Recording Studio: A jukebox is a coin-operated machine that plays music from a record or compact disc (CD) once a selection is made. Originally called nickelodeons, the term jukebox did not appear until the late 1930s and its origins are in dispute. Some believe it is derived from the African word jook, meaning to dance. Others link it to the juke joints—roadside bars located in the South and frequented by African Americans—that were popular at that time.
In its height of popularity in the mid-1950s, approximately 750,000 jukeboxes were in use across the United States. That number dipped during the 1970s and 1980s, but with the advent of recording studio CD technology and a growing antiques market, the number of jukeboxes presently in use is a solid 250,000.
Recording Studio: Jukebox History
In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the recording studio phonograph, a coin-operated music machine that played music from a wax cylinder. On November 23, 1889, Louis Glass installed a coin-operated phonograph in his Palais Royale Saloon located in San Francisco. It was called “nickel-in-a-slot” because that was the amount of money needed to make a selection. Later, the term was shortened to nickelodeon. In 1906, John Gabel invented the “Automatic Entertainer,” a music machine that replaced the wax cylinder with 78-rpm disc recordings and offered several selections of records that could be played. Gabel’s Automatic Entertainer dominated the market until the mid-1920s.
The jukebox remained something of a novelty arcade item until the invention of the electric amplifier. Without amplification, it was impossible for a large group of listeners to enjoy the music played by the jukebox. When Automated Musical Instruments Inc. (AMI) developed an amplifier in 1927, the popularity of the jukebox surged. It was especially popular in the illegal speakeasies of the Prohibition Era because it provided a cheap form of entertainment. AMI sold 50,000 of its amplified machines in one year, bringing to life the age of the jukebox.