An introduction to the quirkiest quintet band of little people who live inside the arcade's jukebox while entertaining us with their music!
THE JUKEBOX PUPPET BAND
The Flexitoons, known to fans as the Jukebox Puppet Band were created exclusively for Shining Time Station by Craig and Olga Marin when the show made its debut in January, 1989.
Described as the "little people" who live in all jukeboxes, the troupe for years entertained patrons of Shining Time Station with "live" musical performances from the jukebox in Schemer's Arcade - all for a nickel a song. Before we delve into additional background details about their unique living quarters and workplace arrangements, let us first introduce you to the main members of this wee troupe!...
Tito Swing is the de-facto leader of the Jukebox Band, and is known to be a master of all keyboard instruments, a composer and conductor. His favorite songs are those from the 40s and 50s. Tito's obsession for collecting nickels rivals and perhaps surpasses that of Schemer's, who is at a loss to explain where all the coins inserted into the jukebox disappear to. We know of course that it's into Tito's nickel collection that is stored safely in the "vault"! Tito's joy is to count up the nickels at the end of a day's gig -- the more the better! Tito himself said that he first began collecting nickels in 1957 during his first gig when his manager to him to "take five", and he's been doing so ever since! (Impractical Jokes). He also bears a strong resemblance to his mother. Tito's adeptness for playing keyboard instruments began at an early age when his mother insisted that he practice his piano lessons (Win, Lose or Draw).
Tito was voiced by Flexitoon's cast member Jonathan Freeman.
A much younger Tito at piano "practice" (left) and with his mother (right)
Didi is the drummer of the Jukebox Band. She lives among her other musician friends inside the Jukebox, performing on an art-deco stage. Didi is best known for her 1960s look, beehive hairdo and brightly coloured lipstick. She loves to dress up in groovy clothes and often acts very sassy. It's said that Didi has a big crush for the 2nd Mr. Conductor.
In an unreleased video, it was revealed that Didi was recruited as a band member when J.J. Silvers found her working in a popcorn machine.
Didi was voiced by Olga Marin.
Grace Bass fittingly plays the bass guitar for the Jukebox Band. She is often the voice of reason for the troupe, and when she plays her bass guitar, everyone grooves. Her voice is also second to none, with her high notes reverberating in the jukebox to everyone's listening enjoyment. Grace's first time playing her bass guitar in public was in a car radio with another group "Tubby and his Totally Tubular Band" and performing "New River Train" (Mr. Conductor's Fourth of July).
And pictured to the right is the ginger-stashed Tubby himself with a younger and different-styled Grace during her first performance as seen in Billy Saves the Day.
Grace was voiced by Peter Baird, Ken Miele and Vaneese Williams.
Grace's first gig with Tubby and his Totally Tubular Band
THE BOY BROTHERS: REX & TEX
The Boy Brothers (Tex and Rex) are identical and inseparable twins who remain cowboys at heart. As the (two-player) guitar and the harmonica players of the Jukebox Band, they love to twang together to their favorite country hits. They play music at the drop of a nickel, or just when they just feel like it! Before joining the Jukebox Band, the Boy Brothers lived inside of a radio in a bank vault. They were also the backstage (or understage) performers for a western-attired music box dancer whom Tex had a crush on.
Although they look identical, the easiest way to identify them is by their individual voices. Tex's voice is deeper whereas Rex speaks in a higher pitch.
Tex was voiced by Wayne White (Season 1) and Alan Semok (Season 2 onwards), with Rex voiced by Craig Marin.
J. J. SILVERS
J.J. Silvers is the derby-wearing, bespectacled Manager and Agent of the Jukebox Puppet Band. Energetic, boisterous, and even annoying to his charges, he is nonetheless always on the lookout for his band's best interests!
J.J. Silvers was voiced by Craig Marin.
FUN FACT: Craig Marin based the character J.J. Silvers on his favorite actors Phil Silvers and Walter Matthau.
SUPPORTING BAND CHARACTERS
The Jukebox Band often spiced-up their performances with the help of all kinds of characters, from animated objects to critters.
Never formally introduced by name, the Jukebox Band was sometimes joined by this dynamic and very flexible-bodied trumpet creature whenever a song performance required a horn or trumpet (The Mayor Runs for Re-Election, Second Chances).
While performing, the creature would contort and stretch itself into all manner of moves and positions!
You can't top a supporting band member who is at the same time a musical instrument that can play itself! The unnamed "Self-Playing Banjo" joined the band during their performance of "Turkey in the Sraw" (Fortune Teller Schemer).
