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October 11, 2012

Roxbury Eight Track Museum opens Saturday

By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star

---- — ROXBURY — In the nucleus of a community known for appreciation of culture and the arts, Phil Lenihan is betting that a showcase to the defunct musical recording format known as eight track tapes will give people yet another reason to come to this quaint Delaware County town of 2,500 people.

On the heels of opening the Orphic Gallery last summer at the Roxbury Corner Store, Lenihan will be undraping the Eight Track Museum in the same building with grand opening festivities running from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Special guests for the occasion will be Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. The couple represent two-thirds of the original members of the legendary New Wave band Talking Heads. They went on to start an offshoot band called Tom Tom Club, which scored several major hits, including “Genius of Love.”

The museum is the first satellite of the original Eight Track Museum that opened in Dallas in early 2011. The idea for the Roxbury useum came when Lenihan said he asked the founder of that venue, Dallas music producer Bucks Burnett, if he wanted to have a temporary eight-track exhibit at the Orphic Gallery.

“Bucks upped the ante — as he usually does — and said, ‘How about a permanent outpost?” Lenihan recalled in an interview.

The more he thought about the offer, Lenihan said, the more he figured that the eight track museum and his musical-themed art gallery would be a perfect fit.

“I’ve always had a fascination with quirky roadside attractions,” Lenihan said. “And I thought I would go out of my way to see this one.”

He said he plans to continue the exhibits of some of the eight track decks and tapes that are most prized by collectors at least until next summer. The exhibit is free and open to the public, he noted.

Lenihan said he hopes visitors — both those too young to remember the eight-track format that faded out in the early 1980s and those who grew up with the tapes looped inside bulky plastic cartridges — will leave the museum with a greater understanding and appreciation of the evolution of technology for musical recording.

“One of the goals of the museum is to impress upon our visitors — especially the young people — how the eight track figured in that process,” said Lenihan, a 59-year-old Massachusetts native who spent the earlier part of his adult life as a rock promoter.

Eight track tapes, he noted, took off in popularity in the 1970s after William Lear, an aviation industry titan for whom the Lear Jet is named, sponsored research aimed at developing a way for making musical recordings more portable than the vinyl record albums that had to be played on turntables.

Some of the highest-quality machines can now fetch thousands of dollars on the internet auction site eBay, and certain rare tapes can also be worth hundreds of dollars to collectors.

“The interest in eight tracks has been aided greatly by their collectible value,” Lenihan said.

He said the festivities Saturday will include a live broadcast on community radio station WIOX, hosted by Jezz Harkin, from 5 to 7 p.m. Lenihan said he hopes to feature some music by Levon Helm, a founding member of The Band who passed away earlier this year and had lived in the Woodstock area.

Noting the building he purchased two years ago has some 7,000 square feet of space, Lenihan said he eventually wants to open a cafe and rent space to retailers as well. While paper products have suffered as digital communications becomes more popular, Lenihan said he hopes to sell stationery products, note cards, books and magazines.

There are many people, he said, who still prefer to read writing on paper more than they do viewing computer screens of electronic gadgets.

“Some day this building could be a monument to obsolete technology,” he said. “But I believe people still have a romance with the tactile printed materials.”