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Jukebox tunes a stress reliever for St. John's music enthusiast


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Rosie Mullaley

The Telegram

Like most people across the country, Jeremy Earle is spending a lot of time at home these days, separating himself from society as it deals with the global COVID-19 pandemic that’s had everyone on edge.

It’s in times like this — when the world is inundated with news about the coronavirus — that the 48-year-old finds himself retreating to his rec room to take a step back in time.

His Rock-Ola 445 jukebox, made in 1971, is tucked in a corner of the room, but holds a special place in Earle’s heart.

“This last week has been really difficult, so it’s nice to escape and put on some old tunes,” he said. “It’s been a great stress reliever.”

The jukebox is filled with dozens of 45-rpm vinyl records, and Earle finds himself putting on decades-old tunes that help him relax and reflect.

“I found over the last week or so, I’m playing records I would’ve played when I was a teenager — stuff from the late ’80s, when you didn’t have a care in the world, when the most important thing you worried about was who’s going to a party or will I get a call from that girl?” he said with a chuckle. “It takes you back to a more innocent time.”

Jukeboxes were iconic fixtures in diners, soda shops and restaurants in the 1950s and ’60s. Pop a coin in and you could watch the automated arm choose your record selection and place it on the turntable. Today, they’re often kept for nostalgia's sake. After all, who could forget the famous "Happy Days" scenes with The Fonz drawing a frenzy of girls with just one tap of his fist on the jukebox?

As a young music lover growing up in Grand Falls-Windsor, Earle always dreamed of owning a jukebox. Just over 20 years ago, when he moved to St. John’s and bought his first house with his wife, Lori Lynn, he spotted a used jukebox for sale for $200. He jumped at the chance to buy it.

“It weighed a ton,” he said, laughing, recalling having to drag the 400-pound machine out of the original owner’s basement. “But I managed to get it home.”

It didn’t work perfectly, so Earle had to rent a U-Haul to bring it to a repairman.

“He had it for a while, but he got it going,” he said. “That was 20 years ago and other than some regular maintenance, like oil now and then, it’s been going strong ever since. Not bad for something 50 years old.”

The jukebox stands at just five feet high and three feet wide, and Earle admits there are much bigger and better models. Some of the more sophisticated models can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“It’s not a high-end system. It actually sounds like an AM radio station,” he said. “But I love it.”

It’s given him an opportunity to play some of his thousands of vinyl records, which he began collecting in the 1980s. In all, he figures he’s got about 3,000 33-rpm records and 2,000 45-rpm records.

“There’s no shortage of choices,” he said, noting the jukebox plays 100 selections, the A and B sides of each 45-rpm record.

Having inherited his late father’s classic rock collection of records, Earle grew up listening to such classic rockers as Del Shannon, Buddy Holly, The Beatles and The Searchers.

While the scratchy vinyl records were replaced with digital downloads, and jukeboxes were replaced with mega systems, the resurgence of vinyl records for music lovers and collectors has meant a rising interest in jukeboxes.

“It’s become a great conversation piece,” said Earle, who is a frequent visitor at Fred’s Record Store and rarely misses a record sales event.

Earle’s obsession with vinyl and his love of his jukebox has spilled over into other aspects of his life. As a volunteer leader with the Friends of Victoria Park who helps organize the annual Victoria Park Lantern Festival, two years ago Earle built a large jukebox lantern, a replica of the Wurlitzer “Bubbler” jukebox, which the committee has put on display each year during the festival.

No one knows Earle’s love of his music more than his wife of 20 years, Lori Lynn Earle.

“He’s always been a music man,” she said. “When we first started going out, he’d make mixed tapes for everyone he knew.”

Laughing, she added, “It’s a space thing at this point. (The vinyl collection) physically takes up space in the house and it keeps growing. I told him this is it, when this room fills up, that’s it.”

But she loves the joy the jukebox has given him and can see how he loves to chat about it with friends.

“It’s a lot of fun when he puts it on. Our friends love to see it working, when he lifts up the lid. People are just fascinated with it,” she said. “We’re the most popular spot on the block for a party.”

It’s also become a part of many special family events with their teenage daughter, Meghan, and son, Liam.

“Every Christmas, we fill it with Christmas (records) and Christmas morning, we play music from the jukebox as we open gifts, which is really nice,” she said.

“And we even have our wedding song in there — 'True Love Ways' (by Buddy Holly).”

rosie.mullaley@thetelegram.com

@TelyRosie

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