More Than 20 Years After Their Death, Eight-Tracks Are Resurrected In Dallas.

Before 1988, Bucks Burnett didn't consider eight-track tapes particularly significant. Sure, he managed the eight-track section of the long-defunct Peaches Records on Lemmon Avenue in the late '70s and early '80s, but he didn't own any eight-tracks—not a single one.

To him, it was just another format, another means to hear the popular music of the time. In those days, he didn't see these tapes the way he does now—as the format that made music portable, a format directly tied to the American car culture of the '60s and '70s, historical artifacts that stand as perfect signs of their time.

Developed throughout the '50s and '60s by Bill Lear, the same man behind the Lear Jet, eight-track technology was thought to be monumental. By recording music onto magnetic tape that could retain two separate tracks at once and be played back in stereo, the eight-track opened the music world up to a slew of possibilities—most important, perhaps, being that their continuous loops meant that they never stopped playing; listeners could pop cartridges into their players and hear music for hours at a time.

On Monday, February 14, Bucks Burnett will open the world's first eight-track museum. And yes, he knows how weird of an idea that is.
Allison V. Smith
On Monday, February 14, Bucks Burnett will open the world's first eight-track museum. And yes, he knows how weird of an idea that is.
Eight-tracks started falling out of favor with the major labels in 1982 and were last mass-produced in 1988.
But Burnett and a handful of other locals are hoping to reignite interest in the dead format.
Allison V. Smith
Eight-tracks started falling out of favor with the major labels in 1982 and were last mass-produced in 1988. But Burnett and a handful of other locals are hoping to reignite interest in the dead format.

But, by 1982, the major labels started phasing the technology out of record shops, replacing them with the far more cheaply produced cassette tapes that reigned so supremely over the '80s and early '90s. Few cried foul. The eight-track's time, it seemed, had simply come and gone.

Just before they became the distant memory that they are today, Burnett finally gave in and, on a whim, bought his first eight-track in 1988—the very year the format stopped being mass-produced by major labels. He was drawn in by a single cartridge—the Beatles' white album—not planning to start the collection of tapes he boasts today.

Now, the format consumes his life. Since March of last year, Burnett has been working diligently toward a vision that will come to fruition on February 14, when he opens his Eight-Track Museum in Deep Ellum. It's the first of its kind.

In the world.

And that's kind of a big deal.

At the moment, though, Burnett's museum is kind of a small deal. Housed within three separate rooms in the Deep Ellum Foundation building on Commerce Street, right next to the Tex-Mex restaurant Sol's Taco Lounge, his museum shares space with the offices of various small businesses. As such, it doesn't really feel like a museum. It feels like the office building that it is.

Burnett, to his credit, has done what he can to change that feeling. He's painted the walls, he's furnished them with shelves and he's covered them with the bulk of his eight-track collection—one that checks in at maybe 3,000 tapes or so.

"Which is a small collection, by the way," says Burnett, milling about the largest of his museum's rooms—its permanent exhibit space, he calls it—and showcasing the rarest tracks in his collection, which are highlighted by the complete Beatles eight-track catalog.

The rest of the room is more a work in progress. The near wall hosts Burnett's collection of other long-forgotten music formats—wax cylinders, four-tracks, circular eight-track cartridges. The far wall is more of a catch-all, shelves hosting an alphabetized display of the rest of his eight-track collection. The fourth wall, meanwhile, shows more disarray. Though its face remains bare, the floor in front of it is covered in boxes—boxes also filled with eight-tracks. The disorganized appearance is not unlike that given off by Burnett himself, a somewhat shabby-looking bearded man whose shoulder-length hair has started graying, except for where he's colored it with splotches of purple.

He still needs time to properly prepare the room, he says. But that's OK by him: "I'm going to spend the rest of my life, or at least the rest of the museum's life, curating this space," Burnett says of the museum, which after a soft opening on Christmas Day, will earn its formal introduction this week.

Burnett knows that the general public might think what he's doing—opening a museum for a music format that stopped being mass-produced decades ago—is a bit off.

But, oddly enough, Burnett isn't the sole eight-track proponent in the region. Joining him are two other local players. There's Nathan Brown, a 37-year-old Fort Worth resident who runs an eight-track label called Dead Media. And there are Arlington's Kathy and Dan Gibson, who not only run an online eight-track store called Kate's Track Shack, but who handle all facets of eight-track cartridge repairs and who have also launched their own successful eight-track production house, called KTS Productions.

