How The Mob Controlled The Jukebox Industry

Movies like "Goodfellas" and "The Godfather" give the impression that the mafia more or less sticks to products and activities that are wildly remunerative due to their illegality. Cocaine, heroin, gambling, prostitution, etc. But mafiosos aren't about being bad just to be bad. They're in it to make money. So they end up putting their exploitative hands in anything that will bring them profits.

For example, Mental Floss notes that the mafia has extorted everything from cheese to gay bars to industrial chemicals. The Chicago mafia known as The Outfit even once tried to wring the good people of Tinseltown. Mob boss Paul "The Waiter" Ricca did three years in jail in the 1940s for attempting to put the bite on Hollywood's movie industry. No, it seems that no business is out of the mafia's reach, even one that earns money one nickel at a time. Speaking with an AMC docuseries titled "The Making of the Mob," the grandson of an infamous mafioso explained how his pappy had a jukebox racket in the 1940s. Let's take a look at how the mob controlled the jukebox industry back in the day.

From jukeboxes to bootleg records, the mob controlled it all

"He had a Wurlitzer distributing business that was in New York City," said Meyer Lansky III of his godfather grandad, the first Meyer Lansky. "He had that for about a year or so, and he would distribute all over different neighborhoods in the area. They would lease it to the bars and establishments. They would create roots and build up roots." But Lansky wasn't just running jukeboxes. He even owned a record company that supplied vinyls to be used in the machines. He had every step in the production process earning him a profit.

According to How Stuff Works, the mob also famously had a hand in some of the most memorable music made in the mid-20th century. Everyone from crooners Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli to jazz pioneers Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Parker, and Louis Armstrong had to kowtow to the notoriously violent organization in order to make it in the biz. In the 1980s, mob players got into the bootleg LP business, pressing copies of popular albums and selling them on the black market at discounted prices. Pretty much everything Americana from the 20th century was influenced by organized crime.