The magic of jukeboxes.

Wikepedia: A jukebox is a partially automated music-playing device, usually a coin-operated machine, that plays a patron’s selection from self-contained media. The classic jukebox has buttons with letters and numbers on them, which are used to select specific records.

From Bopping the Blues, Carl Perkins

Well, the doctor told me, boy you don’t need no pills, Just a handful of nickels and the jukebox will cure your ills.

From Schoolday, Chuck Berry

Drop the coin right into the slot, You gotta hear something that’s really hot, With the one you love, you’re makin’ romance, All day long, you been wanting to dance, Feelin’ the music from head to toe, Round and ’round and ’round you go. Hail, hail rock ‘n’ roll, Deliver me from the days of old…

In the midst of a prevailing narrative lamenting the demise of manufacturing in our country, an unexpected melody of resilience emerges. The pervasive belief that “we don’t make anything here anymore” is challenged by the story of Sound Leisure Limited, a Leeds-based manufacturer of jukeboxes. This third generation family-owned company, founded by inventor Alan Black in 1978, stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of British manufacturing, and an answer to the doomsayers who perpetuate the myth that ‘nobody manufactures anything any more in the UK’.

Members and partners of the Club were invited to visit the Sound Leisure factory in Crossgates last November to celebrate their 45th year in business. They’ve been building jukeboxes since 1978, adapting the iconic Wurlitzer of 1940s America, preserving that legacy while innovating to become the world’s foremost designers and builders of new generations of juke boxes.

We met at 9.40 am for refreshments and were treated to ‘nostalgic sounds’ from the classic machines. Chris Black, the MD, and Gwyn Jones, the Business Development Manager, then generously gave of their time to show us round, guiding us through the intricate jukebox manufacturing process.

They have carefully preserved the legacy of the classic jukeboxes beloved by generations, while innovating to produce beautiful modern machines utilising digital platforms alongside good old vinyl.

They have successfully remained ahead of the game while capturing the essence of tradition in a rapidly evolving industry. They are also dedicated to preserving the tradition of British manufacturing, dispelling the myth that manufacturing is a relic of the past in the UK. This is a third generation family business, dedicated to nurturing new local talent. For example, I spotted a certificate on the wall for ‘Next Gen awards – highly commended rising star Richard Lomas woodworking apprentice’.

They have become a global leader with many patents and industry firsts, showcasing the capability of British craftsmanship.

Sound Leisure exports around 80% of all the Classic Jukeboxes it builds in an average year, to over 40 countries world-wide. Interestingly nowadays over 75% of the Classic Jukeboxes they manufacture are purchased by customers for their own homes, with the remaining jukeboxes finding homes in various public spaces.

Towards the end of our visit I enjoyed a nostalgic chat about listening to early rock and roll on the jukebox with one of the self effacing backroom boys, who told me that as a young lad he’d made a bit of money from his schoolmates by working out how to tweak transistor radios to improve the bandwidth of 208 medium wave, enabling listeners to stay tuned to Radio Luxemburg without all the background interference. Clearly an innovator destined for greater things. This turned out to be the company’s founder, Alan Black.

 Sound Leisure Limited, with its unwavering commitment to innovation and British manufacturing, serves as a compelling counter-narrative to the belief that manufacturing is on its deathbed. In an era where the landscape has indeed shifted, this company stands as a beacon, exporting the rhythm of British craftsmanship worldwide. The melody of the jukebox echoes not only in homes but also in the resilience of an industry that refuses to be silenced.










Get in touch with Roundhay Rotary Club:

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