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North Texas has lost a true eccentric: "Bucks" Burnett, record store owner and music fan

The late record store owner and music promoter Bucks Burnett, who died Oct. 2. He's with his partner, Barley Vogel, who owns Studio Arts in Dallas
Amy Hague
The late record store owner and music promoter Bucks Burnett, who died Oct. 2. He's with his partner, Barley Vogel, who owns Studio Arts in Dallas

This story mentions suicide. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Hotline.

One of the true, ardent, idiosyncratic music fans in North Texas died October 2nd. He was James Burnett, known as "Bucks" Burnett or, originally, "Big Bucks" Burnett. He was 64.

If people knew Burnett, they may have known him as the owner of 14 Records, the store on Garland Road. But 14 Records was a store for diehard music fans. It really reflected the owner's tastes — the vintage selections were curated by Burnett.

Burnett also managed musicians, pursued eccentric efforts like fan clubs and he befriended the famous. Dallas Morning News contributor Manny Mendoza met Burnett 30 years ago — on the very first day Mendoza moved to Dallas.

This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

So Manny, Bucks Burnett's store was certainly kind of 'fringe' -- yet his reputation was larger than that. Why?

Well, for one thing, the record store operated at a very interesting fringe. When it was on Greenville Avenue, he sold eight track tapes, and the players to listen to them. And those players were already a rare commodity. And he went on to open an eight track museum [in Deep Ellum].

So he wasn't just a record store owner. He was a guy who was very deeply embedded in music and in the music community.

The front of 14 Records on Garland Road Thursday morning.
Jerome Weeks
The front of 14 Records on Garland Road on Oct. 12.

Burnett was a musician himself, he promoted concerts, he managed Tiny Tim, the singer, and produced an album with Tiny Tim and the band Brave Combo. Burnett even wrote a music column for a while for The Dallas Observer called Namedropper -- which was actually his nickname.

His nickname was Namedropper because he set out since he was a teenager to meet all his rock star idols. And he did it. He wound up going to England two different times to stay with Jimmy Page.

I mean, one of the last times that I saw Bucks, I went to his store and he was on the phone and he was like, "Oh, Manny, why? Why are you here to bother me? I'm on the phone."

Well, he was talking to Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth of The Talking Heads, who he was friends with. So, yeah, Bucks had, y'know, rock stars on speed dial.

So Burnett was a real character. Kind of larger than life. But people have said even with all of his stories, his friendships, he could be contentious, argumentative.

Well, because larger-than-life characters are, you know, they're in your face. They'll hold you conversationally hostage. I mean, he probably annoyed as many people as he befriended.

But I think, you know, people felt a certain solidarity with him. Because he was very genuine in his enthusiasms, and his enthusiasms were very interesting — you know, eight track tapes and Mister Ed. He had a Mister Ed — as in the TV show — Fan Club that he had started in high school, that he eventually roped people like Iggy Pop and Eric Clapton into joining.

The Eight-Track Museum Guided Tour with Bucks Burnett

And sometimes his enthusiasms went beyond the fringe. The Mister Ed Fan Club was a joke but it led to Edstock,a show with Joe Ely at the Bronco Bowl in 1984. Which was a financial failure.

For a small record store owner, that couldn't have helped Burnett's bottom line.

But I think Bucks -- you know, I can't testify to this, but I have a feeling Bucks rarely paid for a concert ticket. I bet people bought him a lot of dinners.

Barley Vogel, Burnett's life partner, has posted online that Bucks tragically took his own life. She also wrote, among other things, that he was bipolar.

I might have known that at some time. I've forgotten about it if I did know it.

But I mean, I think that could account for, you know, some of his talkativeness. He was a guy who would talk to you incessantly about music when you went to his store. He was not as interested in, you know, selling records as he was in just talking about music.

So I think that passion that he had was infectious. And that's why people loved him.

As a memorial for him Barley Vogel has created the Facebook page, Namedropper - Tribute to Bucks Burnett. No services are currently planned, but Vogel said she is considering a celebration for Burnett — "something fitting as a Big Bucks Production."

Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.