Put Another Nickel in the Jukebox

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Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“We had these little juke joints, little taverns at that time. On a weekend there was this little place in the alley that would stay open all night. We called them Saturday night fish fries, they had two or three names; they called ‘em juke houses.” – Muddy Waters

Juke is a West African word, in one language it means wicked or disorderly and in another Congolese language it means, a building without walls. The word juke passed into popular usage with a sexual overtone among African Americans from the Southern States, it later came to describe a sort of dance. Like many derivative words, it’s almost impossible to get to the complete truth.

Generally, Juke joints were found in rural areas and it has been suggested that there is a link to the jute fields and the jute workers that frequented makeshift bars. A juke joint typically had a bar that fronted onto the street, often with a dance floor and a back room for gambling or other activities; some Juke joints doubled as a brothel. The need for music in such a place is obvious. During the 1930’s itinerant musicians, often bluesmen used the Juke Joints as their regular gigs. It was in a Juke that Robert Johnson watched Son House, while Tommy Johnson studied Charley Patton.

Robert Johnson was allegedly poisoned at this juke joint.

In 1928 Justus P. Seeburg invented one of the first jukeboxes and by the mid, to late 1930s they could be found in bars, cafes, and juke joints right across America, but particularly in working-class areas where people were less likely to own their own phonograph. In late 1938 Billboard began a new chart, which was a survey of the most popular records on Juke Boxes in America.

By 1939 there were 225,000 jukeboxes in America, which prompted James Caesar Petrillo, the President of the American Federation of Musicians to declare that records were “the number one scab”. He and his members felt that records and record companies were taking work away from musicians. Largely because of the jukebox the AFM called a strike of its members in 1942; their motive was to persuade record companies to create a trust fund to compensate musicians who might lose live work as a result of records played on jukeboxes and the radio. The strike ended in 1944 and the spread of the jukebox and the availability of an increasing number of phonographs was what the musicians strike had hoped to address. In reality, the strike, along with the war, helped bring on the demise of the big band. The singer was the star; the traditional bandleader would never again be preeminent.

Black music of the late 1940s and early 1950s was what was most commonly found on jukeboxes. It was what evolved into rock ‘n’ roll and the beautiful looking jukeboxes became pivotal in spreading the gospel according to rock ‘n’ roll.

Films like American Graffiti fuelled the mythical status of the Juke Box, as did the teenagers who hung out in the diner in the hit TV show Happy Days. Standing around the record machine, deciding what to play, is an enduring image of a bygone era of unit uninterrupted happiness. Certain records just sound better on a jukebox, but as most of us don’t have one to hand we’ve put together what we think is the start of the Ultimate Juke Box playlist. Let us know what you think we should add.

Format: Union Jack flagUK English


  1. Greg Play

    July 23, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    “LOVE” YOUR SITE, Please keep in touch with any new up-dates at any time. Not enough around like this antmore.

  2. Pete Yeomans

    July 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    What about some Duane Eddy Paul Anka Billy Fury and when will this be available to mobile phones?

    • uDiscover

      July 24, 2014 at 7:47 am

      We;ve taken your advice 🙂

  3. Ellen

    July 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Best time I ever had listening to the juke boxes growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. Those were the days.

  4. Angie

    July 23, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Teen Angel

    • Ian

      September 4, 2014 at 2:38 am

      Ian, Bobby Darren, …I remember joining two straws together, saved sixpence!.

  5. Chiel

    July 24, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Great Play list, listening to it now. To make it a Little more complete You could add c’mon everybody by Eddie Cochran.

    • uDiscover

      July 24, 2014 at 7:41 am

      We’ve added it!

  6. Axel

    July 24, 2014 at 8:25 am

    My suggestions are Johnny Burnette – You’re sixteen and Bobby Vee – Take good care of my baby


    July 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I see several Billy Fury songs on the list and I never heard of him. Is this an English inspired chart, I seem to think I heard of Billy Fury in England but not sure. What about Dale Hawkins and Ray Smith? I am 68 years old and I feel they were great iRockabilly singers.

  8. Francis

    July 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Hi, am 60 and really enjoy the oldies.

  9. Hine.

    July 28, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Thanks so much love the olies but goodies.

