Definition of a Bar Band

According to the Oxford Dictionary (yes, it’s really in there):

Bar band: “A (local or amateur) rock group of a kind that typically performs in bars or other small venues.”

According to our friends at Oxford, the term came to be in the 1970s, with the earliest use found being found in The Washington Post. (From 200-2008, the Post boasted a publisher/CEO by the name of Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. That’s apropos of nothing, but it’s a pretty cool name.)

In the United States, the mighty NRBQ (formed in the mid-‘60s and hailing from Louisville, KY) remains a shining example of a good-time, down-home rock and roll combo that helps give bar band music its good name, while in the UK—where the genre was dubbed “pub rock” in the 1970s—future hitmaking artists such as Nick Lowe (“Cruel to Be Kind”), Elvis Costello, and the Clash’s Joe Strummer spent the early part of their careers plying their trade “down the pub.”

In 2018, Lowe recalled his bar band/pub rock days in an interview with Rolling Stone: “It really was the precursor to punk rock,” he said. “There were a lot of oddballs who would not have got a look-see elsewhere,” adding, “…it was quite fun.”