Internet jukeboxes have no place in my world. I’m supposed to be impressed with a glorified I-Pod? The jukebox wasn’t just a machine that played music, it described what bar, restaurant or club you were at. The character of the venue was based on the music selection. Plus, there’s something exciting about going to a place, walking up to their jukebox, and selecting from what they have to offer. Internet jukeboxes have no style, no class, no character what-so-ever, so I was excited to get the chance to talk to local legend and former radio personality “Mad” Joe Martin about his massive collection of these music machines of the past.
Joe has almost hit the fifty-year mark since his first time to open a mic on the radio. He started his radio career in 1971 and throughout the years, worked at several stations. “I lasted six days on KLUR”, Martin proudly claimed, tongue in cheek. He did a Sunday show in 1980 for 6 weeks and then went back to Top 40.
These days “Mad” Joe works as a nostalgia DJ for Class Reunions, Car Shows, adult birthday parties and such. “When they want to create the memories from days gone by, I’m the go-to guy on that”, Martin explains.
Joe Martin is a collector of things of the past. “I’ve always been a nostalgia freak… and I enjoy the days gone by”, Martin continued. He also has classic cars, and old guitars added to his collection of his many, many jukeboxes. 14 jukeboxes, with 13 of them in his own home, which he explains is an extension of his music career and his time in radio.
He began his collection 30 years ago, but his fascination for the juke box started in the mid ‘50’s when he’d put nickels into his uncle’s café in Denton, TX. Over 60 years later, he still loves the sound and now owns an identical replica of that original coin operated machine that he’d sit and listen to at his uncle’s café.
“I prefer to listen to old records… especially the 45’s. There’s something about that… the warmth, the feeling, the sound, the memories… it just can’t be beat”, Martin notes. The nostalgia takes him back to when he first put those songs on the airwaves with debut singles from artist like The Doors, The Doobie Brothers, The Beatles and so many great artists from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
Martin’s oldest jukebox was crafted in 1937. An eighty-one year old piece with a wooden cabinet and only 12 selections to choose from. He tries to keep each machine “period correct” and the oldest song he has is Al Jolson, doing “Swanny” on a 78 RPM from 98 years ago. He also owns a copy of Eddie Arnold’s “Texarkana Baby” which was the very first ever pressed 45 from 1949 RCA 001. Very first copy ever.
Around the mid-60’s manufactures started making jukeboxes covered so you wouldn’t see the inner workings. They believed it looked fancier but Martin prefers the classic look so he doesn’t have much past those years. He’s gathered pieces from around the country as far as Eugene, Oregon as well as Iowa, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and occasionally will find one from the area.
So what record impresses someone with THIS much selection to choose from? “Mad” Joe Martin’s favorite records are the local ones. Hard to find records that are a part of Wichita Falls history. Back in the 60’s there was an anchor on TV3 named Don Alexander who put out a record with his band called “Hot Dang, Mustang” in 1965. Plus, local favorites, The Mammals, and a rare one called “Wichita Falls, My Hometown” made in 1962.
Can he possibly collect more machines while his house is packed with so many? Martin adds with a grin, “Should someone call me and say, ‘Joe we’ve got a great Wurlitzer jukebox that needs a new home’, we’ll make room for it.” His goal is to have a small museum in town to show his collection to others. In a world that gives us endless choices in our music, I’d love to see these machines be preserved with his retro idea. It would definitely give our town a touch of nostalgic class.
— James Cook