Music Monday: The Most Popular Jukebox Songs of All Time

We have been watching the wonderful PBS Ken Burns mini-series on Country Music, and it has been quite informative.

Part of today’s episode featured Patsy Cline, someone I knew very little about. However, I did learn that her hit song “Crazy”, which was written by Willie Nelson, at one point was the most popular jukebox song of all time.

So I decided to see if that was still the case, and thanks to Newsweek and the Amusement and Music Operators Association, I was able to find a listing of the top 10 jukebox songs of all time. According to this list, “Crazy” is number two on the list.

There is a slight asterisk to the list, as the number one spot actually includes two songs – “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis. It seems that these songs were a double-sided hit, one song appearing on the “A side” and the other on the “B side” of the record. I guess jukeboxes do not distinguish as to what side was played, and since they were both huge hits for Elvis, they seem to count it as one “song” on the list.

I am guessing for some readers the top 10 list below will bring back memories of sitting in a diner, flipping through the jukebox, putting in a quarter, and then listening to your song. I always thought it was a pretty cool technology, and I wish restaurants still had jukeboxes at each table. As I vaguely recall, I think it was Howard Johnson’s used to have such a setup.

Anyway, here is the list, with an accompanying video:

1  “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel”–Elvis Presley

2. “Crazy”–Patsy Cline

3. “Rock Around The Clock”–Bill Haley and the Comets”

4. (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”–Otis Redding

5. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”–Marvin Gaye

6. “Mack the Knife”–Bobby Darin“

7. “Light My Fire”–The Doors

8. “Blueberry Hill”–Fats Domino

9. “Old Time Rock and Roll”–Bob Seger

10. “My Girl”–The Temptations

Every song a classic – no wonder they made the top 10.

Enjoy…

*image from Dave’s Computer Tips

51 thoughts on “Music Monday: The Most Popular Jukebox Songs of All Time

  1. Ken Burns has created so many fabulous documentaries. I miss those table jukeboxes. It was so much fun flipping through the choices, even if we didn’t select any.

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  2. A lot of good music on that list. That is the first a cappella version of Heard It Through The Grapevine I’ve seen. That must be very difficult. I dropped a few nickels, dimes and quarters on Marvin Gaye over the years. I believe there are still jukeboxes out there in some burger chains. I think Johnny Rockets has them and still has the old songs. I forget (South America or Asia) where the staff did a rock and roll dance when one of the classics was played. Great post!

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    1. that is the first time I heard that version as well, but it was the best live version of the song I could find. Marvin Gaye was certainly a talented artist. I have not been to a Johnny Rockets in a long time. I may go just to check out the jukeboxes. And your experience overseas just shows how universal music is.

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  3. What a wonderful stroll down memory lane, Jim! I am not familiar with the technology or the songs because they are so before my time (said with the practiced feigned ignorance that belies my real age). But they are all certainly classics. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be “The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. I challenge anyone to not sing along when that song comes on. Another great musical post for the series, Jim!

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    1. thanks, Brad. It’s a shame you were born so much later than me – you missed all the great technologies like black and white tvs and rotary phones 🙂
      But I’m with you, I would probably pick The Dock of the Bay as my favorite from the list, even though it seems like kind of a sad song

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      1. I was lucky enough to learn how to drive a stick shift (three on the tree); it’s a dying art…
        It’s been along time since I’ve driven a manual, but I think it would come back pretty quickly…

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  4. Hi Jim,

    Your list is based on pop tunes, whereas the coins put into the juke boxes, especially in bars and road houses, more often leaned toward country music
    Patsy Cline’s Crazy crosses over into country lists as well. Crazy was a hit, but not Patsy’s all-time hit. By the way Crazy was written by Willie Nelson, who wrote songs that became both pop and country favorites recorded by other artists. In Ken Burn’s History of Country Music Willie claims he started out as a poet before becoming a song writer.

    The Top 100 Country Music Hits —
    https://timelife.com/products/the-country-jukebox-collection/
    The alcoholic Hank Williams is now considered a poet after writing the lyrics for over 167 songs.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_written_by_Hank_Williams

    Top Selling Singles of All Time —
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_singles

    Bob Jensen’s Links to Free Music
    http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/Music.htm

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    1. Hi Bob, as far as I can tell, the list is based on data from the Amusement and Music Operators Association, which I am guessing is an industry association that monitors jukebox play. As a result, I would guess all those bars and road houses that you mention are probably included in the data. I assume that’s what helped get Crazy on the list,,although I am sure it was quite popular in all jukeboxes.
      I am a fan of Willie Nelson’s – he seems like an incredibly gifted artist.
      And thanks for those other lists – this past year I have started to listen to a lot more country music, and have been enjoying it immensely. The Ken Burns special has been quite helpful in getting me up to speed with the history and names of country music. I’m also a fan of Johnny Cash’s music…

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  5. I too enjoyed the Ken Burns series, which was shown here in the UK on BBC4 a few months ago. I think those tunes reflect the age in which the jukebox really thrived, and their listening numbers may well now be carved in the musical stone of history. Only one of them is later than the 60s, and that isn’t even my favourite Bob Seger song – I’d have gone for Night Moves if it had been on the jukebox in my day. Like others, I too wonder about the absence of the Beatles or the Stones but, as the list is from an American source I’m wondering if that is because the jukebox selections were limited to ‘local’ music? Just a thought…

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      1. A lot of my favorite artist died tragically in plane crashes before I was born. Most of them young. I was born in the wrong decade because I like the music, both country and rock that was before my time. 😊

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      2. it is amazing how many singers have died quite young. I had thought about doing a blog about it, but I thought it would be a bit depressing, particularly at this moment in time… I was fortunate to see Elvis and another one of my favorites, Harry Chapin, before they died way too young…

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      3. I wished I had been able to see Elvis. I was only 11 when he died. A month before my 12th birthday. I was sitting in the backseat of my moms car and she almost wrecked when the news of Elvis’ death. We both cried.

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  6. The only singers I know from the collection is Elvis and the Temptations, but I’ve heard all the songs. Haha 😀 Except for number 5 and 8 everything is my favorite. Thanks to you I can now add them in playlist so excited. I ended up dancing when I clicked 3. “Rock Around The Clock”–Bill Haley and the Comets” haha 😀

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