,’ a
song that gives the title as an excuse for his hard-drinking, hard-living habits. It’s a song
that steals a bit, lyrically, from Waylon Jennings’ outlaw stance, just as it takes his
chirping guitar patterns.” Miller opined, “When Williams stayed close to a humping,
gritty country style, when he was raising a foamy beer to the wanderers and good ole
boys, he seemed in inherited territory he could finally claim as his own.” She thought
Williams was weaker when “he tried to weave some blustery blues into the country
Performers in October include the Guy Clark Band, “Honky Tonk Rock”; Mercury
Recording artist Carolyne Mas; Mose Allison, “America’s Foremost Jazz Blues Fusion
R. T. Rybak, “Cabooze Returning to Original Success Formula,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 6, 1986.
Big Walter Horton Live Blues website,
(http://h33t.com/details.php?id=c2c008246e394964756c668b94ffeb8ab56719a9; accessed July 10, 2012).
E-mail from Dan Emerson to Penny Petersen, dated July 23, 2012.
“The Union” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, August 1979.
“The Union” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, September 1979.
Deborah Miller, “Bars Serve Up Blues, Country Tunes,” Minneapolis Star, September 26, 1979.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 11
Artist”; Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, “The Real Sultan of Swing—The Midnight
Cowboy”; and Carl Perkins, “The Founding Father of Rockabilly.”81
In a subsequent interview, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, “guitarist, drummer, harmonica
player, bassist, fiddler, songwriter and arranger extraordinaire” explained, “I don’t like to
play one thing. I can’t stand to play one style of music—I just can’t man.” The writer
calls Brown “one of America’s grand national resources, a living compendium of
American music from the heyday of jazz and swing in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s to the
contemporary threshold of ‘fusion music.’ ” Brown grew up playing Cajun music that he
learned from his musician father. Later, he fell under the guiding light of T-Bone Walker,
who was one of the pioneers of guitar amplification. In turn, Brown served as “an
inspiration to David Bromberg, Frank Zappa, Elvin Bishop and others.”82
On November 1, Asleep at the Wheel, an American country music band, along with
special guests, the Bees’ Knees Swing Band, gives a concert at the Union Bar.83
In December, a variety of musicians appear at the Union Bar including Freddy Fender,
“The King of Tex-Mex Music”; the Dallas Alice Cowboy Band; Marshall Chapman;
blues man Albert Collins and the Ice Breakers; Willie and the Bees; the Flying Burrito
Bros; and Shangoya. Mid-month is the “Super Jam ’79” that features “the Twin Cities
Finest Musicians” playing a benefit for Eddie Lovejoy, a local guitarist.84
At the Union Bar, the year starts off with local bluesman Big Walter Smith and the
Crossroads. Some others who perform in January were the Lynwood Slim Blues Band,
Billy Joe Shavers (“Outlaw Country at its best”), Dallas Alice Cowboy Band, Big Walter
Horton (a blues harmonica player who helped define the Chicago amplified style),
Marcia Ball (“The Swan of Texas Swing”), Both Barrels Band, and Lamont Cranston.85
Later in January, Paul Butterfield, “the distinguished blues harmonica who is best known
for his great blues band of the 1960s,” and Rick Danko, who also played in the Paul
Butterfield Blues Band, perform at the Union Bar. One reviewer notes, “Though
viciously cold outside, the interior of the Union Bar was practically steamy Tuesday night
as a band consisting of Rick Danko, Paul Butterfield and friends played an opening set
before a more-than-capacity crowd.” In a performance he called “the emotional center of
the 60-minute set,” the reviewer noted that Danko sang ‘Stage Fright,’ with wailing
harmonica backing from Butterfield, in addition to ‘Unfaithful Servant.’ ” This was
followed “without pause by Butterfield’s beautiful solo treatment of the tune on
Jon Bream notes that “Johnny Rodriguez, the handsome young rhinestone cowboy, is a
popular country music attraction, best known for such hits as ‘Pass Me By,’ ‘You Can
“The Union” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, October 1979.
Martin Keller, “The Gift and Grit of America’s Musical Melting Pot Gatemouth Brown,” Sweet Potato, December
“The Union” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, October 1979.
“The Union” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, December 1979.
“The Union” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, January 1980.
Preview/Top of the Week—Nightlife,” Minneapolis Star, January 18, 1980; Michael Anthony, “Danko,
Butterfield et al Use Blues to Steam up Cold Winter Nights,” Minneapolis Tribune, January 24, 1980.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 12
Always Come Back,’ and ‘What Will I Tell Virginia,’ ” will appear at the Union Bar and
asks, “How will he fare in the more intimate confines of a rowdy bar?”87
In February, the Union Bar offers a variety of music and performers including the FTroup, Inside Straight, Marshall Chapman, and Daisy Dillman. Willie and the Bees
appear twice. The Fenton Robinson blues band plays for a Valentine’s Day party. Folk
singer Steve Goodman gives a concert on February 20, and “blues legends” Sonny Terry
and Brownie McGhee and perform late in the month. There is square dancing every
Monday night with Mad Jack and the Black Label Boys.88
In March, the lineup at the Union Bar offers more country music with appearances by
Billy Joe Shaver and the Honky Tonk Heroes, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Bobby
Bare and Lacy J. Dalton. Mad Jack and the Black Label Boys still provide music for
Square Dance Mondays. The blues, however, are not entirely neglected as the Lynwood
Slim Blues Band, Lamont Cranston, Willie and the Bees, and the Jimmy Johnson Blues
Band perform too.89
During April and May, several performers with national reputations play at the Union
Bar: Big Walter Horton, Maria Muldaur, John Lee Hooker, Ben Sidran, Son Seals, and
Albert Collins.90
In July, music critic Martin Keller notes that “when all else fails, blues records remain
reliable. There is no need to dwell on how feeling lowdown can feel so good when set
inside a moaning harp, a Texas shuffle, or a good set of Chicago blues licks.” However,
many blues players do their best in a bar setting, which may explain the appeal of places
like the Union Bar. “Journalists like to call many blues combos ‘bar bands,’ simply
because most of them don’t fare as well on a concert stage. Nor do they usually find work
on concert stages. And on record, the smoky grit and drunk-sliding feeling sometimes
gets trimmed off in clock punching studios.”91
In August, Martin Keller (using his pen name, Martian Colour) observes that “the Union
Bar, becoming more and more the home of the blues in Mill City, played host to the
event [a fund-raiser for a memorial for the late Dick Perna, the Lamont Cranston sax
player] that saw a gaggle of old friends, familiar music makers,” including Willie
Murphy and his Bumblebees, Doug Maynard’s band Inside Straight, and Larry Hayes’s
Tonearms. A few weeks later, after Lamont Cranston finished its set, “Bonnie Raitt hit
the stage, sending an already overheated crowd into a sweaty tizzy.” On July 24, “ ‘it
looked like a blues summit’ were the sentiments intimated by those attending Chicago
blue harper Walter Horton’s open at the Union Bar.” In addition to Horton, “Smokey
Smothers, a blues guitarist just recently out of retirement and the recent cover story of the
Jon Bream, “Nightlife,” Minneapolis Star, January 18, 1980.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, February 1980.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, March 1980.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, April 1980 and May 1980.
