Leeds manufacturer celebrates 130th anniversary of the first jukebox installation


The UK’s only manufacturer of classic jukeboxes, Sound Leisure, is commemorating the 130th anniversary of the first installation of the jukebox by visiting some of the first places to house a Sound Leisure jukebox when the company began in 1978.

The first jukebox, developed by the original manufacturer, Thomas Edison was installed on November 23rd 1889 at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. Constructed by the Pacific Phonograph Co, four stethoscope-like tubes were attached to an Edison Class M electric phonograph fitted inside an oak cabinet. The tubes operated individually, each being activated by inserting of a nickel, meaning that four different listeners could be plugged into the same song simultaneously.

Towels were supplied to patrons so they could wipe off the end of the tube after each listening.

Today, Sound Leisure has produced over 100,000 jukeboxes from its Leeds-based factory which it exports to 28 countries around the world. Best known for its range of classic styled vinyl and CD playing jukeboxes, Sound Leisure produced commercial jukeboxes that were installed in pubs and clubs throughout the UK and some of the venues that were home to the firm’s earliest commercial jukeboxes still offer their machines as entertainment. Technological advances mean that today digital jukeboxes enable consumers to download millions of tracks remotely with some machines even offering contactless payment solutions.

130 years after the first ever jukebox installation, Leeds public house The Cricketers Arms in Seacroft became the first venue to house the new contactless machine which are growing in popularity throughout the country.

Sound Leisure co-founder, Alan Black relays his experience since the 1960s:

“I started my first business Cavala Electronics repairing TV’s, radio’s, record players and electric goods in 1965 whilst working in a garage and studying at Leeds Technical College. I was excited by my creation which today is known as ‘sound to light’ and it was after seeing a jukebox in a transport café that I realised adding lighting to original jukeboxes was what I needed to do. I used to drive across the country talking to the likes of the BBC, but nobody was interested. It was only when I met a shrewd local businessman, Albert Levy who loved the lighting I produced and installed into his personal Seeburg jukebox that he introduced me to a cellar bar in Bradford and brought in the owners of a large Bradford hotel who loved the idea which went on to feature in discotheques across the UK.

“Albert and I then joined forces to set up in business which quickly became listed on the FT100 and we installed hundreds of jukeboxes and lighting into venues. That business was acquired (which today is Chrysalis) and so I set up Sound Leisure.

“People thought I was crazy for starting manufacturing jukeboxes in the UK, but we’ve had great success over the past 41 years and are now the oldest single ownership manufacturers in the world.”

Sound Leisure managing director and son of Alan, Chris Black adds:

“Playing music for entertainment via a machine in a public place extends back 130 years and is still as relevant today as it was then. Modernisation means that people can enjoy their favourite music wherever they are but the original concept still remains and we’re proud to be part of an industry with such a great heritage.”