The jukebox, God rest its soul,and its minion, the 45 rpm record, have gone the way of the rotary dial telephone and the bite-sized electric chord organ. Back in the seventies there was a jukebox in any establishment in rural Newfoundland that had a sit-down eating table. And every pool hall where you wouldn’t want to eat. You can still buy one on eBay (a jukebox, not a Nfld. pool hall.) The Wurlitzer shown above has a starting bid of $9382. 05 (with a hefty $2000 shipping charge.) They weren’t all as pretty as that one. This was more like the ones I saw:
My favourite though was the little “wallboxes” which I used to think as magical as airplanes and Santa Claus when I was a kid. I thought that they had teeny tiny records inside them. I know now that they weren’t actually jukeboxes, just remote selectors.
They also weren’t always called jukeboxes. Their original title was the automatic coin-operated phonograph. You can google the origin of the word and find many variations of the slang word which became its name: joot, juke, jook – but they all agree it was a word of African origin and associated with jook-houses. Which in modern terms would be a party house as far as I can tell. Wurlitzer didn’t actually use the word jukebox in its advertising until 1972 because it wanted the automatic coin-operated phonograph to be considered classy and I guess they thought that juke-joints weren’t.
One fellow who used to service jukeboxes always stayed with my Aunt’s family when he was in her town and when he updated the 45s he often gave her some of the retired ones. She, in turn, passed many on to us. I recall my two favourites of that batch: Bits and Pieces by The Dave Clark Five and My Baby Loves the Spooky Movies sung by Roy Clark (was everyone called Clark in the 60’s?) Later in the early 70’s, the songs I recall selecting were The Banks of the Ohio, A Long and Winding Road, or Killing Me Softly. The ones I hated to hear come up were Delta Dawn and Sylvia’s Mother. A little later in the 70’s you would almost always hear The Blackbird Song by The Wurzels if there was a jukebox in the room. The song left a lasting legacy: the single question “How’s yer fadder (father)?” and the exuberant group response “Alright“. Sadly now, everyone carries their own music in their pockets. Hmm, that might be a good thing if they’re still writing songs like Sylvia’s Mother.
So let’s all raise a glass in memory of the glorious jukebox.
Yes, it is a very very small glass of beer; I need to make room for my very very large serving of Homosassa ribs and collard greens. Cheers.
HAPPY JUKEBOXING DAY
© text Judy Parsons 2016.