Martin Keller, “Summer Bluesbreakers,” Sweet Potato, July 1980.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 13
latest Living Blue Magazine,” Lynwood Slim’s Blues Band, Baby Doo Caston, and Lazy
Bill Lucas appeared the same night.92
In August, a variety of artists appear at the Union Bar: Mary Jane Alm, Rockin’
Hollywoods, Marcia Ball, Lonnie Brooks, Behringer, City Mouse, Muddy Waters with
Willie and the Bees, d’Gadband, Metro All Stars, and Whitesidewalls.93
In October, an advertisement announces the upcoming musical lineup for the Union Bar:
Willie and the Bees, Papa John Creach, Better Day Blues Band, Maria Muldaur, Sussman
Lawrence, Behringer, and the Carey Bell Blues Band.94
A reviewer notes that Maria Muldaur “put on a rousing show at the Union Bar Tuesday
night, performing a set that ranged from jazz ballads to gospel to rock and roll.” One
reviewer noted that Muldaur, “without a record label and her career at a low point, is
‘playing the bar circuit.’ And it could be argued that Muldaur’s light-textured seductivesounding soprano, while so effective in jazz materials, fit into neither the blues-rock
mode nor the kind of raucous rock clubs (like the Union Bar) that she is playing these
days.” However, “she does rock and roll tunes and R&B numbers like the first set’s
‘That’s the Way Love Is’ in her own distinctive way but with a surprising toughness and
During January, the Legendary Blues Band, formerly the backup band for Muddy
Waters, the Doug Maynard Band, Mary Jane Alm Band, Better Days Blues Band, and the
Flamin’ Oh’s play the Union Bar.96
That same month, guitarist Roy Buchanan appears at the Union Bar. Writing a preview,
Jon Bream notes, “Nearly a dozen years after he turned down offers to join the Rolling
Stones, Buchanan’s success and popularity are finally catching up with his reputation.
His ninth and latest album, ‘My Babe’ is getting more radio play than any of his other
records.” In 1971, Rolling Stone magazine named him the world’s greatest guitarist.
Another reviewer, Dan Emerson, conducts an interview with Buchanan in the Union
Bar’s basement dressing room. Buchanan explains his passion: “I’ve tried to quit before;
I about lost my mind. I had no choice but to play. It is how I express myself.” A native of
Arkansas, Buchanan first encountered the blues when his preacher father held revivals
“about once a month, which meant that black churches and the white churches would get
together. That’s the first time that I heard the blues because if you’ll listen to black gospel
music, you’ll hear that’s definitely where the blues comes from.” Buchanan, who calls
himself the first white bluesman, began going on the road with the Johnny Otis Show in
the mid-1950s.97
Martian Colour, “Martian’s Chronicles,” Sweet Potato, August 1980.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, August 1980.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, October 29, 1980.
Michael Anthony, “Muldaur Offers Rousing Show at Union Bar,” Minneapolis Tribune, November 6, 1980.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, January 7, 1981.
Jon Bream, “Legend in Guitar,” Minneapolis Star, January 9, 1981; Dan Emerson, “Roy Buchanan Finds a
Groove,” Sweet Potato, January 21, 1981.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 14
On March 5–8, Albert Collins and the Icebreakers appear at the Union Bar and are
recorded live for Alligator Records. Other artists such as Doug Maynard, Ben Sidran,
Richie Cole, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, John Kay with Steppenwolf, and John
Bayley also perform at the Union Bar during the month.98
In late April and into May, the Union Bar features such performers as the Bees Knees, the
Mary Jane Alm Band, Albert Collins, Doug Maynard, and Koko Taylor. Music critic
Martin Keller observes, “Koko Taylor is part of a long line of blues queens that extends
from Lulu Jackson and Memphis Minnie up through Big Mama Thornton, Victoria
Spivey and Janis Joplin. The fabulous Alberta Hunter may have many more stylish years
of classy jazz behind her than does Koko, but for sheer get-down-low-and-party-hearty
fierceness, nobody alive today comes close to Koko Taylor. Her trademark intensity and
deep-throated vocal growl just last year earned her the Memphis-based Blues Foundation
award for Best (contemporary) Female Blues Singer.” Taylor, a native of Tennessee,
moved to Chicago at age eighteen and soon began singing in Chicago blues clubs. She
said she was “discovered” by Willie Dixon and in time recorded “Wang Dang Doodle,” a
song that Dixon had written for Howlin’ Wolf, which became one of her big hits.99
On May 19 and 20, Muddy Waters plays at the Union Bar. Born as McKinley
Morganfield in 1915 on the Mississippi Delta, Waters began playing music as a small
boy. As a young man he absorbed influences of Robert Johnson, Son House, Memphis
Minnie, Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. In the 1940s, he
moved to Chicago, where he “played a key role in the development of electric blues and
rock-and-roll and was the greatest contemporary exponent of the influential Mississippi
Delta blues style.”100
In June, featured artists at the Union include Inside Straight, with “the biggest horn
section in town”; Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows, “’50’s and ’60’s Rock and Roll”;
5th Ave. Band; Steve Vaughan (better known as Stevie Ray Vaughan), “Rock ’em, Sock
’em hard drinking Rhythm and Blues”; and the Red Willow Band. In a review of a
previous performance, Martin Keller interviewed Marley Foreman, the bass player for the
Red Willow Band, based in Sioux Falls, who “exudes an unassuming confidence when
talking about the trendy cowboy fad sweeping through both fashion and music these
days.” Foreman states his band will “just keep playing like we always did before this
whole thing started.” Keller writes that when the band performed at the Union Bar in
November 1980, Red Willow was “potently mixing enough styles to wear your boot
heels out in a single set. Gospel, bluegrass, waltzes, folk rock, jazz, country and western
swing rise from the stage like a good soufflé.”101
http://www.alligator.com/albums/Frozen-Alive, accessed June 7, 2012; “Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet
Potato, March 4, 1981, and March 18, 1981.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, April 29, 198; Martin Keller, “Koko Taylor’s Hard Blues,” Sweet
Potato, April 29, 1981.
