From somewhere between 1927 and 1939 the jukebox comes from the word juke meaning brothel and similar to the Creole juke from the Gullah region of southern Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida meaning disorderly (which draws upon the West African word dzugu which means wicked). Other connotations include 'dance' with a hint of sex. Another possible origin is that of the workers of jute crop fields who went to bars called Jute Joints where early jukeboxes were installed.

Early jukeboxes were created by the Automatic Music Instrument Company and were 'simply' amplified phonographs (record players) with some selection ability. Combined with prohibition at the time where underground speakeasies needed to have music but could not afford the attention of a live band these rapidly became popular.

The jukebox is partially responsible for the rise of the blues and rockabilly styles that were not held in high enough regard to be played on the radio. Artists such as Arthur Crudup, Muddy Waters and others turned to vinyl and the jukebox as the medium. The jukebox also exposed black artists to white patrons in the segregated world.

Today, the most recognizable style of jukebox is that of the 1946 Wurlitzer 1015 with the colored lights and bubbles along the sides.