The Alternative History of Ditchburn by Karl Dawson, Arthur Philips and Chris Freeman Don’t always believe what you read in the newspapers
Don’t   always   believe   what   you   read   in   the   newspapers…   Its   as   true   today   as   it   was   back   in   the   1946,   today   we   read   the   goings   on about   Katie   Price   and   the   also   latest   gossip   regarding   the   Kardashian’s   etc   ….   we   all   know   that   most   of   these   stories   are      generated by   publicists   and   agents   for   these   people   to   drive      the   hype   and   spin   that   are   needed   to   promote   these   celebrities   and   their   products, unfortunately   in   100   years   time   when   someone   like   me   is   researching   about      the   history   of   Kim   Kardashian,   we   only   have   what   was written in news papers and promotional videos etc. to base this history on, and as we know today its not always totally true. The   same   can   be   said   for   me   now   researching   the   early   the   early   days   of   the   Music   Maker   …   I   am   neither   a   historian   or   a   Jukebox collector,   I   am   just   passionate   about   keeping   the   history   of   Ditchburn      alive.   When   i   started   this   project   there   was   very   little   information available   and   what   i   did   find   scattered   over   many   websites   in   some   cases   contradicted      itself,      i   am   trying   to   keep   the   history   on   this website   true   and   factually   correct   as   i   possibly   can,   When   i   started   this   site   i   was   believing   all   the   newspaper   cuttings   that   i   collected from   1946   onwards   …   In   this   last   few   months   i   have   spoken   with   people   that   were   actually   working   at   Ditchburn   ( Arthur   Phillips   and Chris   Freeman   )   and   their   stories   regarding   the   early   days   of   Ditchburn   are   amazingly   similar,   Chris   Freeman   worked   for   Ditchburn until   1963   and Arthur   Philips   worked   from   1963   till   the   company   closed   in   1973.   I   had   some   very   nice   emails   from   Jukebox Authority, Mr   Tony   Holmes,   who   said   to   me   that   he   didn’t   believe   that   my   website   was   completely   factual,   “but   time   will   tell”   and   those   wise words   are   so   true,   the   more   i   dig   for   information   and   talk   to   people   the   more   i   find   that   the   original   articles   may   not   be   as   factual   as   we thought they were. Lets   start   at   the   beginning   …   with   Jack   Hylton,   Jack   was   an   impresario,   he   had   his   fingers   in   many   pies   and   was   always   looking   at ways   of   promoting   himself,   and   the   jukebox   was   a   medium   that   the   public   would   hear   his   music   and   every   Hylton   record   that   was   sold to   be   put   on   a   jukebox,   he   would   receive   a   slice   of   that   pie,   so   it   was   important   for   him   to   promote   the   Jack   Hylton   Music   Maker   in   a very   positive   way,   also   Jack   Hylton   never   put   just   his   own   money   into   these   projects   he   used   investors   that   would   fund   his   ventures, in   the   same   way   that   his   musicals   and   theatre   production’s   used   investors   that   were   hoping   to   make   a   handsome   profit   if   the   show     was a success. Lets   look   at   the   original   article   back   from   1946   that   i   and   I’m   sure   many   others   took   as   factual   from   the   early   days,   but   in   reality   may have just been promotional propaganda to get funding and to please investors.
