The History of the Jukebox
The original source of the word “juke” is uncertain, but the importance of the jukebox to rock and roll history is indisputable. According to history-of-rock.com, ‘jook’ may have once meant ‘dance.’ The first jukebox appeared in 1927 and they gained popularity as entertainment in speakeasies during prohibition.
Let the Jukebox Keep On Playin’
Hillbilly/Rockabilly Carl Perkins 1955
However, the best part of the jukebox is that it brought rockabilly and the blues to the average person – styles of music not thought dignified enough for most radio broadcasts or concert venues at the time.
In my perfect world, there would still be a little jukebox on every table in every diner across the country. I don’t mean the big chain restaurants, but if you have vinyl seated booths, a lunch counter, and the word ‘diner’ in your name – if you have burgers and shakes on your menu – then you should have tabletop jukeboxes. I looked around online and I couldn’t find any old ones for sale, so here’s hoping there are original ones still out there (hooked up to a larger, record-playing jukebox) still being used.
House of Rock and Roll
There are replicas of the tabletop jukebox available for home- some even play music…
This tabletop replica actually plays cassettes and an am/fm radio, so it is almost as retro as the original version. It’s advertised at retroradiozone.com, but the link to the company is broken so I think they may not be available anymore.
The Jukemaster shown below is probably my favorite home version of the tabletop jukebox – it comes with a CD of 100 classic songs which matches the flip chart inside. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find an online store that actually has one in stock (pictured above, Jukemaster at giftbrand.com).
Rock around the Clock
Rockola jukeboxes were once almost as popular as the Wurlitzer (interesting trivia: the company owner’s last name was actually Rockola, it wasn’t named after rock and roll at all).
Calling All Diners
If you know about a diner that still has tabletop jukeboxes, please leave us a comment so that we can spread the word. Thanks!