If only on the strength of these three entities' efforts, Dallas-Fort Worth has indisputably, and rather inexplicably, become the modern-day eight-track hub of the world.

Even while admitting eight-track is not his preferred format for listening to music, Burnett argues in favor of the format's merits—not because eight-tracks were necessarily so great, but because, for a time, they were believed to be. That's an important reveal, since, to hear Burnett tell it, his museum is just the start of a grander plan at play. The Eight-Track Museum, he says, is his first step to make sure the world doesn't forget any format through which music has ever been distributed.

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17 comments
jesusissavior.chris
jesusissavior.chris

Please bring back 8 track decks, players, and recorders back into the production line again.  Also please bring back quality cassette decks back into prouction line again  I would like to see  8 track and cassette decks brand new in stores in my hometown.  Also, bring back the cassette boombox.

Joshua
Joshua

Well, I can play them all in my 1975 cadillac eldorado convertible that was MADE for top down, nite time cruisin with the volume up to compete with the wind noise...and smokin those ole cigars. yeeeeehhhhh (kinda like ole Howard Dean's campaign swan song washout..)

JoseF
JoseF

Hated them , it wpould stop in the middle of a song to switch to the next track, terrible.Cassettes were/are better.

Cdkase07
Cdkase07

"Go Bucks Burnett" I am glad you are bringing more attention to this exciting format.I have several players and loads of tapes.I taught myself to repair them a few yers ago(a must if you want to play them).A lot has been said about the disadvantages of them but I have to say..being an audiophile with high end vintage equipment such as Marantz,Pioneer,etc..I love the sound of 8 tracks..I have a pioneer hr-100 tape deck (a beast) and the sound when playing a good tape (new splice and pads are a must) is superb..I mean shockingly good..I understand peoples frustration as there are a lot of varibles which must be met(proper tape speed,good pads,etc) but when all the stars are "aligned" (the tape head too !) the sound in my opion is even better than the flat, compressed,sound of digital.Sure digital is great for instant track access but for the remainder of us who do not have A D D and enjoy listening to an entire recording it is quite an experience ! KEEP ON TRACKIN'Chris Kase

Snail22858
Snail22858

i have lots of 8-tracks if u but them u may contact me at snail22858@yahoo.com also on facebook

Dplanedplane
Dplanedplane

"More Than 20 Years After Their Death?" It's closer to 30, but I digress. 8-track tapes, at the time, were a welcome format due to their portability. Home, car, boat, etc., one could finally take music virtually anywhere. Quite a novelty at the time.

Yes, there were problems with the format as the tape casings themselves were usually glued together, being but one. And, yes, the playback head did move up/down the tape itself to the desired track which caused not only wear on the tape, but alignment problems of the head, as well. Old-timers may remember 'cross-talk' on 8-track tapes. Tape speed was 3.75 ips which was standard on most reel-to-reel decks. The demise of this format came about mainly to a lack of quality or high-end equipment, the slip-shod glued casings, and transfer capability - recording to an existing blank 8-track tape, among others.

When good sounding, financially viable cassette recorders/playback machines became available in the late 60's, I like many, switched to this format because the tape shells were reliable, they had multiple heads which alleviated alignment issues, and even though the tape speed was half that of 8-tracks, they were superior in sound, much smaller, and one could record up to 120 minutes on a single cassette. Then Nakamichi introduced the Tri-Tracer in '74, and the hand writing was on the wall.

Continued to play 8-tracks in my cars until 1980. They were a source of great enjoyment for myself and others for many years. The idea of the museum is a cool idea. I mean, why not? Take the kids (grand kids?) and tell 'em what old grand dad used to listen to. Of course, if you really want to freak 'em out, show them a 45 rpm!

tiedye
tiedye

As a veteran to the audio repair industry with 25 years of experience I have a real problem with 8 tracks. Some ideas are just bad. 8 track was one. 8 track's one advantage, being able to switch between 4 songs at the push of a button is exceeded by every format in digital. Keep in mind you didn't get to jump to the beginning of songs, you switched to a random place, usually in the middle.The list of disadvantages:The tape head has to move up and down. This makes alignment difficult and not very precise.The tape has to slide against itself. It requires lubrication which eventually fails and the tape self destroys. IT sis very bad in cold weather.The tape to head speed is relatively slow which means sonically the medium is inferior (Nathan Brown is either totally ignorant or he expects readers to be gullible. There were very few highend 8 track players ever built, none could stand up sonically to a good turntable and record. I have a good turntable and would bring it out for a head to head A/B comparison any day. (It would be a landslide)

After resisting the switch to Cassette tapes for years I finally threw my Akai 8 track recorder and about a hunerd tapes in the garbage bask in the 70s. I still have a hi-end turntable and about a hunerd albums. Many of them out perform the digital recordings of today. Super CDs come close. 8 tracks not so much. If you don't believe me ask ANY older audio repair technician what he thinks of 8 track.

