The Charm of the Jukebox… Keep an Eye Out Because They are Coming BACK!
Stephen Lapekas Student Stephen Lapekas (2R) playing a song on a juke box. (Photo by Stan Wayman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Jukeboxes have been around for many years. They first appeared in America as early as the late 1800s. At one time, they were known as, “state of the art music playing devices.” Historically, jukeboxes have been coin-operated machines designed to play the song of a person’s choosing at any given time. All a person has to do is drop a coin in the slot and choose a song from the menu. Just that easy, a single person could dictate what everyone in the entire room is going to listen to.
During the '50s, '60s and '70s, jukeboxes were in just about every establishment for the entertainment of music lovers!
The term “jukebox” originated from places once known as “juke joints.” This was a term for hangout spots that were considered rowdy and unruly.
Jukeboxes, at one time, could be found in many public places including restaurants, laundromats, social hangouts and any other gathering place. They were always very popular with the younger crowd because they typically were loaded with the most current songs of the time. It wasn’t unusual for a person to listen to the same song over and over again. As long as you had a nickel, dime or quarter (depending on the era), you could listen to whatever you wanted at any time! It was extremely intoxicating!
For the last several years, old-school vinyl has made a comeback with young and old alike. It is well known that what is old, eventually becomes new again. The Jukebox is also beginning to make a comeback so keep your eyes open!
Along with pop-music came the age-old battle between parents and kids. The world wasn’t ready for Elvis Presley to gyrate his hips in front of young audiences. It was considered to be very racy and unwholesome at the time. Elvis was thought to be the devil, not in disguise, but in the flesh! That being said, parents didn’t even want their kids listening to certain artists on the radio, even without the visual. No worries, though…. all kids had to do was to run down to the local hangout with a pocket full of coins and they could listen all they wanted.
Typically, only the most popular songs were loaded into public jukeboxes. Elvis Presley and Smokey Robinson would end up taking a backseat on the jukebox playlist, however, when the Disco era rolled in.
Over the years, as with most inventions, the jukebox evolved. At one time they were operated by a hand crank mechanism but eventually became completely automated, thereby making them more popular. Music has always been front and center in American pop culture. Music fans marveled at the convenience and variety of their favorites!
Music is more than just a pop-culture phenomenon… It is a language all its own!
Many people, from all demographics, are brought together by a common thread; yep... music! Music just resonates with people in general. The same song can mean 10 different things to 10 different people but nevertheless, it is a common thread. That was historically one of the main draws to business owners having jukeboxes available for their patrons in the '50s, '60s and '70s after they became coin operated. Business owners could count on their customers dropping money in the jukebox and it became a great revenue generator.
The fact that the jukebox is on its way back in is as good a reason as any to learn some of these fun facts about this charming invention:
• Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph was the vehicle that ultimately inspired the jukebox. Being able to record sound was behind the invention of the jukebox.
• The jukebox became popular after the invention of the electric amplifier. Sound could be amplified throughout an entire venue.
• The best-selling jukebox is the Wurlitzer 1015. This model came out in 1946 and is the image most of us think of when we picture a jukebox. Just the sight of it was enough to make a person want to dance!
• Early jukeboxes actually played vinyl records. Modern-day jukeboxes are digital which wasn't even a possibility back in the day.
• In 1948, Seeburg released the Select-O-Matic. It was the first of its kind that offered a staggering selection of 100 records in all genres. Listeners could listen to everything from rhythm & blues, country and rock & roll all in one sitting! It was huge for its time!
Again, I will tell you that what is old becomes new again. That being said… music, in any form, will NEVER die!
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