The music of the United States reflects the country’s multi-ethnic population through a diverse array of styles from many different places.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, some forms of American popular music have gained a near global audience. However, back in the early 20th century, mainstream radio stations across the USA refused to play Rhythm & Blues or Country music by African-American Artists - censorship by today's standards but it proved a golden opportunity for jukebox operators of the era, as their machines proved to be the ideal channels to play the records by these sidelined artists.
The jukebox gave the American public a chance to listen to both Rhythm & Blues and Country or Hillbilly music, in turn popularizing Rock 'n' Roll’s roots. Heavy guitar & drum tunes, produced predominantly by black musicians, were very popular for the jukebox market and it was not long before the record companies took note. Brunswick records bought the Vocalian record label in order to solely produce jukebox hits by African-American artists. Blues musicians like Muddy Waters and Tampa Red had next to no radio play, but enjoyed massive jukebox success.
Song-popularity counters informed the owner of the machine of the number of times each record was played, resulting in popular records remaining, while less desired songs were replaced. This eventually led to jukeboxes receiving their own section in Billboard magazine, tying the fates of the jukebox industry and the music industry together.
The record industry saw profits increase throughout the 30's. The jukebox was the undoubted catalyst for this industry growth. Jukeboxes sold so many records that recording artists like Artie Shaw and Bing Cosby aligned themselves with the industry, appearing in ads in order to aid record sales.
By the middle of the 1940s, three-quarters of the records produced in America went into jukeboxes. Branded as “real American entertainment”, jukeboxes were packed full of optimistic, patriotic songs to help drive the war effort
As U.S. soldiers deployed to Europe, they brought their LPs with them, spreading the popularity of Jazz and early Rock ‘n’ Roll to the UK. A demand for the music led to a demand for jukeboxes overseas once their production resumed after the war.
The 1950's saw a huge amount of wealth flowing into American homes. With it came the rise of the teenager. These affluent young people were looking for entertainment and found it in clubs, soda fountains and bowling alleys. Jukeboxes remained the center of their entertainment, inspiring innovation in design.
The Seeburg Corporation introduced an all 45 rpm vinyl record jukebox in 1950; since the 45's were smaller and lighter, they soon became the dominant jukebox media. Wallboxes were another important, and profitable, part of 50's jukebox innovation. Serving as a remote control, they enabled patrons to select tunes from their diner booth or bowling lane.
Stereo sound became popular in the early 1960s, and wallboxes of the era were designed with built-in speakers to provide patrons a sample of this latest technology.
In 1974, Seeburg’s M100C jukebox was seen by millions of Americans on a regular basis in the credits of the hit show, Happy Days. The opening credits featured a 1967 Rock-Ola 434 Concerto.
CDs came into popular use by the late 80s, improving sound quality and replacing vinyl records in many places. CDs allowed jukeboxes to enjoy a revival, as would other technological advances.
By the end of the 90's, the first digital jukeboxes emerged, enabling internet connectivity and early streaming that would become the norm for today’s digital jukeboxes.
These days jukeboxes have found a their own niche. Classic designs emphasize a vintage vibe that reminds us of the importance of a shared love of music.
Here at Rock-Ola we are proud to be the world’s only manufacturer of the authentic American jukebox and we’ve got big plans for the Company as we take it to the next phase of history.