The Somers Resident Who Is a Jukebox Savior
Somers’ Ed Liss restores the sounds of yesteryear to their original glory.
All-too-rare jewels like this vintage aural masterpiece represent the stunning craftsmanship of Somers-based Wurlitzer whiz Ed Liss.
Photos by andrew stein
Digital music is all the rage today, but that doesn’t impress Ed Liss. When the Somers resident stands in front of one of his 19 immaculately restored jukeboxes — spanning 1936–1979 — he’s not just admiring his own handiwork. He is luxuriating in the purity of analog sound that pours from the jewel boxes he has assembled, literally.
The former IT executive says it takes him up to 25 years to find the rarest of the rare, which usually is little more than a hunk of junk before he operates on it with surgical precision. His 1937 Rock-Ola Rhythm King jukebox was mute for eight decades before Ed invested 2,000 hours restoring it to pristine glory.
Truth be told, the passionate music historian has built a world-class museum of music in his home. He owns 10,000 records, mostly 45s and 78s that were the coin of the realm in the heyday of jukeboxes, which introduced stereophonic sound.
Ed says even 70-year-old analog recordings sound better than today’s music because the “legacy process” embraces the full range of overtones that digital compression either cuts out or distorts. Being immersed in the sonic radiance of a 45-rpm mono recording of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” on a 1948 Wurlitzer, a listener tranforms into a true believer.
For the man who says there is no price that could get him to part with any of his priceless collection — some of which are worth well into the mid-five-figure range — it’s not only about restoring these mechanical marvels (which typically takes two to seven years). It’s also about restoring respect for the ingenuity and craftsmanship of products that, Liss emphasizes, are “100 percent American, with parts not imported from anywhere and built by immigrants who worked hard and did well.”