In San Francisco in 1890, Louis Glass and William S. Arnold invented the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph, the first of which was an Edison Class M Electric Phonograph retrofitted with a device patented under the name of Coin Actuated Attachment for Phonograph. The music was heard via one of four listening tubes.
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 them in “phonograph parlors”, allowing the patron to select between multiple records, each played on its own machine. Some machines even contained carousels and other mechanisms for playing multiple records. Most machines were capable of holding only one musical selection, the automation coming from the ability to play that one selection at will. 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.
The term 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. As it applies to the ‘use of a jukebox’, the terms juking (v.) and juker (n.) are the correct expressions.
Song-popularity counters told the owner of the machine the number of times each record was played (A and B side were generally not distinguished), with the result that popular records remained, while lesser-played songs could be replaced.
Wallboxes were an important, and profitable, part of any jukebox installation. Serving as a remote control, they enabled patrons to select tunes from their table or booth. One example is the Seeburg 3W1, introduced in 1949 as companion to the 100-selection Model M100A jukebox. Stereo sound became popular in the early 1960s, and wallboxes of the era were designed with built-in speakers to provide patrons a sample of this latest technology.
Jukeboxes were most popular from the 1940s through the mid-1960s, particularly during the 1950s. By the middle of the 1940s, three-quarters of the records produced in America went into jukeboxes. While often associated with early rock and roll music, their popularity extends back much earlier, including classical music, opera and the swing music era. In 1977, The Kinks recorded a song called “Jukebox Music” for their album Sleepwalker.
Many manufacturers produced jukeboxes, including 1890s Wurlitzer, 1920s Seeburg, 1930s “Rock-Ola” whose name is actually based on that of the company founder, David Cullen Rockola, Sound Leisure and Crosley.
Two companies still remain today in the manufacture of classically styled jukeboxes. Rockola based in California and Sound Leisure based in Leeds in the UK. Both companies manufacture jukeboxes based on a CD playing mechanism however in April 2016 Sound Leisure showed a prototype of the “Vinyl Rocket” at the UK Classic Car Show. It stated that it would start production of the 140 7″ vinyl selector (70records) in summer of the same year.
1952 Seeburg M100C – This was the jukebox exterior used in the credit sequences for the sitcom Happy Days in seasons 1-10. It played up to fifty 45 rpm records making it a 100-play. It was a very colorful jukebox with chrome glass tubes on the front, mirrors in the display, and rotating animation in the pilasters.