The Amazing AMI J

Posted by Abi 07 JUNE 2013
cool stuff

AMI jukeboxes are some of the most collectible jukeboxes of the golden age. They produced sturdy commercial grade machines that used modern materials and had a reputation of being very reliable. AMI made a wide variety of bold and brave designs, setting themselves apart from other jukebox manufacturers of the time.

History of Jukeboxes

Jukeboxes have been around since as early as the 1890s when the earliest amusement arcades began to pop up in America. Among other coin operated amusements such as mechanical fortune tellers and early versions of pinball machines. These jukeboxes could only play a single record and wouldn’t become popular until the invention of the multitrack jukebox in the late 1920s.

Various models of jukebox, or phonographs as they were called then, from a range of manufacturers were tried and tested in the following years. In the mid 1930s companies such as Wurlitzer, Rock-Ola, Seeburg and AMI began to realise the scale of demand for these new machines and each company began designing and manufacturing a great range of models.

AMI - J - Top - Close - Up

When rock and roll music became popular, jukebox sales boomed. Every bar, cafe and social spot was clamouring for the newest and most popular models of jukebox to attract the flocking young music fanatics. The type of jukebox and the tracks put in it could make or break an establishment, as a night out for the hip young dancers of the era was decided on where had the best jukebox and the best music.

Manufacturers re-invented every new model they bought out with a campaign that this jukebox would prove to be irresistible to consumers and in a race to sell more, many of the popular designs were rehashed across different companies, causing competition and conflict between them.

History of AMI

AMI’s roots were always in music. The company started out as the National Automatic Music Company manufacturing self-playing coin-operated pianos in the early 1900s.
In 1925 the company split into two divisions assigning the automatic piano manufacturing to the National Automatic Music Company and leaving the distribution to Automatic Musical Instrument Co. (AMI).

Hobart Niblack patented a mechanism for AMI in 1918 that could automatically change records. This lead to them making the first selective jukebox in 1927, paving the way for jukeboxes to take a new direction from an arcade amusement to an essential product for bars, clubs, restaurants and eventually homes. This mechanism was so effective that AMI continued to use it for the next 30 years, making alterations with every model.

Vintage Pic AMI J

Rocking All Over the World

During the 1950s, due to high demand, AMI opened it’s doors to the international market under alternative names such as BAL-AMI for England and EDEN-AMI for France.

Rowe AC Services bought AMI in 1962 and continued making jukeboxes throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, long after most other manufacturers had stopped making them due to the dramatic decline in popularity from the 60s onwards.

In recent years, due to increased popularity in vintage products and the rise in sale of vinyl records, jukeboxes are making a comeback. More and more people are seeking out these nostalgia inducing machines to add a sense of excitement for a bygone era to any room.

AMI - J - Jukebox - Vintage - Selector- Detail

Famous AMI Models

Throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, AMI released a series of unique models that were all famous in their own right.

The AMI Top Flight was released in 1936 and looked similar to other jukeboxes of the time in the way that it was made of a solid wood block and finished with chrome grills. It was designed in the new the Art Deco style that was popular during the era and has given us so many cherished vintage products.

The inspired design of the Singing Towers jukebox from 1939 was influenced by the skyscrapers of New York. It was a really innovative design for a jukebox and unlike anything created before. This was the first model to include a coloured light mechanism that changed with the music.

Model A was released in 1946 and was really popular in bars and restaurants. It was nicknamed the Mother of Plastic because of it’s bold use of plastic on the facade. This completely opposed the other jukeboxes of the time, that still looked very traditional and were based on the solid wood structure of the originals. But it became so well known that AMI continued to use plastic heavily in their designs.

The AMI J model was made in 1959 and is a beautiful classic AMI jukebox. Take a look at our AMI J in this week's Home Leisure Direct news:

The 1961 Continental was a really futuristic looking model, inspired by Sputnik and the Space Race that was happening at the time. With an attractive glass dome and a curved satellite like track listing board, it was a really popular model among music and dance lovers.

Our AMI J Jukebox

Here at Home Leisure Direct we are lucky enough to have an AMI J model in our showroom. Made in 1959 it is a beautiful model, with a large swooping glass cover to display the wide record selection and through which you can watch your chosen record being selected and played. With it’s glamorous design and it’s relatively small size, these models were aimed at an older audience to enjoy in restaurants and even at home to impress guests at parties.

Vintage AMI J Pic

AMIs are really collectible because they are much rarer to come across in good condition than the larger companies who produced thousands of units more than AMI. They are also so collectible because of their unique designs. AMI was always re-inventing it’s designs and trying out new looks and ideas as opposed to other companies who tried to cling on to successful models or even copy successful designs from other manufacturers. They coupled inventive designs based on the changing world around them, such as skyscrapers and cars, with new materials to make classy products with truly pleasing aesthetic design.

Why not pop down to our Bristol showrooms? We have all our vintage products on display, including our AMI J jukebox which is stocked full of records waiting for you to see and listen to. This model is all the more impressive in the flesh, so pop in and find out just how satisfying it is to select your favourite record from a beautiful machine that is over 50 years old.

AMI J Front Full

As with all of our vintage stock it is limited and notorious for disappearing fast! So if you’re interested, give us a call or drop us an e-mail and our friendly staff will tell you all you need to know about our jukebox range.

Written By: Abi Ponton

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