Muddy Waters website (http://www.muddywaters.com/1981.html, accessed June 11, 2012); Robert Palmer,
“Muddy Waters, Blues Performer, Dies,” New York Times, May 1, 1983.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, June 24, 1981; Martin Keller, “Hot Red Willow,” Sweet Potato,
November 26, 1980.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 15
Union Bar regular Dan Emerson recalled that on June 30 and July 1, Stevie Ray Vaughan
played his first gig in Minneapolis at the Union Bar to “tiny crowds,” as this was before
Vaughan became well known. Tony Glover’s review pronounces that “there’s no doubt
that Vaughan is a damn accomplished technician, the cat’s got soul and uses it. He
worked as hard for a handful of people as he would’ve to a sold-out house—he’s a
musician, not a star.” Glover predicts that Vaughan will have huge audiences in the
Pat Hayes remembers seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan in Washington, D.C., a few months
before he appeared at the Union Bar and thought he was going to be a notable musician.
Hayes recalls asking Vaughan to play on Lamont Cranston’s Shakedown album (released
in 1981). Vaughan agreed, but Hayes never followed up on the offer and claims “this was
the biggest mistake of my life.”103
In July, a variety of musicians perform at the Union Bar: Wet Behind the Ears,
“Wisconsin’s best rockin’ Country Western”; the McCabe Bingham Band, “Hometown
Blues”; the Michael James Band; Gypsy; Johnny Rey and the Reaction; and Mercury
Recording artists the Nighthawks.104
In August, “Gatemouth” Brown, Brian Auger and Search Party, Sussman Lawrence, and
the Son Seals Blues Band play the Union Bar. Late in the month, the Union hosts the
Chicago Blues Festival, which features Big Walter Horton, the Jimmy “Fast Fingers”
Dawkins Blues Band, Johnny “Big Moose” Walker, Smokey Smothers and Barrels, and
Lazy Bill Lucas. Square dancing is still offered on Mondays.105
In mid-September, Texas blues guitarist Albert Collins performs at the Union Bar. The
New York Times will later note that Collins “made his reputation by combing savage,
unpredictable improvisations with immediately identifiable tone, cold and pure. His
shows were often wild rides, intense performances that burst with his almost endless
imagination. He was a master of ecstatic moment, and made use of his imagination,
volume of playing, and his chilly sound.” Collins’s career took off in 1968 “after a series
of albums on the Imperial label that finally captured his sound and improvisational
Other artists appear at the Union during the same month, such as the Mary Jane Alm
Band, Lamont Cranston, Wet Behind the Ears, the Doug Maynard Band, Big Walter
Smith, 5th Avenue Band, Meridian, and the Red Willow Band. Mondays at the Union
still feature square dancing, and the Second Annual KFAI Fresh Air Blues Fest is held
September 30.107
E-mail from Dan Emerson to Penny Petersen, dated July 23, 2012; Tony Glover, “Stevie Vaughan” (review),
Sweet Potato, July 8, 1981.
Hayes interview.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, July 22, 1981.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, August 5 and 27, 1981.
Mike Steele, “What’s Doing,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 13, 1981; Peter Watrous, “Albert Collins,
Guitarist, Dies; Influential Blues Stylist Was 61,” New York Times, November 25, 1993.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, September 3, 1981, and September 10, 1981.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 16
In October, artists such as John Kay and Steppenwolf, Big Twist and the Mellow
Fellows, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Michael James Band, the Nighthawks, the
Booze Brothers, Rod Piazza (“West Coast Master of the Blues Harp, Jump Blues, Boogie
Woogie, and Blues Ballads”), and Sussman Lawrence perform at the Union. At month’s
end, Exuma the Obeah Man performs for the first annual New Orleans Rockin’ Rhythm
Fest. Exuma, a Bahamian, was born Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey.108
In November, in addition to the usual Monday night square dancing, the Beatles Forever,
“Gatemouth” Brown, the Greg Brown Band, Lonnie Brooks (“from the Cajun swamps to
downtown Chicago—smokestack lightning all the way”), and Son Seals Blues Band all
perform at the Union.109
On December 3, Muddy Waters performs for one night at the Union Bar. Muddy Waters
is considered by many to be the “father of modern Chicago Blues.”110
Other December performances at the Union Bar include the Dillman Band, Proper
English, Will Sumner and Tropic Zone, Doug Maynard and the T. C. Jammers, Johnny
Rey and the Reaction, the Suburbs, Lamont Cranston, Metro All Stars, and Mary Jane
Alm. A.C.R.A. presents crab racing (“America’s #2 indoor sport!”) on Wednesdays.111
About this time, Paul Metsa and his group Cats Under the Stars begin to perform at the
Union Bar during the week. Metsa recalls that “on the weekend it had acts like Albert
Collins, Lonnie Brooks, Gregg Allman and had featured Stevie Ray Vaughn in his first
Minneapolis show.”112
In March, Albert Collins and his band, the Ice Breakers, return to the Union Bar. That
same month other performers include Cats Under the Stars (a “5-piece electric Dance
Band”), Crash St. Kids, the Doug Maynard Band, plus Willie and the Bees and the
Flamin’ Oh’s.113
In early June, an advertisement for the Union Bar notes the upcoming artists who will
appear: Shangoya, Son Seals (the Alligator recording artist who plays electric guitar and
sings), Big Boy, Lynwood Slim, Madison Band Riders on the Storm (playing tribute to
the Doors), Mary Jane Alm, Sussman Lawrence, and Albert Collins.114
Late in June, Clifton J. Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band plays at the Union Bar.
Reviewer Jon Bream reports, “Chenier is the king of zydeco, a Louisiana stew of rhythm
and blues, rock and roll, blues and Cajun music. As Chenier says, ‘If you can’t dance to
this music, you can’t dance period.’ ” Bream explains, “Zydeco is a byproduct of the
French and black Cajun cultures of Louisiana. Its roots reach back a couple hundred
years, but it was Chenier, now 57, who was responsible for expanding this simple
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, October 1, 1981, and October 15, 1981.
“Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato, November 12, 1981.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, December 3, 1981; “Union Bar” (advertisement), Sweet Potato,
November 19, 1981.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, December 3, 1981, and December 10, 1981.
Paul Metsa, Blue Guitar Highway (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 35.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, March 11, 1982.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, June 3, 1982.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 17
acoustic sound in the 1950s; the former R&B star introduced a rhythm section (drums
and bass), horns and a piano accordion (as opposed to a traditional squeeze-box type).”115
In July and August, Riders on the Storm, Cats Under the Stars, Willie and the Bees, Les
Rue, Flyin Ace, Johnny Rey and the Reaction, the Doug Maynard Band, Mudsharks,
Inside Straight, Jimmy Rogers and Hip Linkchain, Lynwood Slim, Sticky Fingers,
Whiskey River, Papa John Creach, the Surf Boys, and the Dillman Band play at the
Union Bar.116
In September, the Union Bar plays host to the Cats Under the Stars’ record release party.