The   above   all   seems   quite   feasible   and   i   believed   it   was   probably   true,   that   was   until   i   spoke   with   ex-Ditchburn   employees,   Arthur Philips   and   Chris   Freeman,   both   of   them   (note:   they   did   not   know   each   other   )   said   that   were   told   by   people   that   had   worked   at Ditchburn   from   the   very   beginning,   that   in   1945   Hylton   thought   that   it   would   be   great   to   get   into   the   Jukebox   market   but   unfortunately by   the   time   Hylton   had   the   Jukebox   ready   for   production   the   war   was   over…   most   of   the   US   troops   had   gone   home   and   there   was   no demand   for   Jack’s   Music   Maker   Jukebox,   we   have   mentioned   in   the   main   History   section   that   the   Wurlitzer   Mechanisms   were   flown into   the   UK   by   the   US   air   force   in   crates   marked   as   essential   war   supplies,   this   part   appears   to   be   true   but   the   reality   was   there   was not   the   300   to   500   mechanisms   that   are   stated   in   the   above   publicity   article,   in   reality   there   were   only   approximately   24   mechanisms shipped   by   the   US   air   force,   the   war   was   now   over   the   troops   had   gone   home   and   no   more   Wurlitzer   mechanisms      were   shipped   from the   US   …   these   24   mechs   and   the   crates   they   came   in,   built   the   first   Jack   Hylton   MK1   Music   makers,   also   the   machine   mech supplied   from   Wurlitzer   was   a   very   outdated   mech   which   was   no   longer   produced   by   Wurlitzer   for   the   USA   market   at   that   time,      and the   cabinet   was   a   simpler   version   of   the   Wurlitzer   Victory   cabinet   and   believed   to   be   made   from   the   wood   from   the   crate   the mechanism   was   shipped   in,   as   wood   at   this   time   was   in   short      supply   in   the   UK,   this   also   seems   true   based   on   Tony   Holmes   Mk1 cabinet as during the restoration you can see its carefully made from small pieces of wood by skilled joiners. From   what   both Arthur   and   Chris   were   told   by   early   employees   at   Ditchburn,   is   that   the   reality   was   Jack   Hylton   and   Hawtin’s   could   not sell   even   24   of   these   MK1   Music   Maker   machines   because   of   their   outdated   look   …   so   Hylton   asked   a   prominent   artist   if   he   could redesign   the   cabinet   to   give   it   a   more   modern   styling   (   the   Fridge   )   using   the   same   MK1   mechanism      inside.   this   is   backed   up   by   the 1946 photo of the MK2 music maker at the 1946 expo with Jack Hylton and Arthur Askey.
This   prototype   Jack   Hylton   MK2   Jukebox   with   the   Jack   Hylton   Logo   (above)   is believed   to   be   the   only   one   ever   made   and   never   actually   went   into   production, there   are   many   surviving   Ditchburn   MK2   units   currently   owned   by   collectors   but no   known   MK2   Hylton   machines   have   been   seen   or   have   surfaced   on   the collectors   market.   so   it   is   assumed   that   this   prototype   is   long   lost   or   destroyed although   a   wall   box   shown   in   the   above   picture   has   surfaced,   although   the known wall box is a slightly different design. I   spoke   with   Chris   Freeman   about   the   wall   box,      because   i   have   never   seen   a Ditchburn   MK1   MK2   MK2R   with   remote   functionality,   all   the   ones   that   are surviving   have   no   facility   for   remote   connection   or   selection   using   a   wall   box. But    Chris    said    that    they    did    exist    in    a    simple    hideaway    format,    and    he remembered    servicing    these    in    the    early    days.    these    were    the    MK2    16 selection   mechanisms   that   had   electromagnetic   coils   to   activate   the   selection process   instead   of   the   push   buttons,   there   were   very   few   of   these   made,   and they   basically   consisted   of   the   standard   16   selection   MK2   mech   in   a   plain plywood   box   with   no   coin   slot   etc.   so   there   were   certainly   were   more   wall boxes made during the early Ditchburn years.
Photo Courtesy of Tony Holmes
So   returning   to   Jack   Hylton,   it   seems   the   Music   Maker   MK1   and MK2   jukebox   was   not   the   commercial   success   that   the   press   and Jack   Hylton   wanted   us   to   believe,   Hawtin’s   of   Blackpool   who   at the   time   had   been   manufacturing   the   boxes   for   Hylton   also   added them   to   their   catalogue   of   amusement   equipment.   but   it   seems that    they    were    also    unsuccessful    in    sales,    and    it    is    well documented   that   Percy   and   Frank   Hawtin   wanted   to   get   out   of   the amusement    machine    business    and    into    false    teeth,    and    on December    the    16th    1947    they    auctioned    off    the    amusement division   of   Hawtin’s   including   3   Sixteen   player   jukeboxes,   believed to be the last of the 24 that were originally manufactured.
