The Timeless Jukebox
by Erika Cox
The word Jukebox is a combination of the word “juke” and the word “box”. The Jukebox looks like a box and it holds a large number of records. The word “juke” come from the word “jook”, which is an old African American term meaning to dance.
The word’s origin has also been suggested to come from Southern jute crop field workers who would visit makeshift clubs or bars, which were called juke (or Jute) joints to listen the earlier Jukeboxes. Whatever the origin, the Jukebox was developed to listen and dance to music in various establishments.
The Jukebox was easy to operate, pop a coin in, select a song or songs, and there you have go no need to flip the record or worry about scratching the record. The Automatic Music Instrument Company created the first Jukebox in 1927, as a phonograph with an amplifier that created a large orchestral sound.
The first Jukebox only played one record for two minutes. Prohibition
helped pushed the Jukebox into the realms of popularity, at the time
speakeasies and taverns could no longer afford live bands for
entertainment so they began to install Jukebox machines in their
establishments to provide music to their customers. In order to bring in
customers, having a Jukebox became a necessity for some establishments
during the Prohibition era and beyond.
The development of the 45 record in 1950 allowed a large number of songs to be played for various artists. Plus, the cost to listen was cheap.
To listen to the latest records it only cost a nickel for one song, a dime for two and a quarter for five songs. The Juke joint became the place to be allowing teenagers to listen to music for hours.
With the help of the Jukebox, many teens were listening to music their parents didn’t approve of or didn’t want played in their homes. And except for the chitlin’ circuit, various places where Black musicians and artists would play because they couldn’t play anywhere else, teenagers were able to listen to the music of not only “acceptable” artists like the Crew Cuts or Pat Boone but also the music of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
The Jukebox was color-blind at a segregated time in America, many artists like Carl Perkins were thought to be Black, and it also allowed white customers to accept and listen to Black artists. The Jukebox was popular during the 1950’s to mid-60’s and reached the height of its popularity in the mid-1950’s.
Today, Juke joints are all but gone, however, the Jukebox still remains in various bar and tavern establishments and restaurants.
The 45 record has been replaced by the invention of the compact disc (CD). Also, with the advent of the Internet many companies have replaced CD’s with the digital Jukebox, where music is downloaded from different Internet sites and programmed into the Jukebox allowing even more music to be stored in the Jukebox.
The digital Jukebox sends music back to the various websites where the
music has been downloaded to keep track of what is being played and
where it is being played. Although the Jukebox has lost some of its
popularity, it remains an important part of the development of rock and
roll music in the 1950’s.
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