It is also the venue for a reunion party of the original members of the Crazy Legs band
with special guests Dave Snaker Ray and the Kingsnakes.117
During October, the Union Bar is the venue for the “Second Annual New Orleans
Rockin’ Rhythm Fest,” featuring The Radiators.118
In November and December, the Union Bar offers a broad range of music, including Jan
Berry with the Aloha Band, described as “formerly of Jan and Dean fame”; patrons
receive a dollar off the cover charge if they are dressed in surfing clothes or free
admission if wearing a bikini. Duke Tumatoe and the All-Star Frogs, the Doug Maynard
Band, and Lynwood Slim provide rhythm and blues. Queen Ida and the Bon Temps
Zydeco Band play Cajun music in a benefit for the Coffee House Extempore.119
Early in the year, the Union Bar features Cats Under the Stars, Both Barrels Band,
Sussman Lawrence, and Duke Tumatoe and the All-Star Frogs.120
In March, performers at the Union include Mary Jane Alm, Juke Jumpers (“from Texas”),
New T. C. Jammers, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, blues singer Koko Taylor, Queen Ida
and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band, Lynwood Slim, the Blues Shadows, Cats Under the
Stars, and Willie and the Bees.121
Pat Hayes recalls that he put together the Blue Shadows band with other members of
Lamont Cranston to serve as an opening act for Paul Butterfield at the Union Bar. Hayes
called Butterfield a great influence on his music. He was delighted to meet Butterfield at
the Union and thrilled when Butterfield said he thought Hayes was good.122
In April and May, the Union Bar offers Paul Cebar and the R & B Cadets, Albert Collins
and the Icebreakers, and a tribute to Muddy Waters “featuring local blues players.”
Muddy Waters died April 30, 1983.123
Jon Bream, “Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band Slips on Material but Not on Quality,” Minneapolis Star and
Tribune, June 24, 1982.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, July 1, 1982, and August 5, 1982.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, September 16, 1982.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, October 20, 1982.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, November 17, 1982, and December 1, 1982.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, January 26, 1983.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, March 2 and 23, 1983.
Hayes interview.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, April 6 and 27, 1983, and May 18, 1983.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 18
During the summer, the Union Bar features Clifton Chenier and “his Red Hot Louisiana
Band,” Shangoya, the Michael James Band, and the Phones.124
August at the Union Bar sees “the last two shows at the Union” of the Lamont Cranston
farewell tour as well as Both Barrels Band, Johnny Rey, Limited Warranty, the Blue
Shadows, Commander Cody, Rue Nouveau, Doug Maynard, and the Wallets.125
On September 4, the Union Bar holds the Third Annual Chicago Blues Festival. The
Legendary Blues Band, formerly Muddy Waters Band, is the featured act. This band is
composed of Chicago bluesmen Smokey Smothers (guitar, vocals), Sunnyland Slim
(piano), and Eddie Taylor (guitar, vocals). The Checkers and the Kingsnakes, another
Chicago blues group, perform as well.126
That same month, Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band return for two nights at
the Union Bar.127
In January and February, the “newly remodeled” Union offers such acts as Michael
James, Willie and the Bees, Daisy Dillman, B. B. Spin, Limited Warranty, Jumpstreet,
Albert Collins, and Steel Cats.128
During March and April, performers include Willie and the Bees, Rue Nouveau, Nitro
Brothers, Metro All Stars, Blue Shadows, the Michael James Band, and T. C. Jammers.129
In May, Duke Tumatoe returns to the Union Bar.130
In October, Cats Under the Stars, led by Paul Metsa, performs “one last big gig, the Last
Meow, at the Union Bar. The place was packed tighter than a carton of Marlboro reds,”
Metsa later recalled.131
On December 19, Paul Metsa debuts his new record, “Paper Tigers,” and new band, the
Paul Metsa Group, at the Union Bar. During this period, Metsa describes the Union Bar
as the band’s “most regular venue,” and the crowd as “an amusing amalgam of
characters.” He recalled that “the college kids would arrive first, putting off another
night of study. The night would slowly build with couples enjoying a night on the town,
working folk, as this bar was home base for many of them, bikers, and old and new
friends and fans, creating an amiable and courteous blend of humanity, all of whom were
out for a good time.”132
At the start of the year, the Union Bar advertisements not only list the performers who
will appear in January, such as Breathless, the Sweaters, King’s English, Slave Raider,
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, June 8, 1983, and July 13 and 27, 1983.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, August 3 and 31, 1983.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, August 31, 1983.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, September 21, 1983.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Twin Cities Reader, January 4, 1984, and February 8 and 29, 1984.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Twin Cities Reader, February 29, 1984, and April 14 and 25, 1984.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), Twin Cities Reader, April 25, 1984.
Metsa, Blue Guitar Highway, 62.
Ibid., 62–63.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 19
Pinch Band, the Phones, and the Michael James Band, but invites patrons to “catch all the
North Star Action on Spectrum Sports” at the bar.133
In February, writer Jeff Pike notes that while the “Minneapolis sound” is featured in the
national press and “it looks like the Twin Cities have finally become established as the
latest genuine music capital,” he detects troubling trends in the local live music venues,
“perhaps the surest barometer of what keeps any booming music scene fresh.” He
observes, “The past year has seen Duffy’s close its doors to live music and reopen as
Norma Jean’s, a purveyor of videos and dance music that spins from turntables.” Pike
lists a range of problems faced by nightclubs, such as the impending change of the legal
drinking age from 19 to 21, stricter dram shop laws resulting in rising insurance costs,
“an abundance of TV screens playing rock videos,” as well as musician Paul Metsa’s
assessment that “bars do not charge enough, which means there’s too much free music
available.” Despite his gloomy assessment, Pike notes that some “venues such as the
Cabooze, the Union Bar, Mr. Nibs, Ryan’s Corner” have established “a commitment to
local rockers.”134
In March, the Paul Metsa Group, Flamin’ Oh’s, Metro All Stars, the Talk, Shangoya,
Edgar Winter, Obsession, Slave Raider, and Breathless are among the musicians who
play at the Union Bar.135
During May, the Union Bar is the venue for a Doug Maynard Band reunion that includes
musicians Ricky Peterson, Bobby Vandell, Dick Hedlund, Jim Behringer, Oliver Lieber,
and Steve Raitt. Paul Metsa, Breathless, Beatles Forever, Sister Max, and the Flamin’
Oh’s also appear at the bar.136
In late June and early July, Obsession, Albert Collins, the Metro All Stars, and Zig-Zag
are among the artists who perform at the Union Bar. An advertisement urges patrons to
“Catch all Twins Action on Spectrum TV,” as well.137
During July, the Union Bar offers Twins baseball games on Spectrum TV as well as
music including the Paul Metsa Group, the Bingham McCabe Band, Rue Nouveau, and
Flesh Fantasy, “a tribute to Billy Idol.”138
Late in August, the Metro All Stars, the 1985 Minnesota Music Award Winner for Best
Rock Band, performs at the Union Bar.139
In November, the Paul Metsa Group, regulars at the Union Bar, appears again. Other
groups such as Samoa, Don’t Ask, Ragg, Lynwood Slim, the Flamin’ Oh’s, Mary Jane
Alm, and the Metro All Stars perform as well.140
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, January 9 and 30, 1985.
