History of the Jukbox
We at the DCW Trading Company invite you to take a step back in time with
us. Coin-operated jukeboxes, music boxes and player pianos carved out a place for automatic pay-per-tune music in
fairgrounds, amusement parks and other public places (such as train stations in Switzerland) a few decades before the introduction of reliable coin-operated phonographs. Some of these automatic musical instruments were extremely well built and have survived to this day in the hands of collectors and museums. In the long run they could not compete with the jukebox since they played the same instrument (or instruments) over and over again and could not reproduce the human voice.
The immediate ancestor of the jukebox, called the "Coin-slot phonograph", was the first medium of sound recording encountered by the general public, before mass produced home audio equipment became common. Such machines began to be mass produced in 1889, using phonograph cylinders for records. The earliest
jukeboxes played but a single record (of about 2 minutes of music or entertainment), but soon devices were developed that allowed customers to choose between multiple records. In the 1910s the cylinder was superseded by the gramophone record.
The term "juke box" or "jukebox" came into use in the United States in the 1930s, derived from African-American slang "jook" meaning "dance".
Early jukeboxes began to appear in road houses, sometimes called juke or jutte
joints. In 1927, the Automatic Music Instrument Company manufactured the
first electrically amplified multiple selection phonograph or jukebox. Jukeboxes could now compete with live music and made it possible for
establishments to attract customers by providing high fidelity music anywhere
without having to hire a band or orchestra.
Once the depression ended, sales of jukeboxes skyrocketed as the jukebox
became more colorful and advanced in its design. The 1946 Wurlitzer model
"1015-Bubbler" jukebox featured multi-colored lights and bubble tubes which made it the
most popular and copied jukebox of all time. The shellac 78rpm record dominated jukeboxes until the Seeburg Corporation introduced an all 45 rpm vinyl record jukebox in 1950.
AMI, Rock-Ola, Wurlitzer, and the Seeburg names became synonymous with the word
"jukebox" and became the leading manufacturers of jukeboxes. The jukebox
became even more popular with teenagers during the 1950's and 1960's as drive-in
hamburger stands began popping up all over the country and of course, with the
advent of rock and roll music.
Starting in the 1980s, compact discs became the norm for modern jukeboxes. Towards the end of the 20th century several companies started introducing completely digital jukeboxes which did not use CDs, downloading the tunes from a secure signal sent over the Internet or through a separate, proprietary transmission protocol over phone lines. In addition to automatically downloading a potentially larger selection than what is available on CDs in a single machine the digital jukeboxes also send back information on what is being played, and where, opening up new commercial avenues.
Jukeboxes and their ancestors were a very profitable industry from the 1890s on. They were most popular from the 1940s through the mid-1960s, particularly during the 1950s. Today
jukeboxes are often associated with early rock and roll music, but were very popular in the swing music era as well. As a result, stores and restaurants with a retro theme, such as the Johnny Rockets chain, include
The first Jukeboxes were simply wooden boxes with coin slots and a few buttons. Over time they became more and more decorated, using color lights, chrome, bubble tubes, and other visual gimmicks. Many consider the mid-to-late 1940's the "golden age" of
jukebox styling with the gothic-like curvaceous "electric rainbow cathedral" look. The Wurlitzer model "1015-Bubbler"
jukebox typifies the look and is arguably the most popular selling jukebox model of all time. Many of these survived into the 50's in active use and are instead associated with the 50's in pop culture despite their 40's origin because of their unique visual prominence.
After the 40's, the style generally became more box-like and "high-tech" in look. Also, the newer models needed more panel space for the increased number of record titles they could present on selection buttons, reducing the space available for decoration. This is partly due to improved technology, and the transition from the 78-rpm disks to the 45-rpm disks. The classic 40's look still survives today in many replica jukeboxes.
This article is licensed under the "GNU Free Documentation License". It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Jukebox".