Coin-operated 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 machines 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 In the 1910s the cylinder was superseded by the gramophone record.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. The
jukebox 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" 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 Jukeboxes.