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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

One of the reasons I love Little Steven’s Underground Garage is all the random information you learn.  Such is the case with the origins of the jukebox.  The first machine was called the “nickel in the slot phonograph”.  The first machine was installed at Palais Royal Saloon in San Francisco on November 23, 1889.  The classic jukebox is an automated music-playing machine, usually coin operated and would play the customers selection from the available cache of songs contained in the belly of the beast.  The customer pressed any combination of buttons-A-7 might get you “Mustang Sally, for instance.  But where, when and how did this bearer of happiness (or sadness) came into play? The familiar usage ‘juke joint”-where jukebox originated-came to be of use in the United States around 1940.  It’s derived from the Gullah word “juke” or “joog” meaning disorderly, rowdy or wicked.  (


One of the many reasons I loved going to Pizza Hut when I was a kid was the jukebox in the corner.  I’d ask mom or dad for some change or bring some from home.  I’d go up there all excited and check out the selection of songs on the jukebox.  I was mostly listening to 96 WSTO out of Evansville at that time so I’m sure I chose a pop song at least 80% of the time. 

Despite everything that has happened, all the advancements in how we get and listen to our music, jukeboxes do still exist.  They are still being manufactured in full size models even now.  In recent years they have even evolved to be machines that you can use to stream songs via an app on your phone. 

Jukeboxes have been around for multiple generations but how much do you really know about them? I’ll close with some interesting facts about jukeboxes.

The word juke is southern for dancing.

In the 1950’s, the jukebox was a staple of pubs in the UK and America.

The roots of the jukebox can be traced to the 1800’s.

The largest selling jukebox of all time is the Wurlitzer.  Fun fact, Waylon Jennings recorded and released a song called “The Wurlitzer Prize” (I Don’t Wanna Get Over You”

The most familiar jukeboxes were the Seeburg

Jukeboxes hit their popularity peak in the mid-1950s.

No one is sure how many jukeboxes were made.

Jukeboxes could even be found in drugstore and ice cream parlors to the delight of kids.

A jukebox could hold 12-16 records.  The patron couldn’t pick and choose their songs. 




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