Jeff Pike, “Trouble in Clubland,” City Pages, February 13, 1985.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, February 27, 1985.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, May 15, 1985.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, June 28, 1985.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, July 24, 1985.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, July 3, 1985, and August 21, 1985.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, November 20, 1985.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 20
During December, the Blondes, the Doctors, Westside, Jumpstreet, Dillinger, and Sister
Max play the Union Bar.141
In February, a variety of performers appear at the Union Bar: Westside, Babysitters,
Edgar Winter, Dillinger, Starwolf, Slave Raider, and the Phones. It also offers its patrons
“all Sporting Events on Satellite TV.”142
In June, the Union offers such acts as Obsession, the Paul Metsa Group, Score, Rue
Nouveau, Blue Canoe, and Shangoya. Prior to an appearance of the Blues Busters,
featuring Paul Barrere (Little Feat), Freebo (Bonnie Raitt Band), Catfish Hodge (Chicken
Legs), T Lavitz (the Dregs), and Larry Zack (Jackson Browne), rock critic Jon Bream
asks, “Do you miss those funk-rock fetes of Little Feats? Blues Busters may be as close
as we’ll come to those wonderful Feat. Guitarist-singer Paul Barrere, who played second
fiddle to the late Lowell George in Little Feat, leads the Los Angeles-based Blues
Busters.” A later account observes that “the Busters have played two steamy
engagements” at the Union Bar.143
In August, the Union Bar continues to offer sporting events via satellite TV as well as
Breathless, the Phones, the Oh’s, Obsession, Passion, Westside, Paul Metsa, and Slave
Raider. Late in the month, the Union features “Born American Night” to celebrate the
Twin Cities’ premiere of the movie of that name and gives away movie T-shirts, posters,
passes and music by Shout.144
In September, the Union offers an eclectic mix of music and other entertainment. Bands
such as Wen Bodin, Westside, Paul Metsa, Cats Under the Stars, and Blues Busters, as
well as a “Pro Wrestling Spectacular, The Russian Krusher and six man tag team on
Monday, September 15.”145
In October, such performers as Wen Bodin, Slave Raider, the Wallets, Dillman, T. C.
Jammers and Melanie Rosales with the Works, Blue Canoe, Banther, Metros, and
Westside play at the Union Bar. Pro wrestling is offered on October 20.146
During November, the Hoopsnakes, the Metros, and Ruby Star (“formerly of Black Oak
Arkansas”) perform at the Union Bar.147
In December, Lezlie Thriller, Hoopsnakes, the Metros, and Jorma Kaukonen play at the
Union Bar.148
On February 19, the Radiators, a band from New Orleans, performs at the Union Bar and
is recorded live. “At a Radiators show it is not uncommon to hear blues, R&B, jazz,
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, November 27, 1985.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, February 12, 1986.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, June 11, 1986; Jon Bream, “Night Life,” Minneapolis Star
Tribune, June 20, 1986; Jon Bream, “Popular Music,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 20, 1987.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, August 13 and 27, 1986.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, September 10, 1986.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, October 1, 1986.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, November 5, 1986.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, December 3, 1986.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 21
country, Zydeco, soul, swing, and even gospel filtering through their original New
Orleans Rock N’ Roll.”149
On May 14, the Radiators again perform at the Union Bar and the live performance is
On July 17 and 18, John Lee Hooker, “who taught a couple of generations of rock ’n’
rollers how to boogie, heats up the Union Bar tonight and Saturday.”151
In August, the Oh’s play at the Union in one of their final appearances. That same month,
the Bedrockers, Ipso Facto, Zebop, Blue Canoe, Doug Maynard, Jah Potato, the Wallets,
Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants, Tall (featuring Billy Alcorn), and the
Boogie Men perform as well.152
During September, Jumpstreet, Ipso Facto, Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants,
Rocking Horse, and Lamont Cranston and the Hoopsnakes play the Union Bar.153
In early October, several performers appear at the Union Bar: the Paul Metsa Group and
Bedrockers, Great Nation, Big Walter Smith, Rocking Horse, Gerard, and Stickmen.154
On October 18, Westside, which includes LaSalle Gabriel (guitar), David Gonzalez
(bass), Clayton Savage (lead vocals), Icee Schlieski (keyboards, vocals), Frankie Trejo
(keyboards, vocals), Junior Trejo (drums, vocals), and Ricardo Trejo (percussion),
performs at the Union Bar. The band is described as the “Minneapolis sound with Latin
rhythms and a more percussive feel.”155
In early November, the Bedrockers, a roll-and-roll group composed of Mark Asche
(keyboards and Buffalo guitar), Dan Flaherty (drums), Brian Gallagher (saxophone),
Jody Hanks (vocals), and Chris Lamers (bass), appears at the Union Bar. Jody Hanks
describes the band as “musical sponges. It’s hard to describe a band that plays Chuck
Berry and Led Zeppelin and mixes in originals. We’re just good-time rock ’n’ roll.”156
That same month, the Boogiemen, the Airto and Flora Purim Group with the Paul Metsa
Group, Blue Steel, Sampson Band, Cruise Control, Jah Potato, and the Bedrockers
perform at the Union Bar.157
The Radiators website (http://archive.org/details/rads1987-02-19, accessed June 29, 2012).
Jon Bream, “Night Life,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 17, 1987.
Jon Bream, “Fat Boys Rabbit-quick at Table Talk—Cult Figures Ready to Try Mainstream,” Minneapolis Star
Tribune, August 7, 1987; “The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, August 5 and 12, 1987.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, September 2, 1987; Jon Bream, “Hoopsnakes/Union Bar,”
Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 24, 1987.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, September 30, 1987.
Jon Bream, “Westside/The Iron Horse,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 8, 1987.
