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

Wallace, though, also sees value in Burnett's Eight-Track Museum efforts: "If someone's doing that," he says, "then that's great."

Turns out, though, Burnett isn't the first person to have come up with the idea of an eight-track tape museum. That designation belongs to Bob Hiemenz, a semi-retired newspaper publisher in Flora, Illinois, who for the past few years has been engaged in a similar effort. And he might be more qualified than Burnett to run such an entity.

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.

His eight-track collection numbers somewhere in the vicinity of 69,000 tapes—the largest collection in the world. Like Burnett and the Gibsons, his collection started by accident: Hidden within a home stereo console he'd bought at a thrift store to mine for parts to repair a different set of speakers, he found a small collection of tapes that, for no particular reason, spoke to him. And then he just kept buying more and more of them. Doing so earned him quite the reputation, too. Before long, people just started giving them to him. Three years ago, he was given a set of 30,000 tapes by the widow of a New Mexico collector.

"Little old ladies, they just send them to me," Hiemenz says.

Sometimes, they don't even know his name. When the post office receives a package addressed to "the eight-track guy in Flora," the postal workers in this town of 5,000 know exactly for whom it's intended.

"I'm the eight-track hoarder," Hiemenz admits. "I just think they're so neat."

And, like Burnett, he wants others to appreciate the medium, too.

"I think there should be an eight-track museum in every state in the United States," he says.

First, though, he'd like one in Flora. One problem: The city isn't so sure about that.

For the past few years, Hiemenz, a former member of the Flora City Council, has been embroiled in a debate with the current powers that be. There's a vacant building downtown, he says, that would make for a perfect spot for his museum. It could be a tourist attraction for Flora, he says, a non-profit museum (unlike Burnett's) that would benefit various youth organizations in town. In exchange, he's asked the town to pay its electric and water bills. But the city refuses. And so the debate rages on.

To hear Hiemenz tell it, it's become quite the hot-button issue in Flora—so significant, he says, that it might sway upcoming elections.

"We think it'll happen eventually," he says. "It's just a matter of time."

Unfortunately for him, though, come Valentine's Day, the opportunity to open the first eight-track museum in the world will have passed from Hiemenz and Flora to Burnett and Dallas.

Walking around his still-being-prepared museum, Burnett is quick to extol the eight-track format's virtues.

"You look at this stuff, and you can just envision people driving around, listening to the music of their choice, or taking their music with them to the beach for the first time," he says. But, more than that, he argues, their existence alone is enough to merit celebration. "Every format is an important part of a band's output," he says. "If it's official product, it's an official part of that band's history."

That, actually, is how Burnett got turned on to eight-tracks in the first place. A near-maniacal Beatles fan, Burnett got into the eight-track game because, at a garage sale in the M Streets, he found an eight-track copy of the Beatles' white album. (Fun fact: The white album, in eight-track form, comes in black packaging.) He bought it, took the tape home, placed it on a mantel in his living room, and got inspired.

"I just thought," he says, "'How cool would it be to have all the Beatles' eight-tracks?'"

It took him five years to complete his collection—which, he believes, is the only complete Beatles eight-track collection in the world. While building this Beatles collection, though, he started acquiring other cartridges along the way.

"You see five Pink Floyd tapes at a garage sale and what are you gonna do, not buy them?" he asks rhetorically.

Now, though his isn't the biggest collection, he's convinced that it's the most impressively curated.

"I want the best and the coolest and the rarest and the most beautiful," he says.

And, Burnett believes, people will be interested in seeing that—so much so that he has tentative plans to open a second Eight-Track Museum in Brooklyn, New York, by 2012.

Professor Thompson tends to agree with him about the level of interest.

"I imagine that a lot of people, by just hearing about this museum, would be happy to make a pilgrimage to go see it," he says.

The early returns would seem to back Thompson up. With every turn Burnett has taken to celebrate the eight-track, there's only been more interest awaiting him. It started in 2009, when he was invited to showcase his collection as an art exhibit in the Barry Whistler Gallery. That show led to him displaying his collection at Denton's annual music festival, the 35 Conferette—where he, for the first time, started calling it, "The Eight-Track Museum." With that exhibit, the national media caught wind; The Wall Street Journal even featured his efforts in a front-page piece the day of his Denton opening.

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  • Hardly Coffin 02/10/2011 2:49:00 PM

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

  • 02/10/2011 1:16:00 PM

    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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