Dallas musical institution James “Bucks” Burnett dead at 64

Buck Burnett. Photo: Stephen Becker, KERA

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

The Dallas music scene has lost an indelible piece of its soul. James “Bucks” Burnett has died. He was 64.

According to a Facebook post from Burnett’s long-time partner, Barley Vogel, Burnett died by suicide on Oct. 2.

“In sharing the manner and cause of the death of Bucks, I hope only to educate, not to shock or upset anyone unduly,” Vogel wrote in the post. “Please help yourself, your partner, your kids to learn how to support those with such burdens often unseen and glossed over in death notices.”

Describing exactly what Burnett meant — and all with which he was involved — to those in and around the Dallas music scene in a single sentence is impossible. He managed Tiny Tim, reviving the novelty singer’s career, hobnobbed with rock stars and lived and breathed music.

Burnett owned and operated 14 Records, a self-described “well-curated, no filler” treasure trove of a record store on Garland Road. He opened  the Eight Track Museum, to house his collection of more than 3,000 of the tapes.

“We’re moving on to nearly 120 years of prerecorded, physical formats that were sold to the public. That’s absolutely astounding to me,” Burnett told KERA’s Stephen Becker in 2010. Becker’s piece also aired on NPR, bringing the museum national attention.  “Are we really going to let all of that go away and disappear just because of a little thing called an mp3? Not on my watch we’re not.”

Burnett had a brief run from 2016-17 as an Dallas Observer columnist — his monthly series was fittingly titled “Namedropper.” The Dallas native’s life intersected with fame again and again, as he noted in his May 2016 debut column.

“In no particular order, I have managed and produced Tiny Tim, whose last two albums were recorded in Dallas and Denton,” Burnett wrote. “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. … Rick Danko introduced me to Ringo Starr in Las Colinas in 1989.

“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.”

Even all of that only scratches the surface of Burnett’s contributions to the fabric of the North Texas creative community as a passionate advocate for the arts, mentor and friend.

On Facebook, Vogel was candid about Burnett’s struggles with mental illness.

“For 22 years of our nearing four decades as a couple, he/we successfully managed his mental illness of bipolar 1 disorder. Before and during this time, he created and co-created wonderful gifts of art, storytelling, music, lyrics and provided folks with fine records to play in an exceptional store that he adored. In more recent years, the illness of addiction took hold, and when mingled with a mania, all hell broke loose. Addiction, coupled with BP1, is a very dangerous situation.”

To help give those who are grieving his loss an outlet for sharing stories about Burnett’s life and work, Vogel  created the Facebook group Namedropper: Tribute to Bucks Burnett (official) where tributes to and tales of Burnett were piling up on Tuesday.

14 Records is temporarily closed as Vogel assesses what comes next.

“I am absolutely devastated, as are our family and friends. I cannot thank each of you dear ones enough for your support at this time.”

Vogel also said in the Oct. 9 Facebook post that no service is planned, and a memorial for Burnett is pending, as “I need some time to grieve and find my feet.”

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.