Johnson: Last CD jukebox in F-M won't stop at Duffy's Tavern

FARGO - The most popular track on the Duffy's Tavern jukebox, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," might be the perfect theme song for this CD-playing relic.

The CD-playing jukebox at Duffy's Tavern in Fargo has become an inanimate local celebrity of sorts. Ryan Johnson / The Forum

FARGO - The most popular track on the Duffy's Tavern jukebox, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," might be the perfect theme song for this CD-playing relic.

Built in September 1994, the ancient technology compared with the touchscreens and Internet-enabled devices that have taken over the market is still hanging on, somehow. It's now the only CD jukebox still in use at a bar in Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead.

It had a close call a few months ago when the CD deck burned out. It's leased from United Games in Fargo, and the company was able to bring it back to life.

John Krumm, a representative with United Games, still remembers that time four or five years ago when a reception party almost killed it. A dancing patron slipped and put their hand through the front glass, freaking out not over their injuries but because they thought they had destroyed the beloved jukebox.

It had its own website for a while, though the domain has since expired, and North Dakota native Chuck Klosterman casually mentioned listening to Dean Martin on it in his second book. When it comes to local inanimate celebrities, this jukebox is right up there with the wood chipper from "Fargo."


Krumm and the other United Games representatives have learned that trying to convince Duffy's to upgrade its jukebox to the TouchTunes devices that are everywhere else is like listening to a broken record - it can't be done. They now keep an extra in the Fargo warehouse, ready to salvage parts as needed.

"It's an old Fonzie jukebox," he said. "We like having it there and we don't push putting anything new in there because that would just upset the balance of nature, I guess, at Duffy's."

The bar's manager, Chris Litton, said he doesn't want to upgrade because he likes the variety of music they have now.

With TouchTunes, customers can instantly stream selections from a huge online music library. An extra charge allows users to skip previous selections, effectively cutting in line for a small fee.

Still, TouchTunes doesn't have everything. Not every album and artist the Duffy's patrons like is in the online catalog, meaning an upgrade to a new device would cost the bar some of its more eclectic tracks.

At Duffy's, 16 12th St. S., the jukebox jumps from Martin and Frank Sinatra to the greatest hits album by Morphine, an alternative rock/jazz group in the 1990s.

There's the stellar "High Fidelity" soundtrack, as well as the soundtrack to "Eddie & The Cruisers." Alice in Chains' live unplugged album is here, as is a broad range of greatest hits albums from the likes of country and classic rock legends.

The CDs have changed a bit over the years, especially since the bar was purchased by the manager's father, Duane Litton, in 2006.


"Originally when we took over, it had Benny Goodman in here," Chris Litton said with a laugh.

A detested Dave Matthews Band album was pulled to great online fanfare in the mid-2000s - it was getting overplayed, Litton said.

When a disc wears out or breaks, Litton buys a new one. He also adds new albums when he wants.

But things don't change much at Duffy's, a neighborhood joint in business since 1967 that always had the feel of a small-town bar.

Litton would certainly make more money if he upgraded. The newer jukeboxes can charge $1 or more for a song, depending on options, while this old CD player only costs $1 for three tracks or $5 for 20.

That upgrade, though, would come at a cost to Duffy's - it would lose the strange, rambling custom soundtrack that the patrons have memorized and learned to love.

"Eventually, technology's going to run its course and we're going to have to move up to TouchTunes," Litton said. "But as long as we can, we're going to keep this thing running."

With the help of United Games and a little luck, regulars can hold onto that feelin', just like Journey said in the band's ubiquitous bar song, for years to come.

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