BnL Bar Etiquette: Jukebox Basics

BnL Bar Etiquette: Jukebox Basics

I don’t know about you, but when I walk into a new watering hole to kick back and enjoy a few cold ones, I quickly peruse the room and look for three things:

1)     Where is the bathroom? (When I have to go, I have to go. Ask anyone who knows me…)
2)     What beers are on tap?
3)     Where is the Jukebox and what kind is it?


Before I go any further, kudos need to be given to four individuals for even giving me a reason to want to write this down; Mr. Louis Glass, Mr. William S. Arnold, Mr. Hobart C. Niblack, and Mr. Justus P. Seeburg. These fine gentlemen were the pioneers in forever changing the landscape and defining what makes a great drinking establishment. They provided us the “Nickel-in-the-Slot machine”, otherwise known as the Jukebox!

Jukebox you say? Yes the Jukebox!

The two things I enjoy most are music and beer. When the two are done together it is like sticking your finger in a 220 line, sending a pure rush of adrenaline through your body, making you feel like you are on top of the world! It starts with a subtle toe tap, a shimmy up the leg making it bounce like you are riding a hippity hop, the head starts to bob and weave, and the next thing you know you are chair dancing and singing like you are on stage at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 screaming fans!

Now I don’t want to take away from other means of drinking and listening to music, because there are plenty. I am all for going to the local pub and listening to a great band practice their trade, like Modern Medicine of Grand Rapids or Uniform 61 of Chicago. And how could you forget the Friday night Karaoke party where you can listen to the sounds of a cat being skinned alive as people sing their favorite songs! But for me the Jukebox allows the opportunity to choose the songs I want to hear and allows me to express my inner feelings at any particular moment.

So, just as Jules praised himself as the “footfucking master”, I consider myself somewhat of a Doctor of the Jukebox. Whether it is a Rock-ola, a Seeburg, or a Wurlitzer; I would like to think I have become pretty proficient in the ways of making the box rock over the years!

Now with anything you attempt to do and do well, there are a couple of key critical details you have to consider:

Make sure you have cash
I am not a cash carrying individual, but it is important to point out if you are going to truly enjoy the Jukebox, you have to have cash. There may be boxes out there that accept plastic, but I have not run across one yet. I recommend either having a stack of $1’s like you are going to a strip club, have 4 $5 bills, or a girlfriend who always has cash in her billfold (I typically follow this modus operandi myself).

If you are going to go the $5 bill route, please, please, please make sure the Jukebox accepts both old and new $5 bills. There is nothing worse than standing at the Jukebox feeding a bill into the slot and it spits back out at you. Turn the damn bill around trying the other way and then when that doesn’t work you make sure the corners are not curled, and when that doesn’t work you walk away just pissed off and looking like an idiot!

Know your Jukebox
Identify if it is an old school box or a newer internet box. I prefer the old school kind, where the buttons still look like a keyboard on a Commodore 64. I think using the internet feature on a Jukebox is cheating. If you want to distinguish yourself as a great Jukeboxer, find the hidden gems that are preloaded.

Know your audience
It is important to not only consider those at your table, but those at other tables, stools, or patrons participating in bar related activities; i.e. darts, billiards, or shuffle board. I am by no means a “judge a book by the cover” type of guy, but initial impressions of people by their clothing, beverage, or even hair, can give you an idea of what type of music they may lean towards. Throw everyone a musical bone once in a while and play tunes that will not get others paying extra to play their song next.

Play music that makes people happy
Not everyone can listen to Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense and Peppermints, 3 times in a row. Believe me I play plenty of songs just for me, but again if you know your audience and play songs that make others happy, you gain recognition as a judge of good music. Pretty soon you will not have to fork out any $1 or $5 bills as people will be giving you cash to go hit up the Jukebox. You earn the trust and respect of those and they look to you to make their drinking experience that much better.

Feel free to take some words of wisdom from a guy who has drank a few beers in his day (drinking good or shitty beer is a serious business); make it that much better by appreciating the two things that go hand in hand.

So the next time you see a person standing at the Jukebox, intently scrolling through the listed music, carefully picking out a musical genius of a playlist; tip your hat, raise your glass, and show a sign of respect by buying their next 24oz ale of choice.

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Dr. Müller
Written by Dr. Müller

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