Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or

The jukebox was as common as trading stamps and telephone booths in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Here is a look back at that magical contraption and some of the melodies a nickel (and later a quarter) could buy.


* An early forerunner of the modern jukebox was the Nickel-in-the-Slot machine. In 1889, Louis Glass and William S. Arnold placed a coin-operated Edison cylinder phonograph in a saloon in San Francisco.

* The Edison Class M Electric Phonograph in an oak cabinet was refitted with a patented coin mechanism. The machine had no amplification and patrons had to listen to the music with one of four listening tubes.

* Despite its limitations, the Nickel-in-the-Slot earned more than $1,000 in its first six months. These devices remained popular and profitable for many years.

* In the decade 1910-20, the phonograph became a mass medium for popular music. During the decade following, the Great Depression saw a serious decline in individual sales. Companies relied on dance records in jukeboxes to stay afloat.

* Radio offered free music but the jukebox in the dance hall or diner offered entertainmnt as well as tunes sometimes not available on the air and the patrons had the ability to choose the songs.

* Manufacturers did not call their machines "jukeboxes" but rather Automatic Coin-Operated Phonographs or some similar name.

* While there are several ideas as to the origin of the name "jukebox", it is generally agreed that the term first appeared in the 1930s. The term either came from the African word "joot" (meaning to dance), "jute" (a fibrous crop grown in the South) or "jook" which is a word used by the descendants of slaves and meant "disorderly or wicked," or perhaps a combination of the three. A jook house or jook joint was used to describe shacks frequented by field workers to dance, drink and sometimes, as a brothel.

* Justice P. Seeburg worked first as a piano mechanic and later founded his own piano company before turning to the construction of coin machines in 1927. The names Audiophone and later Selectophone were two of Seeburg's early products.

* One well-known jukebox name is Rock-Ola. By 1935, the first Rock-Ola was manufactured with a 12-select mechanism. While the name "Rock-Ola" sounds like a dance machine, it was actually named after the company's founder, David C. Rockola.

* The Wulitzer family started buying and selling musical instrument as far back as 1659. It was no great leap for the family, whose name was synonymous with theater organs and player pianos, to get into the new business of jukeboxes.

* By 1937 -- Depression and all -- Wulitzer had sold 100,000 coin-operated phonographs. The machines were capable of 24 selections of 78 rpm records.

* During World War II from 1942 until early 1946, jukebox production was halted by the US government to conserve labor and materials for war efforts. Wurlitzer's 1946 model 1015 was the most popular of the era with more than 56,000 units shipped under the slogan "Wurlitzer Is Jukebox."

* When RCA released the first 45-rpm records in 1949, the Seeburg Company introduced a jukebox that could handle 50 selections and, for the first time, could play both sides for a full 100 songs.

* In 1955, Seeburg introduced the first 200-select jukebox.

* One jukebox, a "wall box", is a remote unit located at each table in a diner or restaurant. Wall boxes became popular because they were (and still are in some places) convenient for customers.

* While the jukebox is not completely obsolete, its best years were definitely the 1930s through the 1960s.

The following are just a few jukebox favorites from 1955 through 1965. How many do you remember?

1955 - "Ain't That A Shame" by Fats Domino, "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets, "Ballad Of Davy Crockett" by Bill Hayes and "Ain't That A Shame" by Pat Boone

1956 - "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley, "Blue Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins and "Blueberry Hill" by Fats Domino

1957 -"You Send Me" by Sam Cooke, "Party Doll" by Buddy Knox and "Honeycomb" by Jimmie Rodgers

1958 - "At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors, "Bird Dog" by the Everly Brothers and "Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley

1959 - "Teen Angel" by Mark Dinning, "Venus" by Frankie Avalon and "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters

1960 - "My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own" by Connie Francis, "Only the Lonely" by Roy Orbison and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" by Brian Hyland

1961 - "Runaway" by Del Shannon, "Hit The Road Jack" by Ray Charles and "Goodbye Cruel World" by James Darren

1962 - "Big Girls Don't Cry" by the Four Seasons, "Duke Of Earl" by Gene Chandler and "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Elvis Presley

1963 - "Sugar Shack" by the Fireballs, "You Really Got A Hold On Me" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons

1964 - "Chapel Of Love" by the Dixie Cups, "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles and "Bits and Pieces" by the Dave Clark Five

1965 - "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by the Byrds and "Downtown" by Petula Clark

Want one?

An ad found by an Internet search:

Wurlitzer 850 Jukebox,circa 1941 - The Wurlitzer 850, also known as the "Peacock" jukebox, is probably the most desirable and most sought after jukebox. It plays 78 rpm records and holds 24 records. Dimensions: 39" wide, 27" deep, 66" high, 410 lbs. Price: $24,995 plus shipping