It’s Five Somewhere with Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n’ Bowl’s John Blancher

When you opened [Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n’ Bowl], did you ever imagine you’d be here 25 years later?

No, I was worried about being there 25 days later. My father and everyone else told me it couldn’t work. But I persevered and kept making payroll, so here I am, 25 years later.

John-Blancher-by-Elsa-Hahne

John Blancher

Where did the original idea come from to merge a bowling alley with a music venue?

It evolved from the idea of catering parties. What I saw when I looked at the bowling alley after buying it in 1988 was not a bowling alley, but a great live music and catering hall that happened to also have 18 bowling lanes. When I told people I thought the place would be a good spot for wedding receptions, they looked at me like I had a third eye, because no one even thought of such a thing back then.

I was here a few months and this fellow Louis Nugent, who was the king of the Krewe of Mother Roux, came in and saw the same thing I did. He booked a party for his Mardi Gras krewe here. He hired a band called the Living Dead Review, who pulled up to the venue in a hearse, carried a coffin up the stairs, and placed it in front the stage. The coffin opened up and the singer came out and sang a bunch of old funeral-soul songs. At the end of their two-hour set, he got back in the coffin and the band put it back in the hearse and they left. That party was the first time I saw how it would work, and it worked great. We started booking more parties and then I had regular bands on Friday and Saturday nights along with zydeco every Thursday since 1993.

 

Rock 'n' Bowl, John Blancher, photo, Elsa Hahe, OffBeat Magazine, November, 2013

John Blancher of New Orleans' famed Mid-City Lanes Rock 'N' Bowl (Photo: Elsa Hahne)

 

What is the most memorable show you’ve had there?

The Ponderosa Stomp shows have all been unbelievably great. Any of the shows with Johnny Adams or Ernie K-Doe were always special nights.

 

How many people have bowled a perfect game there?

I’ve had only one perfect game, which came when a high school bowling league was here. The kid’s name was Jeff Chigizola. But before I had automatic scoring, people would write in their scores by hand after they’d been drinking, so we had some 500-600 games.

 

What would you like to see happen with Rock ’n’ Bowl over the next 25 years?

I hope we can continue to maintain our business and be a conduit for local music. I want to see my grandchildren carry on and be involved with it 25 years from now.