Jon Bream, “Bedrockers/Union Bar,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 5, 1987.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, November 11, 1987.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 22
In January, the Stickmen, the Boogiemen, Hoopsnakes, Commotion, Great Nation, the
Wallets, and Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants play the Union Bar.158
On February 11, the Union hosts the Speed Kings, formed in December 1987 and
composed of Mike Ashwood (keyboards), Dave Doll (drums), Rick Forte (bass), Greg
Herzenach (guitar), and Shane (vocals). Their sound was “ ‘the music we grew up with—
the mid-to-late ’70s hard-rock scene,’ said Shane. ‘We never want to play a song the
same way twice. We’re not doing things by rote.’ ”159
In March, Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants again play the Union Bar. Smith,
who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been singing for about twenty-five years and
opened for B. B. King, among others, while in Oklahoma. He arrived in Minneapolis in
1970 for what was to be a short stint, but stayed on. For the past few years he has played
with Groove Merchant, which includes Tate Ferguson on guitar, Keith French on
trombone, Bruce Heine on bass, Matt Jacobs on drums, Todd Matheson on trumpet, and
Steve Reichel on saxophone. Bandleader Matheson describes their music as “bluesoriented rhythm ’n’ blues: classics and a couple of originals.”160
On April 14, the Boogiemen, made up of Chuck Edwards (vocals, guitar), Don LaMarka
(keyboards), Dan Mangold (lead guitar, vocals), Paul Manske (bass, vocals), Larry
McDonald (saxophone), and Mike Sandell (drums, vocals), perform at the Union Bar. Jon
Bream observes, “Musically, the Boogiemen play the kind of R&B that most of them
played when they started gigging in bars in the mid-1970s.” Mangold says, “It’s black
music for white people,” or “R&B that fits in between vintage J. Geils Band and Hall &
Oates. It’s got to be recognizable to people and real danceable.”161
On June 5, the Radiators are back at the Union Bar and make another live recording
That same month, the Union Bar advertises upcoming appearances of Pretty Boy,
Boogiemen, Crow, J. T. Ripper, Rough Boys, and Bedrockers, as well as the “largest
game room in town [with] 14 pool tables.”163
During October, the newly formed Club Metro appears at the Union Bar. This group
includes Jaime Chez (drums), Brian Gallagher (saxophone), Jody Hanks (vocals), Don
LaMarka (keyboards), Dan Mangold (guitar), and John Peterson (bass). Mangold
formerly played with the Metro All Stars and the Boogiemen. A reviewer describes their
sound as barroom flair with radio finesse164
Crow appears at the Union Bar in early in November. Jon Bream recounts that the group
“dates back to the first generation of Twin Cities garage bands that scored national hits in
the 1960s. The Trashmen had ‘Surfin’ Bird,’ the Castaways had ‘Liar Liar’ and Crow had
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, January 20, 1988.
Jon Bream, “Speed Kings/Union Bar,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 11, 1988.
Jon Bream, “Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants/Union Bar,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 3, 1988.
Jon Bream, “The Boogiemen/Cheers on Sixth,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 31, 1988.
The Radiators website (http://archive.org/details/rads1988-06-05.flac16, accessed June 29, 2012).
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, June 15, 1988.
Jon Bream, “Club Metro/Fine Line Cafe,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 29, 1988.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 23
‘Evil Woman.’ The single, which peaked at No. 19 nationally, was featured on the band’s
1969 debut album for Amaret Records. Two more albums, Crow by Crow and Mosaic,
followed, with lesser hits including ‘Gone Gone Gone’ and ‘Cottage Cheese.’ A greatesthits collection was issued in late 1971, shortly before the band disintegrated. All the
records are out of print. Lead singer Dave Wagner, also known as Dave Wagoner, made a
solo LP, ‘DBA Crow,’ in ’73 for MGM Records. He then moved to northern Minnesota
and worked in a country-rock group called Jack Daniels. In 1980, he formed a new
version of Crow but bar owners didn’t take to the band’s repertoire of original material;
after a year and a concert LP, ‘Crow on the Run’ for Peak Records, Crow flew away.
Wagner hooked on with Whiskey River, a popular Twin Cities country-rock group, and
Crosscut, a variety band. Early this year, he decided to form a new band and the
musicians agreed to use the name Crow.”165
In December, the Union Bar is found to be among thirty bars that sold alcohol to minors
during a sting conducted during the summer. The Union receives a seven-day suspension
of its license, and the employees are required to attend alcohol-training sessions.166
In January, Tall Corn with Billy Alcorn (lead vocals, guitar, bass), Dan Lund (lead
guitar), Brad Matson (drums), and James Riley (bass, vocals, guitar), appears at the
Union Bar. Others advertisements note that Commotion, Melvin James, the Robert
Wilkinson Band, Tang, Maiden Voyage, Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants,
the Hoopsnakes, the Nerds, Molly and the Heymakers, Stickman, the Lynwood Slim
Band, and Club Metro are playing at the Union Bar.167
On January 29, the Radiators are at the Union Bar again and make a live recording of the
In early February, an advertisement announces that Pretty Boy, Stickman, Paul Metsa,
Ipso Facto, the Woodpeckers, Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants, and
Hoopsnakes will play at the Union Bar. It also boasts of the “largest game room in town”
with fourteen pool tables.169
In late February, with only a few days’ notice, the Union Bar announces in one of its
regular advertisements that it is closing: “The Union Bar has been sold. The last day of
business will be Saturday, Feb. 25th. Thank you for your patronage.” The Paul Metsa
Group, Big Walter Smith and the New Groove Merchants, and the Speed Kings are the
last three groups that perform there. Jon Bream reports that “the Union Bar, long a
Minneapolis bastion for rock and blues, has been sold. Look possibly for a Christian rock
format at the ‘New Union.’ ”170
Jon Bream, “Crow/Archies in Somerset, Wis.,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 6, 1988.
“Melville’s License Denial Is Final,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, December 17, 1988.
Jon Bream, “Tall Corn/Five Corners Saloon,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 19, 1989; “The Union Bar”
(advertisement), City Pages, January 4, 1989, and January 18, 1989.
The Radiators website (http://archive.org/details/rad1989-01-29.flac16; accessed June 29, 2012).
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, February 8, 1989.
“The Union Bar” (advertisement), City Pages, February 22, 1989; Jon Bream, “Grammy Awards This Year Wore
a Happy Face,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 24, 1989.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 24
In March, Jon Bream notes, “Last weekend, music lovers lost two of Minneapolis’ more
spacious bars featuring live music—the Union Bar, long a bastion of rock and blues, was
sold, and Nibs, which has been home to country, rock and most recently heavy-metal,
was destroyed by fire. Both were well-run joints with decent owners; the bars will be
missed by musician and music lovers alike. There has been talk of Nib’s being rebuilt at
the same site.”171
Newspapers report that the Living Word Christian Center, based in Brooklyn Park,
“bought the Union Bar across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis a few
weeks ago and are about to turn it into an entertainment and worship center for nondrinking, non-smoking Christians.” Councilmember Walter Dziedzic and many in the
neighborhood object as they fear the church will “set up a mission soup kitchen.” Mac
Hammond, who founded the Brooklyn Park church, admitted the group did a very poor
job of communicating what the establishment would be. “All we want to do is create a
Christian environment at the New Union, mostly for the young.” He conceded, however,
that “if people came and said they were willing to join the church, or work for it, and they
needed food, we would give it.”172
Later, the Living Word drops plans to open a free food site at the bar in the face of
neighborhood opposition. The neighbors fear this plan will draw transients into the area.