  10. Vin

    July 28, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Now you’ve done it. Now I have to go out and download the whole list! I’ve missed these tunes!

  11. Bill

    August 1, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    What was the name of that record you loved in the 50’s but can’t find any more? Every body has at least one song that they must hear one more time.
    All reply’s will be answered.

    • esther villarreal

      October 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm


    • Bobby Barry

      September 2, 2015 at 9:59 am

      Blue Velvet .. I was in high school.. 1949-1953.. danced the nights away with a young lady.. in.. Blue Velvel

    • Charlie

      April 18, 2016 at 11:29 pm

      Flatfoot Sam by Oscar Wills.

  12. lew_1947

    August 6, 2014 at 6:09 am

    If you were selecting OLD BLUES Classics HOW did Elvis get there? He wasnt even the first white guy to record that song.

    • uDiscover

      August 6, 2014 at 7:37 am

      Lew, we weren’t selecting old Blues classics, we were selecting rock ‘n’ roll classics.

    • Jenny

      April 14, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      There’s only one Elvis song on the list, and it was written for Elvis by Leiber and Stoller. Jailhouse Rock was the title song from his third movie. All the music in it was written by Leiber and Stoller for the movie.

  13. bobbie

    August 11, 2014 at 3:45 am

    i had so much fun

  14. Spike

    August 28, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Same old, same old…….Couldn’t you be a little more imaginative in your selection of 50’s music?

    • Joan Reed

      September 2, 2015 at 3:07 am

      Earth Angel. IL’m glad all you “kids” enjoy Rock and Roll. I am eighty, and when it started, I WAS T

  15. Charles Woodruff

    September 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    I like most all these old songs. But as an Elvis fan, I think a couple more at least should have made the list. What about Jailhouse Rock and Don’t Be Cruel? Those two should be here. Anyway, thanks for your list.

  16. Linda Spinato Gildersleeve

    September 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Anything from the early 50’s up to 1964 would be Great …

    • Tom

      November 3, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      I agree, the bettles ruined our music

    • Tom

      November 3, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      I agree, the bettles ruined our music

  17. Robert Palmer

    September 30, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Great website. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Phil Edwards

    October 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    During my teens, mid to late 50’s the highlight of my week was going into town with all my mates and visiting the record stores which had booths where you could listen to records you supposedly wanted to buy. Didn’t buy many on the money I earned on my paper round back then. There were a few coffee bars we could visit to listen to the duke box. Happy days.

  19. Ad van den Heuvel

    December 12, 2014 at 11:49 am

    wonderful music from the sixties is on your site thanks
    i wish you a merry Christmas an d a happy Newyear
    all the best in 2015

  20. John

    December 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    The list is incomplete without Pat Boone

  21. Darinfan

    December 31, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Where’s Splish Splash?

    • Dave Adams

      January 31, 2018 at 7:05 pm

      Fill the entire jukebox with Bobby Darin for me.

  22. Jerry Wheat

    January 2, 2015 at 4:28 am

    Something by the Crystals, probably “He’s a Rebel”

  23. Sylvia

    February 5, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    What about Bobby Vinton, Sonny & Cher, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Those are some of the best 60s music.

  24. Ronnie

    February 6, 2015 at 3:58 am

    What about Theresa Brewer “Music,Music,Music” or R&R-” Eddie My love”- early 50’s, so many great ones

  25. Dorothy

    February 23, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Wake up little Susie Flying purple people eater. Pretty woman

  26. Harvey

    February 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    I did not sign up for this app because there is no reason they need my date of birth.

  27. Gina

    February 24, 2015 at 5:01 am

    I grew up listening to all kinds of music. My parents had a variety of music, and I also loved the jukeboxes. I have enough 45’s to fill 2 maybe 3 of them. Thank you!

  28. Wayne Sherwell

    February 24, 2015 at 9:43 am

    One of my all time favs is “Heart” by Kenny Chandler. I think it was from 1962?

  29. Forrest

    February 25, 2015 at 1:54 am

    Hit the road Jack. Ray Charles a classic.

