Freddy Bailey’s Coin-op History: Bal-Ami Jukebox




This is the Bal-AMI Factory in 1957 update .

Freddy Bailey says: “Find attached (above) a package on the Bal-Ami  jukebox, this was the machine that put the British jukebox industry on the map.


 It was the first official brand new machine to be manufactured under license after World War II, the British Government imposed strict import duties on non essential goods imported into the U. K.  people will argue that this was not the first new jukebox to be manufactured in the U. K. and that The Music Maker made by Hawtin’s Novelty Company in Blackpool was the first British made jukebox to be made in the U. K.


  I am saying that the Bal-Ami was the first Official    British made jukeboxto be manufactured in the U. K. .


 We will cover the story of The Music Maker in a future issue, as very little is known about how Hawtin’s was able to manufacture jukeboxes during World War II using Wurlitzer mechanisms when the British board of Trade restricted such items, this as never been published before so it will be quite interesting to your readers as Maker Maker went from Hawtin’s through to Mam-In Play throughout the years.”





Comments (2)

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Hi Freddy,

Great piece on the Bal-Ami Juke box.

“What you don’t know is that we at Chicago Automatic saw the Model A, US made AMI juke box at “Jock” Chalmers’ transport café in the village of Quorn (where Jimmy Thomas lived when he was about 12 years old), and where I was at Quorn Grammar School together with Jimmy. I remember seeing it there then.

At that time the only juke boxes the country knew were pre- 1939 juke boxes which were refurbished over and over again, and only played large records and then only about 12 records per box. Then Tom Hawtin started manufacturing in Blackpool his Music Maker, and later was instrumental in having the Seeburg made up in Lytham – which company later developed into MAM Inn Play.

“Jock” Chalmers being a merchant seaman-among his other activities – brought in this AMI juke box through Glasgow where he had a lot of friends, and located it in his transport café. The manufacturer AMI was not known in the UK at that time, only Wurlitzer and Seeburg and Rock-Ola. In fact the generic name for a music machine was a “Wurlitzer” even if the machine was made by one of the other manufacturers. – a bit like calling a vacuum cleaner in the house a “Hoover” even if it was made by one of the other manufacturers.

My brother Harry thought that it would be a good idea to see if Chicago Automatic could market such an AMI juke box in the UK and got in touch with Paul Hunger who at that time was European Sales Director of AMI and based in Switzerland. Now, whether it was my brother’s approach to Paul Hunger or AMI’s own idea one will never know, maybe Harry did put the idea into his head ,but not long after this approach Balfour Marine Engineering Company in Ilford started producing the first juke box in the UK called the E80, with egg-box like grille work on the front behind which the speaker’s were located. Obviously the “BAL” of Bal Ami came from the association of Balfour Marine in the project. This was the first of many models which ceased only after imports from the USA were freed by the Government. There was no need for the manufacturing line to be continued.

Needless to say, Chicago Automatic never got a look in as P.D.Norman, the director of Balfour Marine prompted by his friendship with the distributor of refrigerating units called LEC, at that time located in Bognor Regis, was directed to an enterprising company in Ladbroke grove, London called Gordon Sales & Service Company headed by Gordon Marks. Gordon Marks soon saw the popularity of Juke Boxes and jumped in with both feet. The rest is history, and Phonographic Equipment Company was born, which much later absorbed competitor Ruffler & Walker Ltd, which later morphed into Associated Leisure Ltd. and years later into Rank and currently into Gamestec.

Our Michael Green, Sales Director at The United Distributing Company Ltd. joined Phonographic as Sales Director in those early days, and smitten by the bug, has never left the coin machine industry.”

Best wishes


Derek Horwood
UDC, London
09/11/2011, 18:52

my husband vic geeson , Phonographic Hire ltd. played a very important part at this time with gordon marks and michael green, before my husband died he wrote a history of the juke box era 1950 to 1970 and the huge part he played in it.
I have the account he wrote.

mrs j geeson
16/05/2012, 22:28

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