There’s a secret story behind Jukebox Man that’s hidden on it’s jacket. “Jacqueline K. Ogburn’s grandfather really was a jukebox man, and so was her father. She never had to buy records as a child because her grandfather had stacks of 45s…” The book is dedicated to her grandfathers – and the illustrator even dedicates the book to the author, “for all your help in bringing this book to light.” It’s a childhood memory that’s been lovingly preserved – but more than that, it’s a slice of Americana.
The story describes the magic that brought music to everyone. “He had jukeboxes in dozens of diners and restaurants, fish camps and truck stops all over the state.” One restaurant “smelled like hot grease and fish and biscuits,” and another like “coffee, vinegar, and damp hamburger buns. But soon the author is describing an actual jukebox itself, “a grand Wurlitzer, the kind with a curved top and bubbles in the tubes of lights.” Her grandfather stocks it with records, and then pours out the collected change. “I had never seen so many quarters, nickels, and dimes at once.”
A record falls into place and the lights come up when the music begins, but instead the illustrator draws the smiling grandfather as the excited girl makes her selection. Illustrator James Ransome knows that the real story is in the warmth that lies behind Jacqueline’s fond memories. Even the change from grandfather’s machines seem magical – there’s a drawing of the coins on the table, which the girl’s grandfather collects into long paper rolls.
Throughout the book, the girl simply follows her grandfather on his visits to the restaurants. It’s not much of a story, but it’s fun to catch glimpses of a 1950s America. There’s a diner with a neon sign. The truck stop waitress brings a Dr. Pepper. Eventually the little gets her own 45 record to keep – “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley. Vinyl record were precious to a little girl in the 1950s, so it’s a real loss when she drops her record, breaking it to pieces on the floor of her grandfather’s workshop before she’s even gotten a chance to play it.
But her grandfather can make everything right, just by telling her to punch C-5 on the big Wurlitzer jukebox in the corner. There’s whirrs and clicks, and then three jukeboxes start playing all at once – and they’re all blasting Elvis’s “Blue Suede Shoes.”
“I laughed and Poppaw smiled, and we danced in the patches of light as the jukeboxes flashed red, yellow, and green.”