Happy National Jukebox Day!
Created and launched by Touchtunes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2017, the holiday celebrates one of the busiest bar nights of the year in the U.S. as everyone gathers together to kick off for a celebratory long weekend. It's a night when any and every jukebox plays almost non-stop and notably the anniversary date of the first coin-operated phonograph installed in 1887 in the San Francisco's Palais Royal Saloon.
My love for jukeboxes started early in my career when I worked for Windham Hill, a record label in the BMG family with offices overlooking Times Square. Most afternoons, our radio promo guru Dave Morrell would fire up his office jukebox and fill the hallways with the rich warmth of classics like Etta James' "At Last" (Dave's 1956 Wurlitzer song selections playlist).
Dave became one of my best pals and graciously gifted me a 1954 AMI jukebox, which I still own today and that currently sits in our Clio office awaiting a tune up.
And while today's celestial-solutions might lack the warmth, bar owner's curation, and scratchy intimacy of the 45-filled classics of the past, they do provide one powerful thing: an opportunity to share love by playing the right song at the right time in the right space.
Here are five favorite covers featuring this iconic invention of glorious sound.
New Juke Box Hits
As the "Father of Rock and Roll," Chuck Berry is ALWAYS a right choice in any juke joint. A classic Chess cover. Dig that vest, too. Don Bronstein produced a majority of the Chess photos and covers. Possibly this one, too.
Best of the Doobies
Back in the '70s and '80s, we all ordered records at some point by joining the Columbia House Record & Tape Club (the initial 12 albums/cassettes/8 tracks were sold for a penny). The Doobies were one of my picks. This "Best Of" cover combines a table top model in a favorite setting—a diner. Order me a cheeseburger deluxe, a turkey club, or the meatloaf special—they're all perfect combos for whatever selections are on this beauty. Listen to the music, indeed.
I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs
Apparently when you're just starting to hate cheating songs, you're apt to smash up a few bottles of very drinkable Kentucky bourbon. Many jukebox lovers have also experienced the "honky tonk amnesia" featured here too. Album graphics credited to Pinwheel Studios including a cover photo of Moe by Bob Jones.
What artists would a gorilla select to play on a jukebox? The Gorillaz and The Monkees are perhaps way too obvious choices as is "The Tra La La Song" by The Banana Splits… but Bruno Mars' "Gorilla" has to be on the modern primate's list. The cover art here is tied to that song, the first written for the album, which became the release’s mascot and cover shot. Art direction and design by Willo Perron.
Perez Prado and His Orchestra
Pops and Prado
Like so many classic Verve and Blue Note covers over the years, the RCA Victor "Living Stereo" series evokes an era of classic recordings. Here Perez Prado stands watch over a jukebox playing the sounds of his swinging orchestra and lighting up the duo on the dance floor.
Just like Prez, let's all fire up the jukebox wherever we end up this week and spread the good grooves of music.