1947 The Arrival of  Geoffrey Norman Ditchburn  Again   from   conversations   with Arthur   and   Chris   it   seems   that   Mr   Ditchburn   did   not   have   any   direct   business   dealings   with   Jack Hylton,   at   the   time   Mr   Ditchburn   was   looking   to   set   up   a   company   to   manufacture   metal   partitions   and   windows,   but   he   could   not do   this   openly   as   his   agreement   on   his   departure   from   Rowe   Brothers   was   not   to   make   similar      products   for   at   least   3   years.   so he   was   looking   at   other   ventures   and   the   Jukebox   interested   him,   apparently   he   liked   the   design   of   the   MK2   music   maker   and approached   Hawtin’s   to   use   the   MK2   design   to   produce   his   own   version   of   the   Music   Maker   Jukebox,   Hawtin’s   agreed   and   sold Ditchburn the design drawings for the cabinet and associated metal work and decals etc. This   would   later   lead   to   legal   issues   with   Jack   Hylton   as   Jack   had   registered   the   Music   Maker   name,   and   Mr   Ditchburn   had carried on using the Music Maker name unknowingly as part of the design he bought from Hawtin’s. At   the   time   one   of   Mr   Ditchburn’s   biggest   problems   was   that   there   were   no   more   Wurlitzer   16   player   mechanisms   left   in   the   UK and   post   war   import   restrictions   did   not   allow   him   to   import   any   more   into   the   UK.   so   in   1947   Mr   Ditchburn   decided   to   travel   to the   Wurlitzer      headquarters   in   the   USA   and   set   up   an   agreement   with   Wurlitzer   to   produce   the   16   player   Mechanism   under licence   in   the   UK,   this   was   agreed   and   drawings   for   the   parts   and   castings   were   supplied   by   Wurlitzer   to   Ditchburn   and   Mr Ditchburn   had   all   the   mechanism   and   other   parts   made   locally.   a   lot   of   people   believe   that   their   MK2   jukeboxes   contain   Wurlitzer 16   player   Mechs   and   it   seems   this   is   now   not   the   case   especially   as   in   1947   Wurlitzer   had   stopped   producing   this   mech   in   the USA.  
GND”   (Mr   Ditchburn)   as   Arthur   told   me   “he   like   to   be called”…   was   a   very   shrewd   business   man   and   one   of his   habits   was   that   he   did   not   like   to   throw   anything away,   this   became   very   apparent   through   the   years   one   of   the   advantages   that   GND   had   was   that   he   never sold   Jukeboxes   only   operated   them,   collected   the   rent replaced    the    records    etc.    He    felt    that    if    a    jukebox mechanism   still   had   some   life   left   in   it   he   would   use   it, this   was   seen   in   the   conversions   of   the   MK2   machines to   the   MK2R   in   which   the   16   play   78s   MK2s   came   back to   Lytham   and   were   converted   to   the   30   play   45rpm MK2R    these    conversions    happened        around    1953    to 1958   as   it   was   around   this   point   that   45rpm      7”   singles started   to   make   an   appearance   the   changeover   to   45s took   quite   a   few   years   in   the   UK   as   most   homes   only had   78rpm   record   players   and   people   in   the   UK   were initially   reluctant   to   change   due   to   the   cost   of   the   new players.   So   the   16   player   machines   were   returned   the tops   were   cut   off   and   a   new   wind   shield   style   top   was fitted,   most   people   believe   that   the   complete   top   was made   from   fibreglass,   but   we   now   understand   it   was only   the   initial   prototypes   were   made   like   his,   most   of   the conversions   were   plywood   construction   with   a   fibreglass sloping   lid.   the   original   16   player   mech   was   rebuilt   as   a 30    player    selection    with    Ditchburn    designed    parts (Wurlitzer   never   made   a   30   player   mech   )   after   a   new coat    of    paint    these    machines    looked    brand    new    and      were   then   put   back   into   business   on   sites   around   the country.   most   customers   thought   they   had   got   a   brand new    Jukebox    …    but    the    reality    was    it    was    just    a refurbished and updated machine.
This   use   of   existing   equipment   trait   of   GND   was   also   very apparent   later   during   the   Tonomat   years,      in   1957   Ditchburn bought     150     or     more     of     the     Tonomat     200     selection jukeboxes,   but   after   10   years   or   so   these   machines   started being    returned    to    the    Dock    Road    factory    because    they looked   out   of   date   and   not   modern   enough   to   compete   with the   newer   Wurlitzer   Lyrics   that   Ditchburn   were   importing from    Germany,    at    that    time    the    customers    wanted    the modern   looking   machines,   so   again   GND   decided   that   these old   Tonomat   machines   still   had   plenty   of   life   left   in   them,   so he   asked   a   cabinet   company   to   put   forward   three   designs   to update   the   cabinet      to   a   more   modern   Wurlitzer   style,   finally a   design   was   chosen   and   in   1968   Ditchburn   produced   the new   Music   Maker   200   MK2      which   in   reality   contained   the insides    of    the    1957    Tonomat    200,    again    most    of    the customers   thought   they   were   getting   a   brand   new   machine which    in    reality    was    a    new    cabinet    that    contained    the workings of an old 1957 Tonomat 200 Jukebox.
Ditchburn’s business model continued like this over the years including the vending side which used parts imported from the USA and  installed into UK manufactured enclosures. The alternative History of Ditchburn will continue at a later date. To Be Continued…..