Venue near Galveston Bay provides stage for high-caliber talent
Bob Emmons loves the blues. He plays the blues with his band, The Groove Kings. He listens to the blues in mass quantity — both live and recorded. And, in partnership with his wife, Katie, Emmons owns and operates one of the area’s most respected blues music venues — Katie’s Bar.
Known simply as Katie’s, the bar operates in a former post office and resale shop building less than a mile from Galveston Bay at 315 Grand Ave. in Bacliff. Emmons bought the property in early 2004 without knowing exactly what he might do with it. As fate would have it, the previous owner had built a skeleton of a bar in hopes he might one day open a nightclub or restaurant. By late 2004, Emmons and his wife opened the bar, with the plan that Katie would run it while Emmons was away on business as a regional sales manager for Martin Guitars.
Emmons retired from Martin Guitars in 2007 and Katie’s seemed like a perfect fit for a man so passionate about music. Of course, the establishment still bears his wife’s name. But most nights, it’s Bob hanging out near the back door keeping an eye on things and enjoying some of the best guitarists the local area and state has to offer.
“I’m a guitar guy,” Emmons said. “So I hire a lot of bands with great guitar players.”
Houston’s Mighty Orq, recently named “Best Blues Act” at the Houston Press Music Awards, is frequently booked at Katie’s, as are guitar slingers Alan Haynes from Austin, and Scott McGill from Beaumont, among others. Regulars at Katie’s such as James “The Blues Hound” Nagel,” radio host of “Howlin’ The Blues” program on KPFT, 90.1, said he’s impressed with the talent passing through Katie’s.
“Bob and Katie are doing an amazing job,” Nagel said. “People are responding to the step up in quality. And there’s still no cover at the door.”
Emmons, 64, was first exposed to music in the mid-1950s at the family kitchen table, where his mother occasionally strummed a Gibson guitar she played in church on Sundays. Rock ‘n’ roll took hold a few years later through Emmons’ older brother’s record collection. Duane Eddy, The Ventures, The Beach Boys and Chuck Berry were in heavy rotation, he said.
“My older brother, Billy, bought a guitar and started taking lessons,” Emmons said. “I got interested in playing as well, but of course he didn’t want his little brother to play his guitar. I’d wait until he would go out on a date and take it out from under the bed. Eventually, he gave it to me.”
Emmons played in many rock ‘n’ roll bands through his teens, but soon had family responsibilities requiring a more reliable income. He maintained a close bond with music through his work and play with a particular appreciation for blues music. British bands, such as Cream and Led Zeppelin, covering American blues artists, such as Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson, were a big influence on Emmons’ interest in blues.
These days, Emmons concedes it’s a nice perk to occasionally sit in with outstanding players and have a place for his own band to perform. But his greatest joy seems to be in providing music lovers with a quality listening room that presents consistently high-caliber talent as well as providing musicians with a good stage, any equipment they might require and a great house sound system.
The Groove Kings (Emmons, Joe Campise, Ken Woodard, Jim Fulton) perform one Wednesday each month at Katie’s. And although blues artists are most frequently on the calendar, there’s a remarkable slate of musicians and bands in any given month representing many genres of music, including funk, R&B, country and rock.
Visit www.Katiesbar.com for a complete calendar of concerts and events.