Formally attired in a white tuxedo, complete with matching hat and monocle, Mr. Turkey (affectionately also known as Mr. T.) makes his first appearance as the Jukebox Band's Thanksgiving "dressed" Turkey, joining them as the guest of honor and not as the main course! (Billy's Party). The talking bird makes another cameo in Fortune Teller Schemer at the end of the band's performance of Turkey in the Straw.
This decked-out bovine mademoiselle becomes one of the Boy Brothers' overly-friendly dance partner during their performance of Turkey in the Straw (Fortune Teller Schemer).
Animated musical instruments that join in the musical fun include this toe-tapping dancing saxophone sharing the stage with the "Trumpet Creature" as the band performed a lively medley (Second Chances).
"DANCING BALES OF COTTON"
A pair of dancing bales of cotton wearing striped pants join Grace on the stage as she performs her rendition of Pick a Bale of Cotton during the band's medley (Second Chances).
A pig character appears to guard Tito's horde of nickels in the Vault and emerges on occasion from a door in the cavern's wall. It has a limited vocabulary, sometimes only saying one word e.g. "RIGHT!". Tito addresses the pig as "Slots" in Fortune Teller Schemer - would this make Slots the vault's and Tito's piggy bank?
This frightful character was mistaken for Tito in the Jukebox Band's sleeping quarters when the suggestion of their playing a scary song came up. Needless to say, the fanged intruder sent them all into a frenzied panic! (from Jukebox Puppet Band: Lullaby).
A ghost was at first believed to be Didi during the band's performance of "Midnight Special" - it even played the drums! Its real nature was revealed at the end of the song when it flew up above the rest of the band members' heads!
The Sandman, a character of folklore was summoned by J.J. Silvers to cure his band's insomnia by sprinkling his magic sleepy dust on their eyes to help put them all to sleep. His eyes glow as he floats from person to person quickly sending them into a deep and peaceful slumber. The Sandman also like to use a play on words, using "aye" instead of "yes" (sprinkling magic sleepy dust on "eyes").
The Sandman made his first appearance in the 1994 video The Jukebox Puppet Band: Lullaby. The Sandman is also mentioned in the Season 3 episode: Mr. Conductor's Big Sleepwalk, having recruited Mr. Conductor to help put the residents of Indian Valley to sleep.
Cameo performances by characters deserving honorable mention.
THE RAT PACK
The Rat Pack made their appearance in the 1995 Family Special Once Upon a Time when Schemer replaced the old familiar jukebox with a more modern model. Their stage was aptly named The Rats' Nest.
THE JUKEBOX PUPPET BAND'S ANCESTORS
Led by a mustachio'd band leader with a heavy Spanish accent, the grandparents of the present Jukebox Puppet band were present in the new Shining Time Station (circa 1885) when it was built, residing and performing in a roll-playing piano in the arcade (How the Station Got its Name).
Sheriff Jackrabbit joins Rex & Tex's grandfathers as they play a cowboy medley in the roll-player piano in the newly built Shining Time Station (How the Station Got its Name). The sheriff offers them sage advice: be kind to all creatures, love your neighbor, and that the world is like a birthday cake and you should take your piece (but not too much).
MORE ABOUT THE JUKEBOX
The Jukebox Band has access to many chambers within and below the jukebox complex. Below is a rough schematic that we've put together based on what was seen in the episodes.
Tito's sleep area
We should also note that Tito does not make use of the band's slumbering area, choosing instead to sleep in the vault (pictured above-left) We can only surmise that it's to be closer to his beloved nickel collection!
There's also evidence of a hidden staircase inside the jukebox (pictured top-right) that at the minimum extends down to the dressing room (as seen in One of the Family when Mr. Conductor goes looking for his sister).
Below is a timetable of activities that the band partakes in every day within the jukebox complex (taken from a Day in the Life).
Lastly, a passing...
After a battle with cancer, veteran puppeteer Peter Baird sadly passed away on July 16, 2004 at the age of 52. The son of puppeteers Bil and Cora Baird, Peter grew up in New York City's Greenwich Village in the apartment above his parents' marionette theater. Peter became involved with puppetry at the age of 5, and became involved in the family business as a ticket-taker at 11. By 19 Peter was a professional puppeteer and went on to contribute his talents in Howard the Duck, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and of course, Shining Time Station. Peter is pictured on the right in this photo of him taken in June, 1999 manipulating a Fyodor Dostoevsky puppet at the Kinney Pioneer Museum. (Photo credit: Jeff Heinz)