The Jukebox: Staple of American Culture

The Wurlitzer Jukebox

The Wurlitzer Jukebox

Fun Facts About the Jukebox

  • Juke is an African word meaning “to make wicked mischief” and came directly from American slaves.
  • They described the illegal brothels or bootlegger shacks where they could occasionally escape their cruel lives with a jar of moonshine as “Juke-joints.”
  • Juke had an exotic and forbidden appeal, which inspired the name “jukebox”.
  • Coin-operated music boxes and player pianos were the first forms of automated coin-operated musical devices.
  • The first coin-operated phonographs were introduced in the 1890s when recording on wax cylinder records made it possible for them to survive many plays.
  • The very first “Jukebox” was officially introduced at San Francisco’s Palais Royal Saloon on November 23rd, 1889
  • Frequently exhibitors would equip many of these machines with listening tubes (acoustic headphones) and array them in “phonograph parlors” allowing the patron to select between multiple records, each played on its own machine.
  • Though the technology had existed since 1918, when Hobart C. Niblack of Rochester, NY patented an apparatus that automatically changed records, one of the first successful selective jukeboxes was an automatic phonograph produced in 1927 by the Automated Musical Instrument Company, later known as AMI.
  • In 1928, Justus P. Seeburg, who manufactured player pianos, created an electrostatic loudspeaker combined with a record player that was coin operated and gave the listener a choice of eight records.
  • Shellac 78 rpm records dominated jukeboxes until the Seeburg Corporation introduced an all 45 rpm vinyl record jukebox in 1950.
  • Stereo sound became popular in the early 1960s, and wallboxes (jukeboxes on a wall) of the era were designed with built-in speakers to provide patrons a sample of this latest technology. Interestingly, for the next several years, there were very few stereo 45 rpm records made; the “little LP” (also referred to as “stereo 7”) was designed and manufactured specifically for jukeboxes. It played at 33 1/3 rpm and was the same physical size as the 45 rpm records, to retain compatibility with the jukebox mechanisms.
  • Some jukeboxes during the 1960s were able to play other special 33 discs of 45 size, which provide a longer song or multiple songs, for a higher price. These specialty records (known as EPs, for “extended play”) were provided by the unique vendor that supplied records to the operator.
  • 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 physical recordings. The music selection and playback system was replaced by a dedicated proprietary computer.

Special thanks to www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com and www.absoluteastronomy.com

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1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment, Music

One response to “The Jukebox: Staple of American Culture

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