By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jan 16, 2002 at 5:38 AM

Although many have been replaced by live DJs or the omniscience of the almighty Internet jukebox, there is something irreplaceably charming about the sound and pre-selected choices of the old school jukebox.

But the question is, what defines a great jukebox in the city of Milwaukee? Is it an eclectic album selection, the depth of its target music genre, the best value listeners get of their buck? We sampled a slew of local jukeboxes and compiled a list of some of our most notable finds. With so many options and so many local bars, we encourage readers to add a few choice finds of their own.

Cactus Club
2496 S. Wentworth Ave.
(414) 482-0160  

This jukebox probably hasn't been updated since the bar opened, but that's just the thing with punk rock, it doesn't need to. It's not eclectic in any sense of the word, but what it does do -- old school punk, thrash, some metal, post-punk, (real) emo, indie rock -- it does unrelentlessly. So much so, in fact, that it's repeatedly been voted the best jukebox in Milwaukee.

Oh, and it's free on Sundays, so go play "Teenagers From Mars" 'til your heart's content. 


Hannon's Fine Food and Cocktails
357 W. Broadway, Waukesha

(262) 547-4272

Stationed at the hub of downtown Waukesha's topsy-turvy street maze, this local watering hole prefers to market itself as an "Irish sports bar" rather than a "pre-second-shift" hang out site catering towards hard-working locals.

But don't be fooled by the dim decor of this 16-year-old Waukesha tradition. While the interior resembles a 1970s-styled bowling alley bar room (complete with wood paneling, bulbous Christmas lights and mock-tiffany lamps), the jukebox offers a much needed refining touch.

The playlist is heavily weighted with classic rock staples (a la Jimi, Jerry and Janis), but the addition of legendary, and not-so-overplayed bar room albums, separates this jukebox from the rest. Remote classics like Van Morrison's "Too Long in Exile" and David Bowie's immortal chronicle of the "Rise and Fall of Ziggy Star Dust," give added depth to a selection of signature classic rock albums that have already found their ways into most area music indexes. Then there are the occasionally out-of-genre surprise, like the Talking Heads classic "Stop Making Sense," and certain landmark albums, including the Beatles' "Abbey Road" and "Revolver," which make the frosted green windows inside Hannon's a little easier to endure.

"People seem to like it," said owner Mark Hannon of his ever-evolving jukebox. Since he opened his doors 16 years ago, Hannon said he makes sure to change "a couple" of CDs on a monthly basis to cater to the after-work crowds.

But Waukesha locals, and any other visitors who can find their way through the local downtown, can be sure to find a disco-free music catalogue on this jukebox. What they will find is an eclectic mix of classic rock, a few classic waltzes and even a multi-cultural sampling of Los Lobos. From "The King," to old Frankie "Blue Eyes," Hannon's offers one of the most inviting after-work sound boards west of Milwaukee County.


Kniesler's White House
2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
(414) 483-2900
The refurbished Wurlitzer jukebox at this historic South Side spot once spun vintage 45's for patrons who enjoy good beer. Now it spins a dizzying collection of CDs that feature the best of the best in rock n' roll history, including infamous soundtracks and top Billboard hits.

There's nothing unusual about the tunes offered up at White House. The selection includes classic bar room stand-bys, including the best of Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Simon and Granfunkel and Rolling Stones' "Hot Rocks." Listeners are also guided through Billboard's top tunes from 1955 to 1989, where the top 20 songs are listed for each year.

Among a slew of "best of" compilations and hit lists are legendary soundtrack albums, including "Pulp Fiction," the "Big Chill" and the ready-made Karaoke soundtrack to "Grease."

While the songs are common and the playlist may not expand the musical horizons of most listeners, this jukebox may still sets the standard as a quintessential bar room classic. It is a homage to greatness -- from its stylish exterior to its decadent musical selection. The album listings include the "best of" everything and, in one glaring glitch, the worst of everything. Oddly enough, this Wurlitzer includes Bush's sophomore album "Razorblade Suitcase." Well, even the great ones are allowed to have one tragic flaw.

Scaffidi's Hideout
1837 N. Humboldt Ave.
(414) 273-1665

Blue Collar ethics meet East Side living at this corner tap sometimes overlooked by Brady Street area residents. Infamous for its scattered arrangement of pool tables and casual atmosphere, perhaps Scafiddi's should consider touting its tunes instead of just shooting stick.

At Scafiddi's, grit-n'-grease rockers like Robert Cray, Bob Seger and Joe Cocker can be found huddled around the likes of Pearl Jam, The Specials and Earth, Wind and Fire. While waiting to shoot the next round of stick, j-box browsers can find the energetic charm of the "Grosse Point Blank" soundtrack album framed by Jimi Hendrix, George Thorogood and Live. Edgier listeners can get their fix from the "Best of War" or mellow out to the "The Many Faces of George Pritchett."

The only drawback to Scaffidi's jukebox? Its placement. The viewing panels are located too close to the pool tables, causing music browsers to experience an occasional "stick between legs" while choosing a tune.

Vitucci's Cocktail Lounge
1832 E. North Ave.
(414) 273-6477

Browse through the playlist at Vitucci's, and you'll find Frank Sinatra curling his finger your way and coaxing you to, "Come Dance with Me."

A few plays on this quintessential East Side jukebox will have bar patrons wooing their partner with a drink in their hand and sway in their hips. Whether the mood calls for getting "Of the Wall" with a little "MJ" or listening to Tom Jones ask time and again, "What's New Pussycat?" listeners can certainly groove to their song du jour.

This juke also pays its respects to good soul and good sounds, featuring James Brown's "Sex Machine," the jazzy sounds of Etta James and the classic song writing of Van Morrison. On the lighter side, the quirky style of Cake's "Fashion Nugget" and They Might be Giants' "Lincoln" offers a refreshing alternative from most local jukeboxes.

The past year or so has seen some hipster additions, with a slew of albums by bands like Bloc Party, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The New Pornographers. The best jukebox change, however, is that it's now free 24/7. 

Did Vitucci's go too crazy on their kick for variety by including the best of Journey, REO Speedwagon and a compilation set of "Monster Ballads?" We'll let the guy at the bar humming along to "Faithfully" speak for itself. On this lounge jukebox, variety knows no boundaries.

2203 N. Prospect Ave.
(414) 273-0481

"Shabooh Shoobah." Enough said.

If there's one brand of music the locally famous jukebox at Vox music lounge offers, it's deep variety coupled with a mellow, Euro-slant. Or Australian-slant, for that matter. Adding Inxs' "Shabooh Shoobah" is just one part of a moody music catalogue that offers up plenty of Morphine and enough Morrissey to bum out any prozac addict. Still, the character of the music matches the dark interior of the bar, and the mix of music is eclectic enough to be interesting without alienating mainstream fans.

The sounds of Public Image Ltd. and Saint Etienne, hard-to-find bands on most local jukeboxes, are coupled by more familiar Brit-bands like Radiohead, The Smiths, and Garbage. And for those patrons who still favor the classic sounds of American rock, Vox still offers two compilation CDs of 50 classics from the King himself.

Charlatans UK fans will also have something to cheer about when visiting Vox. The playlist features four disks by the group, which are scattered throughout the selection panels. A collection of six new wave music compilation CDS rounds out the end of this jukebox, whose music is the defining character of this unique bar. We recommend staking out the table located front and center near the jukebox for optimal music browsing.

Take your time viewing the diverse selection (if you're not too busy drowning your sorrows, moody rocker boy.) You'll need it.