All About Jukeboxes

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Established 1971
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Company History: Me & My Seeburg
by Don A. Muller

When I started this business back in the summer of 1971 it got mixed reactions from both operators and distributors in my state of Arizona.

Distributors liked the idea of me taking jukes out of circulation and not having to take them in on trade to store, repair and sell again with little wiggle room to make a profit. It also put my new money in the operators' hands.

Most operators came around to what I did once they met me. They too liked the idea of the old jukes being taken out of the equation forever since I promised I'd not sell them to young upstart operators and that I'd remove the coin systems.

I'd contact an operator, survey his equipment and buildings and then make an offer he couldn't refuse promising to have the buildings swept out and MT in the next day or two.

Then he'd (sometimes she'd) tell me I have to take all the speakers and amplifiers hanging on the walls as well as all the 45s in collapsing cigarette boxes stacked up all over the place. Thousands of them. Sometimes they forced me to take wall/counter boxes too.  Hundreds of them.

There were a few guys though that weren't too happy with me taking their jukes and making money selling them to homes.

In some cases they'd sabotage them before selling 'em to me. Like the guy who sold me a handful of 1955/56 Seeburg V200/Vl200s. He had removed the arm connecting a set of contacts to a solenoid assembly up on the right side of the mechanism chassis that tells the mech when it's time to go rest. If you forgot, it was termed the "scan control".

Having only worked on the simple AMIs up to that time it took me a little while to figure out what was wrong. When I did, I just fabricated an arm and went on my merry way.

A few months later I ran into him at the parts counter of Garrison Sales the biggest distributor in Arizona. With a coy smile he asked how I did with the Seeburgs.

I nonchalantly smiled back looking at him for just a second before turning away and saying "I did good although there was a small part missing but that was simple to make."

Then he asked what I sold the jukes for and I told him $125. I never looked over at his response. I had paid him $7 each 2 months before.

Another guy sent me out to pick up a free V200 out West of Phoenix in the wrong part of town. Only the beer trucks and mailman drove in through the town. The school bus stopped at the entrance to the town to let the kids off. Really odd.

I went in there and got out alive, possibly because I let the kids hang on to and ride in the back of my truck dropping them off at their shacks/homes built atop an old dumping ground.

Anyway, I did this with 101 operators around Arizona before moving my entire operation to Los Angeles.

It must have taken me 20 years to think of myself as someone other than just some young upstart. But in a way tha'’s probably what allowed me to get closer and learn more from the operators.

I showed them respect and was always asking them to tell me about the good old days. I never wanted to come across as knowing more than they did.

So I was shocked by calls I'd get from John Guthrie Sr. when I moved to LA. I believe he was one of the biggest independent jukebox operators in the country back then.

But he'd call me and ask my thoughts on some new amusement devise or a jukebox he saw in Replay.

In the first few years in Phoenix I got to realize Seeburgs were engineered better than the others. So if I sound like I lean towards them, your right.

Here's my take on this:

If you think about how Seeburg disrupted the operator's complacency in 1948 with the introduction of the M100A that played more than twice as many records as their competitors and then again with the M100B that played 45s and still another when Seeburg joined SONY and built the first CD jukebox the SCD.

Unlike the small ripple Seeburg made with its first STEREO machine, these were major changes Seeburg threw at the industry that made a BIG difference and forced operators to take on the challenge or give up.

Of course each of these times the operators had to buy the same damn songs in a new format. Just how many Bing Crosby "White Christmas" and Patsy Cline “I fall pieces” discs does a guy need?

Many operators threw in the towel when 45s came along as did more of them when CDs happened. And now CDs are gone and what’s next after what we have currently ….  Holograms?

And if you remember the SCD came with a bill acceptor as standard and a coin system was optional. Pushy little company this Seeburg was.

Yet you have to admit they introduced a slew of advancements that kept the rest of the manufacturers playing 'catch up' most of the time.

But something that has always puzzled me is: how, after the war, the head of Seeburg marketing could sleep at night?

Consider this: After the war, Seeburg made 3 odd jukes that only played 20 tunes and hid the playing mechanism. Heavy records and their trays would make the pot metal tracks sag and jam up. We called them "Jimmys", but the public called them "trashcans" due to their looks of a '40s –'50s kitchen, foot pedal operated lid trashcan.

The only innovative thing about these machines was that the buttons you pushed to make a selection were actually the title strips. Relatively cool I thought.

But while Seeburg was pushing these "trashcans" everybody at the factory, if not the distributors, had to know they would be short lived machines.

Already in the development stages was the industry changing M100A of '48 that played 100 selections of 78s. Yet while they were still selling trashcans and beginning production of the "A”", they were developing the next reincarnation of jukeboxes, the 45 rpm M100B.

I've found standard 2 tune title strips made commercially by Wood, Star or Sterling that were dated 1947 before the "A" came out.

So how could these guys sleep at night? I suppose the same way any good salesman whether he’s selling the latest TV or car; they all know what’s coming down the pike.

People have sent me copies of publications from Seeburg that I never knew existed like the Seeburg "Illuminator" and the "Voice" there's another one I have volumes of I'll try to remember for this story.

Back to why Seeburg dominated the market during the '50s.

During WWll Rock-ola made rifles and Wurlitzer made bomb proximity fuses. I couldn't find what AMI did and even contacted Rowe a while back and it seems no one there knew either. I didn't look to see what NSM was up to 'cause they weren't even around.

But having bought the entire parts department of the Seeburg building at 1600 North Dayton in Chicago in 1980, at one point I owned the building’s entire contents.

I cleared out the printing department and found confidential / secret files on what Seeburg did during the war, that wouldn't be divulged until years later.

They were "The Bomb"! They had converted 100% of their resources to the war effort. Subsequently they were contracted to build extremely sophisticated equipment.

Bomb Release Intervalometer.

Bomb Shackle Release.

Gun Fire Interrupter used on the B-24 Bomber.

First Wire Recording Device for the Air Force. Dead Reckoning Tracers.

Airborne Ground Position Indication Equipment.

ARC-27 Radio Equipment.

GRC-27 Radio Equipment.

ARC-2 Radio Equipment.

GRC-19 Radio Equipment.

Aps-57 Radar Equipment.

APQ-43 Radar Equipment.

Aero-21B Scanning Antennae.

Radar Test Sets.

ASH Radar Control Boxes.

Power Supplies.

Console Indicators.

Antenna Switch Boxes.

Traqansmitter & Receiver Assmeblies.

Gear Box Assemblies.

ATC Radio Audio Ampliofiers.

Low Frequency Oscillators.

Power Supplies.

Crystal Frequency Indicators.

Pilots' Conmtrol Boxes.

Antenna Network Switches.

High & Low Frequency Antenna loading Coils.

Sonar and even Fog equipment and the list goes on, but you get the picture.

 

Seeburg was the jukebox industry's' innovator after the war.

Don A. Muller

JUKEBOXES UNLIMITED® / Los Angeles

Read the whole JU company history here.

 

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