The church plans to open a nonalcoholic bar that features Christian music.173
By mid-March the old Union Bar, “where a lot of local and regional rock bands broke
in,” has opened as the New Union, “a non-alcoholic, non-smoking bar featuring bands
that play Christian music.” “Dan Mus, former owner of the old Union Bar, was there
sipping on seltzer. He said he sold the bar after he was ‘saved’ about a year ago, much to
the distress of secular bands.” Dan suggested that the bands “learn some Christian music
and come back and play. . . . The change from a dark, smoke-filled hall to a bright place
that smells more like latex semi-gloss than booze elates him. ‘I wake up every morning
and thank the Lord I’m out of the bar business,’ he said.”174
One newspaper reports that “the New Union Bar is a smoke-free nightclub with pool
tables, a video arcade, and a non-alcoholic bar. Christian bands such as Stryper (a
nationally-known heavy metal Christian rock group), Mark Farner, formerly of the Grand
Funk Railroad, and local groups such as White Cross and Reign of Kings perform on
weekends. Three chemical dependency support groups meet during the week, as well as
Bible study groups and a singles’ club.”175
The New Union Bar also has plans to convert the living units upstairs, now called the
Poco Apartments, into twenty efficiency apartments for low-income people. The plan is
Jon Bream, “Lyle Lovett—‘Salesman’ Uses His Concerts to Promote,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 3,
Jim Klobuchar, “Feed the Hungry (Elsewhere),” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 9, 1989; “Union Bar May
Convert to Mission,” Southeast, March 1989; Dennis J. McGrath, “Dziedzic Fears New Bar Will Be Soup Kitchen,”
Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 6, 1989.
Tim Fuehrer, “Church Scraps Food Plan for Center at Union Bar,” Northeaster, March 22, 1989.
Bream, “Lyle Lovett”; Rosalind Bentley, “Dziedzic Conciliatory as New Union Bar Opens Minus Alcohol and
Smoke,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 25, 1989.
Gail Fillmore, “New Union Plans Apartments for Low Income ‘Poco’ Building,” Northeaster, October 16, 1991.
A History of the Union Bar—Page 25
opposed by some in the neighborhood. New Union spokesperson Nancy Aleksuk notes
that currently only one of the approximately forty Poco apartments is in use. “Directly
above the bar, she added, are six sleeping rooms, one of which is used to accommodate
the bands who perform on weekends.”176
By this year, the New Union Bar is out of business.177
In March, Bernice and Dan Mus, former owners of the Union Bar, sue “Rev. James
‘Mac’ Hammond and the Living Word Christian Center over the fate of the space once
occupied by the bar, which was converted into an inner-city ministry and renamed the
New Union when Living Word moved in five years ago.” The Muses claim that Living
Word breached the terms of the 1989 agreement by causing $477,000 worth of damage to
the building, which had thirty-five apartments until Living Word destroyed them. The
plaintiffs also allege that “Hammond used ‘coercive, religious preaching techniques’ in
securing the contract and has since pressured the family to donate the property to the
church.” The Muses are worried that the Living Word will back out of the contract,
leaving them with worthless buildings. Before the church tore out the apartments, without
a city permit, there were twenty-eight tenants who generated $6,000 per month in rents.
The church has not made the final balloon payment for the building, nor has it vacated
the premises. Bernice is dependent upon the proceeds of the building and has been forced
to put her own house up for sale.178
The New Union Bar is now located at 3141 Central Avenue Northeast and still features
Christian-based music. Similar clubs have opened in other cities.179
On the occasion of Willie Murphy’s sixty-fifth birthday, one fan, Kim Reynolds Crockett
of Deephaven, recalled that the Union Bar was her favorite venue for listening to Willie
and the Bees.180
Dan and Bernice Mus are again the owners of 505 East Hennepin and 509 Central
Avenue. The building at 509, which housed a portion of the Union Bar, is boarded up.181
Bream, “Grammy Awards This Year Wore a Happy Face”; “The Waiting Game,” Minneapolis Star Tribune,
October 21, 1993.
Rose Farley, “Pennies from Heaven,” Twin Cities Reader, March 23, 1994.
Susan Hogan-Albach, “Holy Rock ’n Rollers—It’s a Nightclub That Has Caught the Nation’s Attention,”
Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 21, 1996.
Kim Reynolds Crocket, “Willie Murphy” (letter to editor), Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 9, 2010.
Hennepin County Property Information website (http://www16.co.hennepin.mn.us/pins; accessed June 11, 2012).
A History of the Union Bar—Page 26
505-507 East Hennepin, formerly the Union Bar
Penny Petersen, photographer, 2012
Two views of 505-507 East Hennepin (left) and
509-513 Central Avenue Northeast (right)
Penny Petersen, photographer, 2012
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 2
505-507 East Hennepin, formerly the Union Bar
Penny Petersen, photographer, 2012
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 3
A detail of the 1856 Map of St. Anthony and Minneapolis, showing Block 15 with
Lots 1 and 2 highlighted in red. These lots are the location of the future Union Bar.
Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis Collection
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 4
The red-shaded areas mark the
Minneapolis Liquor Patrol Limits as of 1893.
“Patrol Limits,” Minneapolis Tribune, February 13, 1893
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 5
The intersection of East Hennepin, Fifth Street Northeast, and Central Avenue as it appeared
in the 1940s. The two-story building in the center will become the Union Bar.
Minnesota Historical Society Collections
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 6
This photograph was taken July 31, 1957. The sign for the East Side Sports Center at
509 Central Avenue Northeast can be seen on the left side of this photograph.
Norton and Peel, photographer—Minnesota Historical Society Collections
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 7
Ba & Gam
Live Music Featuring
Wed- Sun 9-1
507 E. Hennepin
Mojo Buford
July 13-16
Free & Easy (Gypsy)
July 19-23
Explode Boys
July 27-30
Wet T-Shirt Contests Every Wednesday
s75.00 1st Prize
507 East Henn.epin
Advertisements for the Union Bar in the Minnesota Daily,
May 5, 1976 (top) and July 15, 1977 (bottom)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 8
OCT. 7-11
OCT. 14-17
2 For 1 • Thur. 9-11 and Sun 8-10
507 East Hennepin
Aug. 9-13
Whiskey River
Aug. 24, 25, 26
WED.-Ladles ' Night • All-Drinks 1/2 price
2 for 1 On All Bar Drinks and Tap Beer
THUR. 9-11 p.m . and SUN. 8,..10 p.m .
