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Former Lincoln bar owner and Husker sing-along legend Joyce Durand dies at age 84
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Former Lincoln bar owner and Husker sing-along legend Joyce Durand dies at age 84

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Joyce Durand, a fixture of Husker pre- and post-game sing-along parties, has died. 

Durand, 84, a piano player who owned a bar in downtown Lincoln, led legions of Husker fans in familiar tunes and songs that celebrated the hometown heroes, and lampooned — sometimes in obscene terms — their opponents.

"There is No Place Like Nebraska" was requested over and over at the Sidetrack Lounge, with the final verse of the song devolving into "We don't know the words ... we don't know the words."

"Green Acres" and "Underdog" were other crowd favorites, as was a song that suggested the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, needed to ride the sharp end of a missile.

Durand's performances were such a gameday tradition that one Husker fan, on social media on Thursday, suggested that all Go Big Red flags be lowered to half staff.

"We have Huskeritis, that's for sure," Durand said in an interview in 2000.

That's when she sold her Sidetrack Lounge after nearly 24 years of ownership. But the music lived on as Durand continued to perform with the four-piece Sidetrack Band until the coronavirus shut down public performances.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

One longtime friend said that Durand was so much more than someone who sang "a bawdy song at the Sidetrack." She was an excellent musician, according to Lincoln lobbyist Walt Radcliffe, who is equally talented in playing classical music.

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Durand was also politically active, serving as a member of the Democratic National Committee in the 1970s and helping run Terry Carpenter's unsuccessful 1972 bid for the U.S. Senate. She lost an election bid for the Nebraska Public Service Commission in 1976, then opened her first bar, which was located across from the train station in Lincoln.

"Upside down" margaritas were a staple at the Sidetrack, where the walls were covered with Husker-themed, message license plates. Her band's songs reflected Huskermania — one, "The Carlos Polk — a," celebrated a star defender; another, the "Touchdown Boogie," was about Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Eric Crouch.

Those who made song requests for the first time at the bar were referred to as "Sidetrack Virgins." Repeat visitors got a cruder moniker.

Durand said her secret was that "people like to participate."

"It's participatory entertainment," she said in 2000. "People can either get on the stage and sing, or sit in their chair and sing, or get their requests read."

"Ninety-nine percent of our songs are requests. Otherwise, why would anyone play 'Green Acres' four or five times a night or 'There is No Place Like Nebraska' 15 or 20 times?"

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