In 2011, arranger/pianist Scott Bradlee formed Postmodern Jukebox around a simple yet ingenious concept: Perform beloved contemporary songs (Adele, The White Stripes, etc) in the style of vintage genres, such as ragtime and swing. Their videos quickly went viral, and seven years later, people are still just as hungry for the rotating musical collective's charmingly retro and technically impressive reimaginings of modern hits. On June 12, Bradlee shares the full Postmodern Jukebox story with the book Outside the Jukebox: How I Turned My Vintage Music Obsession into My Dream Gig. Ahead of its release, Billboard is sharing an exclusive excerpt.
"Attention, Walmart shoppers: Come to the paint counter and get your groove on as we present the sweet sounds of Scott Bradlee and his Intergalactic Purveyors of Funk.” Long before the sold-out tour dates around the world, before the hundreds of millions of YouTube views, and before all my wildest dreams actually came true, this was how I announced my first public appearance as a bandleader: over the loudspeaker at the Walmart at which I worked. It wasn’t exactly well-received, either; instead, it got me fired.
The Walmart in Clinton, New Jersey, was a logical place of employment for me in high school, mainly because it was the only place that was interested in hiring a very unskilled seventeen-year old kid. It also happened to be the workplace of one of my best high school friends and fellow ne’er-do-wells, Cody (who, notoriously, would be fired not long after I started for making price tags that read “MY HAIRY ASS—$1.00” and slapping them on items around the store). In the brief, blissful time that our shifts overlapped, before Cody met his fate, we spent most of our on-the-job hours goofing off and talking music. On one particular afternoon, I had the idea to take things to the next level and actually perform music instead of merely sitting around talking about it.