  30. jose

    April 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    have my own juke box holds 80 all new records don,t play it much anymore

  31. ralph

    June 7, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    4 years ago we moved to Sri Lanka and I gave my 60’s AMI jukebox away to a friend, for years I listened to music on Jukeboxes in pubs and clubs and always dreamed of owning one, well I did for a short time but how I would love one again.

  32. LindaRoz

    June 7, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    The song “I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me.” I don’t remember who sang that song, but put it on the jukebox, please. What about Hank Williams Sr.’s song about “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Oh sorry, that’s not a rock and roll song, but I would like to hear it again sometime! ” The Rock and Roll Waltz” would be a good one. I haven’t heard it in many years. Thank you for bringing back those old Jukebox songs!!!!!!! Thank you very much!!!!! Those were the days, my friend, I wished they would
    never end, but now you are bringing them back! Wow! Great!!!!! Keep on keeping on!!!!!

  33. The Count of Al Dente

    July 17, 2015 at 4:10 am

    No list should be without Rubber Bisquit!

  34. Pete

    November 16, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    “Sweet Old Fashioned Girl” – Teresa Brewer
    “The Tennessee Waltz” – Bonnie Lou

  35. Jim Dukes

    November 30, 2015 at 3:29 am

    Need Dion, “The Wanderer;” Conway Twitty, “Mona Lisa;” The Four Tops, “I Can’t Help Myself;;” Duane Eddy, “40 Miles of Bad Road.”

  36. Maxula

    January 29, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    Haw come…I dont even see Vince…u know, Vince Taylor…who once sang Shakin all over…Perhaps y’re too Young to know who am talking about…? OK, forget…gonna see elsewhere…//Maxula.

  37. Maxula

    January 30, 2016 at 12:30 am

    “how come”…of course…By the way…I found…On “Musicme”…Dig ?//Maxula.

  38. Henry

    February 10, 2016 at 12:31 am

    Stood Up by Ricky Nelson

  39. Denny

    February 12, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Loved to put a quarter in to play 3 songs!
    Duke of Earl – Gene Chandler
    Sherry – 4 Seasons
    Runaround Sue – Dion

  40. Ant

    February 18, 2016 at 11:39 am

    The first time I ever saw your face!

  41. lionel pinard

    April 9, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    j aimerais avoir plus de musique de mon temps dans les années 1960 a 1980 la musique de se temps la étais la meilleure qu aujourd hui

  42. Derek Richardson

    April 14, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    What about the Diamonds and the great Jack Scott?


    April 14, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Oh Donna by Richie Valens is a must!!

  44. Charlie

    April 18, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    “Hearts Made Of Stone” Charms and The Fontaine Siaters.

  45. Cie

    May 7, 2016 at 3:05 am

    I remember putting money in the jukebox at the little booths at the diner. Such fun. I remember playing country songs like Tennessee Waltz and Elvis’ crooning ballads. Later years the prices went up to two songs for a dollar and you had to pay the cashier up front and she’d activate the jukebox at your table.

  46. Cie

    May 7, 2016 at 3:07 am

    Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price should be on that list.

  47. Tim Wilson

    May 30, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I’m surprised that no-one has suggested the Everly Brothers.

  48. Rock'NRoll Jerry

    May 30, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Always & Forever Let The Good Time Roll.

  49. Mario Caruso

    June 17, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Cannot decide as they are all great songs

  50. Patty ambler

    July 4, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Where’s Chuck Berry?

  51. FrankO Cernugel

    November 2, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    My kind of music…..

  52. Gus McCormack

    December 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    The Bear – Johnny Guitar Watson

  53. Gus McCormack

    December 29, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    We also need some Freddy Cannon too!

  54. Rita Rollins Williamson

    December 29, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Be sure and play the songs

  55. Piet Spaans

    March 9, 2017 at 2:10 am

    You have forgotten Bill Haley and his Comets.
    Rock around the clock was the first record,that I haerd when it started all.
    thank you.

  56. Allan G Jones

    September 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Runaway, Del Shannon massive in the U.K. Jerry Lee Lewis, Whole Lotta Shakin and a lot more early Elvis all very popular here!

  57. Sharyn

    May 1, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Grady Martin – Happy Birthday (always on every jukebox) and Guy Lombardo – Auld Lang Syne

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