Dr. John, recorded live at The Lone Star Cafe (1986)

Dr. John, recorded live at the Lone Star Cafe (1986)

The premier country music venue in New York, the Texas-themed Lone Star Café opened in February 1976 and was recognizable for many blocks by the 40-foot sculpture of a spiny iguana (created by artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade) that sat on the roof of the building. In the narrow, rectangular interior, a winding staircase at one side of the low stage led to additional seating in the balcony where patrons craned their necks for a better view of the show.

Willie Nelson and Roy Orbison made their first New York appearance in many years at the Lone Star, in 1979 and 1981 respectively. John Belushi and Dan Akroyd debuted there as the Blues Brothers in 1977. Other Lone Star headliners included Carl Perkins, Delbert McClinton, Memphis Slim, Bobby Bare, Roy Buchanan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Albert Collins, Irma Thomas, and Ernest Tubb. Singer/songwriter and 2006 Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman was long-running attraction, and his 1987 detective novel A Case of Lone Star is set in the milieu of the club.

When the Lone Star Café closed in April 1989, owner Mort Cooperman already had opened the larger Lone Star Roadhouse at 240 West 52nd Street. The scene of Garth Brooks’ first New York appearance, it was shuttered circa 1992.

11 Comments to “Lone Star Café (61 Fifth Avenue)”

  1. Pat Curran says:

    I saw the Flying Burrito Brothers there in, I think the late 70’s. Went there to drink with my boss and got hooked up with a black diplomat for Kenya in a three piece suit and a basketball coach from West Texas State with a cowboy hat on and a good time was had by all. The FBB’s was the icing on the cake.

  2. Carl says:

    Spent many a Sunday night in the early 80’s, listening to Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys! Lone Star beer with a shot of Jack and the 3-alarm chili was the perfect way to end the weekend – or start the week, depending on how you looked at it!

  3. Charlie says:

    Still remember Doug Sahm with his band in the early ’80s doing two shows a night. Actually bought him a Dos Equis and chatted for a few moments. Nothing finer: Floyd on piano, Larry on steel, and must mention Rocky and Charlie. Great place with great memories.

  4. johnny angel says:

    robert gordon , johnny thunders,mindy j and the cyclone rangers , john lee hooker….yes, one of my old stompin’ grounds….miss that place and the hangin ‘ boots…

  5. Jamey Carothers says:

    @Pat: In the Summer of 1979 I played there with Gatemouth Brown and we rotated sets with the Flying Burrito Brothers — it was a great 2 nights!

  6. Robert says:

    The Lone Star at 52nd Street was also great. I saw, in one or two weeks, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri, and some Southern rockers who were great. Got one of the picks from the guitar player — great ambiance, shame it’s gone.

  7. Kathy says:

    Saw Michael Murphy there..Wildfire.. the music was the best ever in a small saloon atmosphere.. I loved it. Even watched right near Carly Simon and James Taylors brother.. like one of us! I wish those days and types of concerts for the kids would come back..

  8. Andrew J Rubin says:

    Swapped sets with a band called Cabin Fever in early 1980. Had Ritchie Havens come up to me and introduce himself in dressing room. Big fun!! That place ruled.

  9. J Epstein says:

    Bo Diddley. I was 6 feet away from his amp and he was in between me and the amp.

    And I wasn’t hip enough at first to know who the guy in the wheelchair that I ALWAYS saw there was. I finally learned, though – Doc Pomus.

  10. Alfred says:

    A note on timing: I am a writer who came to New York to hang out with the poetry crowd, which was considerable in the mid-to-late Seventies. To support my writing habit, I got my first bar-tending job at the Lone Star Café, going to work there the first night it opened, which was in February 1977. The article here cites 1976–and Wikipedia has this wrong too. (Not that it makes a lot of difference.) It looks like all the references go back to Barry Popik, who used the 1976 year as well. Aside from my own letters and journals from the time, there is one article online about the Lone Star closing, published in 1989 saying LSC had been around for 12 years. So: 1977. By June of 1977, a month before the blackout, there was a massive reorganization at the LSC because the investors uncovered an embezzlement by an operating partner (not one of the investors). I was asked to be manager–a kind of thankless job that I left in August. Among the famed early appearances that year there, one name I haven’t seen mentioned is Tanya Tucker.

  11. Fred Tripp says:

    I loved the Lone Star. I played there during 1979-80 a couple times as a drummer with Omar and the Howlers from Austin. We actually opened for Carl Perkins as well as Joe Ely, Lost Gonzo Band, The San Francisco Allstars and a couple other acts…can’t remember, it was 35-36 years ago…Great Club and Mort was very good to us. Miss it.


    Fred Tripp

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