507 East Hennepin
Advertisements for the Union Bar in the Minnesota Daily,
December 2, 1977 (top) and August 11, 1978 (bottom)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 9
Advertisements for the Union Bar in Sweet Potato,
August 1979 (left) and September 1979 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 10
Advertisement for the Union Bar in Sweet Potato, October 1979
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 11
Advertisements for the Union Bar in Sweet
Potato, January 1980 (left) and March 18,
1980 (above)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 12
Advertisements for the Union Bar in Sweet Potato,
April 1980 (left) and January 1, 1981 (above)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 13
Advertisements for the Union Bar in Sweet Potato,
April 29, 1981 (top) and July 22, 1981 (bottom)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 14
Advertisements for the Union Bar in Sweet Potato,
August 27, 1981 (left) and September, 10, 1981 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 15
Thursday, October 15 • Rhythm 11t Blues·
From tht! Cajun swomps to
downtown Chicagosmokestack lightn ing all
t htt way!
T hurs..:. 2 for I Bar Drinks
& Tap llttr 9 p.m.· II p.m.
Friday,Saturday, October 16,17
The East Coast 's hardest rocking Rhythm Blues
A lli&fltor R«ardinr Artirt . A n i nnovator Gnd onr of
Chica&o·sfinest blursmrn.
Sunday, Novtmbe:r 22 • Rh y1hm &. Blurs
Sunday, October 18
2 for I Tap B«r &. Bar Drinb
Original Modern Hometown Rock 'n • Roll
Monday, October 19 & Monday, October 26
Tuesday, No'f't'rnbcr 24 • S2.00 Cover
Tuesday,Wednesday, October 20,21 • Ftom Milwaukee
Wctlnesda y,Thur\ d:1 y, Novcn1h<:r 2"i,2(1
Party/or TllunhJ:I'Vifl}.! wllh fhms: . An j'l(t·c•/1('111 /( ct II
\hOw. • WccJ. 2 fur I I :tf) & lla r Drank' K· I0:3U p.m .
The Blues R eview to end all
Blues Reviews!
J·riday,Slflln da y, NO\'CnllX.'r 27 .2M
Votc•tl r w m C'lltfi\ Mu\lc·um n{ tlw Yror
with sp ecuu guest
Tuesda"(, Decrmbcr I
Capitol r«ordlnt artist
Exceptional Blues Harp Player
Thursday-Saturday, October 22-24
Vo.t ed Best Female Vocalist in Town!
Sunday, October 25
"Simply pu t (M cClinton) may
be the ~st whit' R&B rock 'n '
rollu i n th~ world. "
- J ud.tOn Klin~#,
Play boy Maxar.in#
Dectmber 3
Tuesday, October 27
An e~nmg wir h rht Grand
Master of Blues-
Til£ U,,'G £NIJA RY
Jst Annual Ne w Or/eons R ockin ' Rhythm Fest
Com es to the Union
Oct.29-31 flamin' Oh's • Nov.5-7 Lamoni Cranston
No v. 13- 15 Galemoulh Brown
One show only
Music: s rarts a r 9:00
SS.SO adm1~~1on
At tht door only.
Advertisements for the Union Bar in Sweet Potato,
October 15, 1981 (left) and November 19, 1981 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 16
Wednesday, October 20
Michael J"ames a~o
2 for ·J tap IH-er and bar drinks 8 - JO:J·o p .m.
Heinek.in &- Mo~head o nly .J I .50
Thu.ndav. October 21
!:r~~baBI!·~.0:30p.m. ~
2 for I tap
H einekin &: Mooseheod
S/ . 50
Friday, Saturday, October 22-23
Only $2.00 cover includes copy of record
Jmpolt Special: Heinekin &: Mt~osehead only $1.50
2 for 1 Bar Drinks&: Tap /Jeer Wed. 8-10:30
Thursday-Saturday, September 16- 18
S u nday. OctobCr 24
2 for /tap
bar d rinks 8 - 10:30 p:m .
Heinekin & Moosehead only J / . 50
Tuesday, October 26
Sussman Lawrence
ts Under The Stars
Sunday, Sept. 19 • Reunion P arty
An evening of R &: 8 with the. original members (now in the
Wallets) with Special Guests Dave Snaker Ray & the
Kingsnakes • Import special: Heinekin &: Moosehead only
$1.50; 2 for 1 bar drinks&: tap beer 8-10:30
Wednesday, Sept.22
Tuesday, Sept.21
Michael James Cats Under the
and 2 for I tap beer and bar drinks 8-10:30; Import Specials:
Heinekin &: Moosehead only Sl.50 ·
Thursday-Saturday, September 23-2S
Lamont Cransto,n
• Coming Attractions •
Sept.28-29 Wally Cleaver
Sept.30-0ct.2 Doug Maynard Band
Th~ top drawing 'band in New Or/eons. Oul.slanding rock,
rhythm.& blues. Don 't miss them!
2 for I Old Style tap 8-11 p , m.
. 2 for I bar drinks '8' 1 I p . m .
T -shins to t he first 100
DON'T DRIVE DRUNK!· ·······~
6 blocks from Oowntown- 10 blocks from tl., U of M
' Nov: 9 CITY MOUSE '
Nov. 11 -13 FLAMlN; OH'S
Play it sa fe! Plan all your fall parties at Tbe Union!
• ••
* * ~~~-:'T*o*.Jv*E...~Ox~c'A~.t~ ;tA\*..;t'A';..~t * *
Plan all
· parti~s
the Union Bar-Only 6 blocks from
/0 blocks from the U
Advertisements for the Union Bar in City Pages,
September 16, 1982 (left) and October 20, 1982 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 17
Advertisements for the Union Bar in City Pages,
March 23, 1983 (left) and August 3, 1983 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 18
Advertisements for the Union Bar in Twin City Reader,
January 4, 1984 (left), and City Pages, January 30, 1985 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 19
Advertisements for the Union Bar in City Pages,
February 12, 1986 (left) and June 11, 1986 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 20
Advertisements for the Union Bar in City Pages,
September 30, 1987 (left) and November 11, 1987 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 21
Advertisements for the Union Bar in City Pages,
January 20, 1988 (left) and June 15, 1988 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 22
Advertisements for the Union Bar in City Pages,
January 20, 1989 (left) and February 22, 1989 (right)
A History of the Union Bar—Illustrations 23