Introducing Namedropper, the New Column From Blurred Visionary Bucks Burnett

Bucks Burnett, self-described "blurred visionary," is our new columnist. What are we thinking?
Bucks Burnett, self-described "blurred visionary," is our new columnist. What are we thinking?
Jason Janik

Bucks Burnett isn't a journalist.  He's a namedropper. He may not have met every one of his music idols, but he's met 90 percent of them. And he's here to tell you all about it, however he sees fit.

I met my first rock star — Neal Smith, drummer for Alice Cooper, 1973 — at the age of 14. It warped me forever by making me believe I could meet all of my heroes. From that day on, I have dedicated my life to meeting, befriending or working with my favorite rock stars. Now older and wiser, at 57 I've realized I will only meet 90 percent of them.

When the idea of me writing a monthly column for the Dallas Observer came up, I tried to think of which editor might’ve lost a bet with me. Doesn’t matter because I’m writing it; let’s not resort to assigning blame.

I love the format of a column because you basically get away with murder. Self indulgent storytelling in first person? Got it. Illuminating revelations and useful information? Forget it. If you want to go backstage with me, or to a rock star's house, tag along. If you want actual insights into the career of a musician, call 1-800-GOOGLE or maybe friend Wikipedia.

The once unsinkable ship of music journalism now has another iceberg scraping its side. It's name is Bucks Burnett. I've got stories, stories that will take you on a journey — to the personal classifieds, if you read far enough.

As a lifelong Dallasite since October 1958 (with a grand total exception of three years), I am qualified to offer unique observations. We built this city on unsold copies of “We Built This City On Rock and Roll.”

I'm now in my 40th year of working music retail in Dallas — I got my first record store job at Hit Records in Oak Cliff as a 16 year old, and have worked at most of the Dallas music stores including two of my own — but who’s counting? I have firsthand, realtime memories of $6 Zeppelin tickets going for $20 from scalpers to outraged fans. $20 for Zeppelin? I saw the Sex Pistols play the Longhorn Ballroom do an encore that no one requested, and oh yeah, the Bronco Bowl.  T Bone Burnett, Joe Ely and Tiny Tim headlined. Edstock, 1984; It got a full-page story in Rolling Stone.

Burnett (right) pictured with Peter Buck and Alejandro Escovedo.
Burnett (right) pictured with Peter Buck and Alejandro Escovedo.
Bob Gruen

Not bragging, just facting.

Here’s some stuff I’ve done which qualifies me to win an Observer award, which I haven’t and won’t, because there’s not really a category for what I do. That’s ironic, my not winning an award, because I’ve presented three award ceremonies in this town.    

In no particular order, I have:

Managed and produced Tiny Tim, whose last two albums were recorded in Dallas and Denton. Met Jimmy Stewart at the snack bar at the Astro Drive-In in Oak Cliff. Made out with a sexy older ticket cashier at the old Northpark Cinema who would let me in for free, bring me Cokes and kiss me awhile before returning to her booth out front. Worked in Red Bird Mall in the '70s (Sound Town). Served as live-in butler to Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane. Hand sorted the massive archives of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads.

I gave a check for $1,000,000 to Andy Warhol at a Dallas book signing in 1986. That’s when a million still bought almost everything but a reaction from Andy Warhol. I actually owe Jackson Browne $1,000,000, and he has my IOU for it. They used to call me Big Bucks but Pagey (Jimmy Page, if you don't know him personally like I do) shortened it to Bucks in the ’90s. The 20th century 1990s, punk. Speaking of Pagey, he put me on the guest list for the Led Zeppelin reunion in 2007. I had a special suit made for the occasion and the entire band signed it except for Robert Plant, because he just wasn’t in the mood for that melody.

I once shook hands with Al Hirt on the field of the Cotton Bowl. I snuck backstage as a teenager at an Alice Cooper show on the Billion Dollar Babies tour in 1973, wearing Alice makeup. Later in 2014, I wore it again backstage as I talked to Alice about the time I won an Alice Cooper lookalike contest as a teenager. Rick Danko introduced me to Ringo Starr in Los Colinas in 1989. In 1983 I talked my way into the office of Mad Magazine publisher William M. Gaines while visiting New York. I got President Reagan to send a letter to Ronnie Lane in 1984. In 1976 I met Bob Dylan unexpectedly and we had a nice chat. Later I would come to own the harmonica he threw to a girl in the crowd at his 1978 Fort Worth concert. I keep it next to my dental mold of Tiny Tim’s teeth.

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But it’s been no bed of roses, said Freddie Mercury, three years after I told Queen to have dinner at Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge during their soundcheck at McFarlin Auditorium. It’s been rough. I was fired from Forever Young Records in 2008 because they thought I was stealing from them. (Let’s define "stealing.") Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas was downright nasty the whole weekend last time I brought him to town a few years ago. Arkansas has-been nasty is the nasty-bad of nasty, y’all. I fought over his washboard he threw to the audience in ’76 and deserve better from him.

The lease on my 8-Track Museum (the one featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal) was terminated last summer when it was decided by the landlord that Deep Ellum should become a drive-thru Northpark. (Happening.) I’ve closed two record stores. Worst of all, I got into it one magic night with Vanilla Ice at a club and he threw ice water in my face. It got written up in Buddy Magazine, which was AWEsome City, USA. I’ve even been yelled at by the legendary rock promoter Bill Graham, which puts me in decent company.

In March, I was special guest of Pete Townshend when the Who played Madison Square Garden. We talked about Tiny Tim backstage. It was better than HBO. I have had my picture taken with Mr. Peppermint and Gibby Haines at the same time and I’m still waiting for the person who can tell me, "me too" on that one. I don’t think they ever had a picture together once the Buttholes became famous. Not that I’ve ever seen anyway.

While processing a few thousand albums for pricing at Forever Young Records, I looked inside an ELO record and found $180 tucked in the gatefold. Is that the stealing I was guilty of? I don’t know, why don’t you ask them. All I know is ELO has sounded pretty sweet ever since and shortly after that, everybody started calling records 180s. 

You know how Paul Slavens on KXT always wants you to tell him what you want to hear on his show? I wish I could say I want to hear from you about what you, the Dallasites, want me to write about. But I won’t say it because I already know what I want to write about. I want to write about 1,000 words in an hour or two and get paid for it and blow the money on records at one of my competitors because that’s the way I (rock 'n') roll, the stuff they built that city on, the Jeffersons Starship when they were movin’ on up.

Burnett inside his 8-Track Museum, which closed in 2015.
Burnett inside his 8-Track Museum, which closed in 2015.
Jeff Gage

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