John Belott’s love of jukeboxes dates back to the year 1968—when he was just eight years old. He and his twin brother, Joseph, were born and raised in Telford, Pennsylvania. As far back as he can remember, his father would take them fishing on Saturdays. During those fishing trips, they would go to the bar and order burgers and French fries. While eating his cheeseburger, John would notice the jukebox standing in the corner of the bar. He would ask, “Daddy, can I have a quarter?” His father would reach into his pocket and give him some change to play music.
John was absolutely in awe of that jukebox. All the light, all the glass, and all the chrome—“it just dazzled me,” John shares. A quarter gave you three plays, and the song that he always selected was called, “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. Says John, “Every time I would go into a diner or a bar, I would look for that song. That was the song that wanted me to want jukeboxes.”
John would tell his mother, “Someday, I’m going to have my own jukeboxes when I get older.” Today, he’s the proud owner of a 1952 Seeburg and a 1954 Seeburg. These two Seeburgs have been restored to grade one, which means they’ve been completely torn apart. Everything has been re-chromed, repainted, and refinished. The speakers have been reconed to sound brand new.
The crown jewel of his collection is a 1948 Wurlitzer 1100 that’s currently being restored. This is, John explains, “the holy grail of all jukeboxes. It’s the prettiest, in my opinion, of all jukeboxes ever made.” John plans to commemorate his late wife, Heather, by placing her wedding ring inside of this jukebox.
The restoration process for each jukebox is completed by a man in Roseville, Illinois named Robert Johnson. Robert has been doing professional restoration for around 25 years, and as John puts it, “He is the best in the business!” John met Robert in 2008 at the biggest jukebox show in the country, hosted at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois.
At the time, John could barely contain his excitement about the show—he was in “jukebox heaven!” They had 1950s jukeboxes, slot machines, and pinball machines—“coin-op” machines. After stopping by Robert’s booth, John took his business card and ended up buying the 1952 Seeburg from him later that year. To explain why this particular jukebox is so special, John recalls the TV show Happy Days. “Arthur Fonzarelli would go into Arnold’s Hamburger Shop and take his fist and punch the jukebox and it would start playing.” The machine that was in Happy Days is the same model number that he bought from Robert Johnson.
When not in play, these jukeboxes are stored in custom covers that were handmade by a seamstress. Because of the great care that is put into restoring and protecting this collection, they look brand new—just like they did in the 1950s. Once a jukebox has been restored, it is even better than it was on the day it was built.
Besides his jukeboxes, John collects an assortment of 1950’s memorabilia, such as an ice cream scoop, a 1948 Seeburg large teardrop speaker, small diecast cars, records, and more. Of the decade he says, “Everything in the 1950s was fabulous! I often told my mom that I was born way too late. If I were born in the 50s, I would’ve had one heck of a time.”