Early Rock-'n'-Roll and Jukeboxes

One might consider it a coincidence that the development of 100 selection 45rpm mechanisms for the jukeboxes occurred at the same time as the new music style, known today as the rock-'n'-roll, was heard on 'race recordings' for the first time. There may have been connections between the development of the new black powerful beat of the music, the record ban of 1948, and the jukebox industry's development of new mechanisms for the vinyl records, but who knows for sure.

The new 100 selection Select-O-Matic mechanism made by The Seeburg Corporation had been on the way for seven years (developed by Edward F. Andrews in 1941) before it was reliable for use in the Seeburg M100A introduced late in 1948. The mechanism was at first used for 78rpm, but later most of the M100A models were converted to play 45rpm. The interesting fact in this connection is, that there was a record ban for the whole of 1948. During that year there were no new 78rpm records pressed by the record companies, and most of the rocking blues recordings that came after Wynonie Harris' "Good Rocking Tonight" were released early in 1949 although they were master taped late 1947 or during the ban in 1948. The tune "Good Rocking Tonight" on DeLuxe label had been released as a parody on gospel by Roy Brown early in 1947 (real blues), but along came Wynonie Harris, who changed the rhythm to a gospel rhythm of rocking on the 2nd and 4th beat of the 4/4 measure, and that recording of the tune released on King label might be the one that really started the development of the rock'n'roll music. All of this is well described in the Hoy-Hoy website edited by Morgan Wright. The rhythm-'n'-blues was forever changed, and during the period 1949-1951 the black artists in America tried to out-rock eachother. Today the first recording that started the rock'n'roll era, which means having the perfect, powerful new beat, is said to be the "Rocket 88" released early in 1951 on Chess label by Jackie Brenston (1930-1979) & His Delta Cats (with Izear Luster Turner alias Ike Turner (1931-2007) on piano). Later that year Bill Haley (William John Clifton Haley, 1925-1981) also recorded the tune on Essex label, and became the first white artist to play the new rock'n'roll music.

The jukebox industry, however, had a big problem with the record ban of 1948. The industry did not know for sure if it was going to be a total change for 33 1/3rpm, and that no 78rpm shellac records would be pressed in the years to come. As a consequence, it was considered a good idea by the manufacturers to try to make mechanisms for the smaller 45rpm vinyl records developed by RCA. The Seeburg Corporation was the first to meet the challenge due to the invention by Edward F. Andrews used in the new model M100A of 1948, and the firm could therefore take over the leading role in the industry until The Wurlitzer Company, due to its size and long-time strength on the music market, was able again to compete for the leading role in 1954. During that year the new Wurlitzer 1700AF with vertical carousel record changer system was released by The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, and The Seeburg Corporation had to answer back with the first American 200 selection mechanism used in the V200 introduced late summer 1955.

Going back to the new music style of the late forties, it is interesting to note that the new music style was in place but it had no official name. The name for the music came, when the noted disc jockey Alan Freed (Albert James Freed, 1921-1965) went on the air again on the 11th July, 1951, with his first Rock and Roll Party in which he actually programmed black music for a white audience. Alan Freed had been talked into returning to radio by Leo Mintz, a record store owner in Cleveland, after a position as disc jockey at a television station, and Leo Mintz even suggested that Alan Freed should try to play the rocking tunes known as 'race records', that were so popular and bought in large numbers by the jukebox operators in the Negro neighborhoods. Alan Freed is said to have coined the new phrase from the lyrics of the 1947 rhythm-'n'-blues hit "We're Gonna Rock (We're Gonna Roll)" released on Apollo label by Wild Bill Moore (William M. Moore, 1918-1983), but Wild Bill Moore also recorded the tune "Rock and Roll" on Modern label in 1949. The same tune had in fact been released on Manor label by Paul Bascomb in 1947 before the record ban, so it might have been that tune instead that gave Alan Freed the new phrase. After Alan Freed had used the new phrase in his radio shows other disc jockeys at big radio stations all over America followed suit.

Thus, it is a fact that the rock-'n'-roll term was official in 1951, and that it could celebrate its 50 Years Anniversary in 2001, the first year of the new millenium. It is also a fact that the jukebox industry that accounted for a large proportion of total record sales and played a major role in its ultimate success did right, when it adopted the vinyl record so quickly and threw its weight behind RCA's product. The general sales manager at The Seeburg Corporation, Carl T. McKelvy, had been aware right away that the vinyl record was ideally suited for the jukebox operators because it was light, small, and unbreakable. The Seeburg Corporation came out with model M100B in 1950, the first exclusively 45rpm jukebox. The other record companies including Columbia gradually moved over to 45rpm for their popular recordings (including rock-'n'-roll) instead of 33 1/3rpm LP's. The other major jukebox manufacturers, The Rock-Ola Corporation, AMI (Automatic Musical Instruments), and of course The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, were reluctantly compelled to follow in Seeburg's footsteps and made the decision to go full steam into 45's in 1953 with the exclusively 45rpm models Rock-Ola 1438 Comet-Fireball, AMI E-80, and Wurlitzer 1650. The jukebox industry and the record companies went hand in hand on this, and in 1954 a total of not less than 200 million 45's were sold in America. In the early fifties about 60 million records were used annually by jukeboxes operators.

Gert J. Almind