They found what they were looking for in eight-tracks, a format they admit they viewed as a relic until 1998. That's when Dan, while restoring a 1968 AMC Javelin—the same car he had as a teenager—came up with the idea to seek out an eight-track player to install in the dashboard. The next step was finding cartridges to listen to in the player—which wasn't nearly as difficult a task as they'd expected. Friends would come across eight-tracks at garage sales and send them the Gibsons' way. The rest of their collection, they bought over the Internet.

But they noticed something while seeking out tapes: Eight-tracks were surprisingly expensive to purchase online, even though, in the real world, they could be found dirt cheap if you knew where to look. So they launched an online store of their own, called it Kate's Track Shack, and significantly reduced the market cost of eight-tracks. They bought collections in bulk—including, at one point, a collection of Burnett's excess tapes—at cost, and started selling them, individually, for 75 cents a cartridge. It didn't take long for their store to become a major player in the Internet-centric eight-track scene. Almost immediately, they started selling around 150 tapes per week—which, in this world, is a significant amount.

And yet that's only the start of their story. These days, theirs is a business that can handle pretty much every concern an eight-track collector might have. They buy cartridges, they sell cartridges, they repair cartridges, they sell cartridge repair kits, they sell customized cartridge sleeves, and, most recently, they launched KTS Productions, the banner under which they also produce new eight-track tapes. They've even trademarked their own piece of eight-track equipment, The Win-Gib Eight-Track Revitalizer, which, in essence, is simply a foam pad that can be used to replace the old, worn-out pieces of foam that exist within cartridges, enabling the actual tape inside to be read by a player.

Burnett truly believes that this eight-track venture of his has big potential. He already has tentative plans to open a second Eight-Track Museum in Brooklyn, New York, in 2012.
Alison V. Smith
Burnett truly believes that this eight-track venture of his has big potential. He already has tentative plans to open a second Eight-Track Museum in Brooklyn, New York, in 2012.

The Gibsons have sold, by their estimate, a quarter million of these pads.

"Kathy doesn't just sell the eight-tracks," Dan boasts of his wife's business. "She's basically recreated everything you need to keep your eight-track going. And nobody else is doing that."

In 2009, when Cheap Trick wanted to produce eight-track copies of their album The Latest, if only as a bit, they came to the Gibsons to get that done. That deal further turned the Gibsons into stars of the eight-track world. When Cheap Trick went on the blitz to promote their album, they pushed the fact that they were also releasing it on eight-track—and the media ate it up. Among the places the band found themselves promoting their new album was Comedy Central's Colbert Report—whose host Stephen Colbert employed the same mocking tone so many others take these days when discussing the format. But when Cheap Trick passed through the region to tour on the new release, they appreciatively invited the Gibsons to come see them play, and, afterward, they met them backstage.

Says Dan, "There's nothing about this that isn't fun."

But the Gibsons are quite clear about their motives—they're running a business, they say. And they're proud to report, their eight-track business is paying for their daughters' college educations. Yet, even with eight-tracks strewn throughout their home, the Gibsons downplay the medium's role in their lives. In their defense, they seem more retro-obsessed than eight-track-obsessed. Two restored 1970s AMC Pacers sit out in their driveway. A number of the landline telephones in their home are rotaries.

"Don't get me wrong," Dan says while tinkering with a few damaged eight-tracks from his perch at his kitchen table. "I like the new stuff, too. I have an iPhone. I just like to take the best of each era."

And they're not the only ones appreciative of the eight-track era. Perhaps the most notable of the Gibsons' accomplishments is the fact that they were behind the first eight-track cartridge going into space—which only happened recently, in 2010. NASA astronaut Doug Wheeler, a massive REO Speedwagon fan, reached out to the Gibsons through a friend to see if they might be able to provide him with an eight-track to bring on the space shuttle. The Gibsons were happy to comply, not only providing Wheeler with a copy of REO Speedwagon's Hi Infidelity, but also a copy, fittingly, of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.

"We were hoping they'd actually throw them out into space and that they could just float around up there," Kathy says. "But then we'd probably get in trouble for space trash."

Indeed, one astronaut's space trash is another man's treasure.

"I really think that, aside from reel-to-reel tape, the eight-track format is the best-sounding thing," says Nathan Brown, who runs the Dead Media eight-track label out of Fort Worth. "With a good player, and high-quality speakers, it just sounds awesome. Better than CD. Better than vinyl."

Unlike Burnett or the Gibsons, Brown was too young in the '70s to recall the grasp eight-tracks had over the market. Yet, at 37, he truly believes in the format as a proper means for listening, even if folks like Burnett scoff at the notion. Brown's stance is that, with modern-day technology to pair with them, eight-tracks can be a more viable option for sound quality in the future than they ever were in the past.

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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

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.

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.

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.

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!!

 
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