KYE R. LEE/DMN
Looking for an eight-track from a favorite band? Kathy and Daniel Gibson might just have it in their backyard shed. The couple has been collecting eight-tracks for years and sells them online.
For more than a decade, Daniel and
Kathy Gibson have collected eight-tracks and sold them online to customers
around the world. They also repair eight-tracks and even make new ones. Yes,
the Gibsons are hoping for an eight-track comeback. "A lot of people just
kind of go, 'Are you nuts?' " Daniel said as he showed off an eight-track
karaoke machine and a 12-cartridge eight-track changer. "But most people
are boring. I never set out to be boring." An eight-track, if you take
care of it, can last forever, the Gibsons say.
Link: Kate's Track Shack
ARLINGTON – Daniel Gibson approached a small storage shed in his backyard and opened the door, letting sunlight spill over the thousands of eight-tracks that line the walls. Over here, Dean Martin's Everybody Loves Somebody. Over there, Van Halen and Elvis Costello. In between sit "Dueling Banjos" and Billy Joel's The Stranger. In one corner, there's Swing Era 1941-1942. Nearby, there's Barbra Streisand's Funny Girl, which rests, unopened, in its Styrofoam case.
The sign on Gibson's shed says Kate's Track Shack, but for eight-track fanatics, this is a palace.
For more than a decade, Daniel and his wife, Kathy, have collected eight-tracks and sold them online to customers around the world. They repair eight-tracks and even make new ones.
Yes, the Gibsons are hoping for an eight-track comeback. Their goal is to bring the eight-track – that dusty, long-forgotten relic pushed aside by the cassette tape and then the CD and now the iPod – into the 21st century.
"A lot of people just kind of go, 'Are you nuts?' " Daniel said as he showed off an eight-track karaoke machine and a 12-cartridge eight-track changer. "But most people are boring. I never set out to be boring."
An eight-track, if you take care of it, can last forever, the Gibsons say. The sound quality endures. True, an eight-track may not be as crystal-clear as a digital recording, but the eight-track has nostalgia going for it.
Kathy, the so-called eight-track queen, records music on new cartridges. Bands like Cheap Trick have worked with her to release music on the eight-track, which debuted in the mid-'60s and faded away in the '80s.
Daniel, an IT programmer who repairs customers' old cartridges, enjoys the simple pleasure of tinkering with something until it works again.
In fact, he says, it is the most fun job he has ever had.
"You sit around and make a piece of music come to life," Daniel said. "You fix it all up, and you plug it in. No one's probably listened to this in 25 to 30 years. That's pretty cool."
Kathy is, well, far less romantic about it.
"We're all kind of crazy," she said. "You have to be to do this."
And so it begins
The road to eight-track royalty started in 1998 when Daniel was fixing up a 1968 Javelin he had bought from a junkyard. A '60s-era car should have an eight-track player, he figured, so he found one and installed it.
Then he bought eight-tracks at a thrift store. Meanwhile, Kathy's father discovered a couple hundred eight-tracks at a garage sale.
Daniel went online and saw that people wanted as much as $5 for their eight-tracks.
"That's crazy," he thought.
So he created a Web site, www.katestrackshack.com, to help keep eight-tracks cheap. Not interested in making big profits, they charged 75 cents a pop.
The cartridges sold quickly. The Gibsons' hunger for eight-tracks soon knew no bounds.
"We need to find more," they realized.
A Dallas man called the Gibsons, wanting to sell his eight-tracks. He had 10,000, enough to fill a Jeep and the back of a U-haul trailer.
The Gibsons hit the road to Oklahoma to collect another 10,000 cartridges. Then they drove to Houston, where an older couple donated 2,500 tapes.
A man drove down from Iowa, arriving late at night to drop off 9,000 eight-tracks.
"I shudder to think how many millions of eight-tracks are in the landfill," Daniel said, shaking his head.
Families would record holidays and weddings on eight-tracks, so the Gibsons receive old cartridges from people wanting to hear the voices of their loved ones once again.
At their kitchen table, Daniel popped open an injured yellow cartridge, Black Sabbath's Master of Reality. He pointed at the dark brown cartridge tape, the short silvery splice that holds the tape together and two small, aging foam pressure pads.
Daniel cut a new splice and installed two fresh pads. Good as new.
"It's ready to play for the next 30 years," he said. "It will outlast me, I'm sure."
Through his repair work, Daniel's been exposed to a range of music, from reggae and the Carpenters to a Nazi march.
He says he gets to listen to some of the best music in the world – and some of the worst. Polish polka music? He can't stand it.
"That stuff will freak you out," he said. "It's not the 'Roll Out the Barrel' kind of happy stuff. These guys are singing in Polish.
"It sounds like they're deranged. It's kind of frightening."
Daniel showed off eight-track players, including a yellow Panasonic Dynamite 8, topped by a plunger that you press to advance to the next track. Then there's the white, globe-shaped Weltron, which resembles a space helmet.
All that's missing is a shiny disco ball, shaggy hair and groovy bell-bottoms.
The Gibsons say that eight-track fans are die-hards and fueled by nostalgia.
"They just won't give up, and they're going to stick with it," Kathy said. "That's what they grew up on and that's what they want."
Daniel held a Saturday Night Fever cartridge. Put that in the eight-track player and listen to "Stayin' Alive" and suddenly it's 1977 all over again, Daniel said.
"If you grew up in the '70s, the economy stunk, the cars were lousy," he said. "Things weren't that great. But the music was pretty darn good."
Daniel grabbed a Simon & Garfunkel cartridge and eyed a red Panasonic machine.
"Put that eight-track in the player," he said. "Make it come to life! Make the music sing!"