Best of Houston

Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 8 Jukeboxes

Along with pickled pig's feet and a steady supply of Slim Jims, a good jukebox is a prime element for any great bar. But, like dinosaurs, jukeboxes are a vanishing breed. Unlike digital jukes, iPods or DJs, jukeboxes require love, care and maintenance, as well as -- among the truly great ones -- some thought.

Until recently, Poison Girl had a killer jukebox, but it went down and owner Scott Walcott hasn't been able to get a mechanic familiar with his type of machinery, so it's currently on hiatus. Last year Under the Volcano's dollar-swallower shorted out and caught fire, so there are perils that most civilians wouldn't necessarily consider.

But with that in mind, here are eight local jukeboxes that only make the party better.


8. Big Star Bar: Owner Brad Moore's tastes can be described as eclectic and kitschy. Of course Big Star (the band) is featured, part of the overall large-scale mix of old-school hitmakers: Sly & the Family Stone, Metallica, Tupac, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Elvis Costello, Robert Earl Keen Jr., ZZ Top, Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin, Thin Lizzy, Commodores, Green Day, Liz Phair, Beck -- you get the idea.

Moore also goes in for interesting juxtapositions: Beyoncé next to Jay-Z, Patsy Cline squeezed in between ZZ Top and Sublime. And Big Star gets a huge thumbs-up for its Mod greatest-hits compilation, Sound of the Jam. Biggest (not best) oddity? Taylor Swift. Hahaha, yeah, that's funny, Brad. 281-501-9560, 1005 W. 19th, Web site

7. Warren's Inn: Warren's on Market Square is one of the city's great lounges, and the jukebox here is an eclectic mix of classics that reflect Houston's diversity and its sense of "lounge." This may be the only jukebox on Planet Earth with Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, Morrissey, Kinky Friedman and Kenny Chesney. Seriously.

The "mixed-up-ness" factor is actually Warren's greatest asset; in fact, it's almost bewildering, especially if one is looking for an overarching theme or musical pattern in a list like this: Steely Dan, Ray Charles, Herb Alpert, Jimmy Reed, Bob Wills, Dave Brubeck, the Platters, Louis Armstrong, Marty Robbins's Gunfighter Ballads (!), Booker T., Sarah Vaughan, Fats Waller, Aretha, Al Green, Sonny Stitt and Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding.

Biggest oddity? That this box contains both Harry Nilsson and Kenny Chesney. That's just warped. 307 Travis, 713-247-9207, Cool bars like Warren's don't need no stinkin' Web site.

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William Michael Smith