Mike butts
Mike butts

Good to see it. Have about 200 myself. Also in 1967 had a 4 track player installed in my car with 2 speakers for 29.95$ .

Jada
Jada

I don t mind 8 tracks resurrection. I would love for cassettes to come back strong. C D's are terrible, scratches and they dont even last near as long as an 8 track or cassette tape. and bring back polaroid film too, no joke.

nathan brown
nathan brown

geez...i mean, i get why people have such a miserable view about 8 tracks. for one, making fun of them is built into pop culture (even if there is no prior experience), and we'd hate to disagree with the majority, right? also, most people's experience is hearing them through a mono speaker in a crappy portable player or in a car system from the 70s (most car manufacturers didn't start making stock systems/speakers actually sound good until the late 80s). i have no need for nostalgia or novelty. i'm a musician and most of my music has been recorded digitally from the mid 90s to the mid 2000s. then i discovered analog recording and 8 track listening. according to my ears, what i record onto my 8 track recorders is what i get out. that's what you want from any transfer. 8 tracks' bad rap is not because of the technology or tape itself, but rather due to lack of care in the manufacturing, materials, presentation, and consumer. i used to think records sounded great until i heard refurbished 8 tracks through a good deck and sound system. digital...it literally falls flat and i can't stand to listen to it anymore. then there's the issue of having patience while listening to 8 tracks as they move at their own pace without scanning or skipping around (though some decks offer "advanced" options). 200 years ago anyone of us would have been blown away to even hear live music. now we need every album in our pocket. a bunch of spoiled a-holes we are (myself partially included). i like subjecting myself to one of, if not, the closest format to hearing a band live on their time/terms - 8 track. listening to 8 track makes you a better listener.

K8Tracker
K8Tracker

Fun interview. Very nice (and long) article Pete! Thanks for taking the time to come out and talk with us. We've been able to do so many things because of these crazy 8-tracks. We've met some cool folks like Bucks and many others. Got VIP tickets to the taping of Wheel of Fortune and met Vanna and got our picture taken behind the wheel. Shipped 8-tracks all over the US and around the world. Recorded new 8-tracks in the 21st century. 8-tracks... who would have thunk it!

akquillabootay
akquillabootay

Anyone remeber quadrophonic 8's?Quadrophenia by the who?

yokel
yokel

Wow. Does he also have a collection of brick phones like the one made popular by Zach Morris on Saved By The Bell? While somewhat technologically significant, historically speaking, they are crap so why the fuss over an 8-track collection?

Hardly Coffin
Hardly Coffin

I've still got an 8-track of Burl Ive's "Jimmy Crack Corn ... and I don't care". Wonder what it's worth?

Dr. P
Dr. P

Everyone always waxes nostalgic over the 8 track tape. No one seems to remember the front runner to it, the 4 track tape. Was introduced a year or two sooner. Same technology but monaural. Both sucked. No way to search...listening to your favorite song meant listening to an entire track...and then, when you least needed it...the tape would start the dreaded squeaking, the harbinger of death!!

nathan brown
nathan brown

yes!! chris, so glad to hear that you've met the right combination that unlocks the excellent sound quality 8 tracks can poses. this is the exact situation i'm trying to promote through my 8 track label/production company - the dead media. please feel free to contact me through my website - deadmediatapes.com - as i'd like to discuss a couple of related items with you.

nathan brown
nathan brown

yeah, i've run into plenty of you "vets". wish there were a way to invest money in your opinions. then i could put a wad of cash in your mouth to do repair work for me. if you did your research, you'd know that part of my interest in 8 tracks is reversing consumer laziness and utter convenience that has obviously swallowed you whole. a baby boomer you are, no doubt. in all fairness, i am ignorant....ask my wife.

 
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