Since my early teens, I’ve always wanted to own an original vinyl 45s record playing jukebox. My early memories of going down to the local café with some small change from my mother to buy beans on toast with a cup of tea, leaving just enough for a couple of selections on the jukebox is so treasured, that I’m now thrilled to have purchased an original U.S.A. Rock Ola GB Imperial which has been cleaned up and reconditioned beautifully. I’ve loaded it with some classic 7” vinyl 45s from the 60s together with some of my own productions from the 70s and 80s before CDs became the dominant music purchase.
A jukebox is a partially automated music-playing device, usually a coin-operated machine, that will play a patron’s selection from the self-contained record collection. The classic jukebox has buttons, with letters and numbers on them, which, when one of each group is entered after each other, a specific record can be selected and played.
Coin-operated music boxes and player pianos were the first forms of automated coin-operated musical devices. These devices used paper rolls, metal disks, or metal cylinders to play a musical selection on an actual instrument, or on several actual instruments, enclosed within the device.
In the 1890s these devices were joined by machines which used recordings instead of actual physical instruments.
Early designs, upon receiving a coin, unlocked the mechanism, allowing the listener to turn a crank that simultaneously wound the spring motor and placed the reproducer’s stylus in the starting groove.
Frequently, exhibitors would equip many of these machines with listening tubes (acoustic headphones) and array several of these machines in “phonograph parlors”, allowing the patron to select between multiple records, each played on its own machine.
In 1918 Hobart C. Niblack patented an apparatus that automatically changed records, leading to one of the first selective jukeboxes being introduced in 1927 by the Automated Musical Instrument Company, later known as AMI.
In 1928 Justus P. Seeburg, who was manufacturing player pianos, combined an electrostatic loudspeaker with a record player that was coin-operated. This Audiophone machine was wide and bulky because it had eight separate turntables mounted on a rotating Ferris wheel-like device, allowing patrons to select from eight different records.
Later versions of the jukebox included Seeburg’s Selectophone with 10 turntables mounted vertically on a spindle. By maneuvering the tone arm up and down, the customer could select from 10 different records.
Many manufacturers produced jukeboxes, including: 1890s Wurlitzer, late 1920s Seeburg, 1930s “Rock-Ola” (whose name is actually based on that of the company founder, David Cullen Rockola), Sound Leisure and Crosley.
Greater levels of automation were gradually introduced. As electrical recording and amplification improved there was increased demand for coin-operated phonographs.
The word “jukebox” came into use in the United States beginning in 1940, apparently derived from the familiar usage “juke joint”, derived from the Gullah word “juke” or “joog”, meaning disorderly, rowdy, or wicked. .
In 1950 the Seeburg Corporation introduced an all 45 rpm vinyl record jukebox. Since the 45s were smaller and lighter, they soon became the dominant jukebox media for the last half of the 20th century.
Traditional jukeboxes once were an important source of income for record publishers, receiving the newest recordings first. They became an important market-testing device for new music, since they tallied the number of plays for each title. They offered a means for the listener to control the music outside of their home, before audio technology became portable. They played music on demand without commercials. They also offered the opportunity for high fidelity listening before home hi fi equipment came into popular price ranges.
The invention of the portable radio in the 1950s and the portable cassette tape deck in the 1960s were key factors in the decline of the jukebox. They enabled people to have their own selection of music with them, wherever they were.
JUKE BOX JOKE – Knock, knock. – Who’s there? – Wurlitzer – Wurlitzer who? – Wurlitzer one for the money…….