Long before the Walkman (remember it?) and the digital music players of today, there were jukeboxes — in essence, coin-operated phonograph players (remember records?). They came into use in the 1930s, and at the height of their popularity in the mid-1940s, three-quarters of all American records made their way into the ubiquitous jukeboxes, which were found in bars, taverns, pool halls, roadhouses, nightclubs, soda shops, restaurants, diners, video arcades and even laundromats.
The jukebox got its name from the rowdy places known as juke joints (aka barrelhouses), which were roadside establishments where blacks were able to dance, drink and gamble outside of the view of whites. Jukeboxes allowed the masses the pleasure of choosing a tune and listening to it for only a nickel, and since jazz was the popular music of America during the 1930s, 1940s and into the 1950s, the who’s who of the world of jazz could be heard not only on the radio but, of course, in every neighborhood joint with a jukebox. Jukeboxes were big business in America during the 1930s, and by 1940, it is estimated that the industry had approximately 600,000 jukeboxes in use that grossed more than $150,000,000 that year.
The invention of the transistor in the 1950s, and, thereafter, the integrated circuit, ushered in the era of miniaturization and portability, allowing easy and free access to music on demand, thereby bringing about the demise of the jukebox in the mid-1960s.
While the jukebox was king in the 1930s, hobbyists began to tinker with it in an attempt to link a movie projector with a jukebox so that it could play a musical film. Remember, TV wasn’t available yet, and at that time, there were limited opportunities for people to see live music performances.
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