Jeffrey Allen "Skunk" Baxter (born December 13, 1948) is an American guitarist, known for his stints in the rock bands Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers during the 1970s and Spirit in the 1980s. More recently, he has worked as a defense consultant and advised U.S. members of Congress on missile defense.[1] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Doobie Brothers in 2020.[2]

Jeff Baxter
Baxter performing at USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s 36th Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. May 10, 2018.
Baxter performing at USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s 36th Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. May 10, 2018.
Background information
Birth nameJeffrey Allen Baxter
Born (1948-12-13) December 13, 1948 (age 75)
Washington, D.C., United States
  • Guitar
  • pedal steel · piano
Years active1968–present

Early life and education edit

Jeffrey Baxter was born in Washington, D.C., and spent some of his formative years in Mexico.[3][1] He graduated from the Taft School in 1967[4] in Watertown, Connecticut, and was a self-described preppie.[5] He enrolled at the School of Public Communication (now College of Communication) at Boston University[6] in September 1967, where he studied journalism[7] while continuing to perform with local bands. His freshman roommate was blues musician James Montgomery.[8]

Music career edit

Early years edit

Baxter joined his first band at age 11.[7] At the Taft School, he played drums in a band called King Thunder and the Lightning Bolts.[9] While still a high school student, he worked at Jimmy's Music Shop in Manhattan in 1966. At Jimmy's, Baxter met guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who was just beginning his career as a frontman.[10] Later, Baxter claimed to have sat in with the Hendrix-led band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, when the regular bassist could not make the show.[10] Moving to Boston to attend college, Baxter worked as a guitar technician and amplifier repairman at Jack's Drum Shop on Boylston Street.

Baxter first reached a wide rock audience in 1968 as a member of the psychedelic rock band Ultimate Spinach.[7]

Baxter joined the band for Ultimate Spinach III, their third and final album.[11] After leaving the band, he played with the Holy Modal Rounders[5] and backed singer Buzzy Linhart.[12][13] He was using the moniker "Skunk" by this time; so far, Baxter has kept the origin of the nickname a secret.[14]

With Steely Dan edit

After the breakup of Ultimate Spinach, Baxter relocated to Los Angeles, finding work as a session guitarist.

In 1972, he became a founding member of the band Steely Dan, along with guitarist Denny Dias, guitarist-bassist Walter Becker, keyboardist-vocalist Donald Fagen, drummer Jim Hodder and vocalist David Palmer.[15]

Baxter appeared with Steely Dan on their first three albums, Can't Buy a Thrill in 1972, Countdown to Ecstasy in 1973, and Pretzel Logic in 1974. He contributed the guitar fills and signature solo heard on the group's highest charting hit "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."[11]

With The Doobie Brothers edit

Baxter performing with The Doobie Brothers in the 70s.

While finishing work on Pretzel Logic, Baxter became aware of Becker and Fagen's intentions to retire Steely Dan from touring and work almost exclusively with session players. With that in mind, Baxter left the band in 1974 to join The Doobie Brothers, who at the time were touring in support of their fourth album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.

As a session man, he had contributed pedal steel guitar on Vices as well as "South City Midnight Lady" on its predecessor, The Captain and Me. Baxter's first album as a full member of the group was 1975's Stampede. He contributed an acoustic interlude ("Precis") and significant turns on slide and pedal steel guitar.

While preparing to tour in support of Stampede, Doobie Brothers founder Tom Johnston was hospitalized with a stomach ailment. To fill in for Johnston on vocals, Baxter suggested bringing in singer-keyboardist Michael McDonald, with whom Baxter had worked in Steely Dan. With Johnston still convalescing, McDonald soon was invited to join the band full-time. McDonald's vocal and songwriting contributions, as well as Baxter's jazzier guitar style, marked a new direction for the band. They went on to continued success with the 1976 album Takin' It to the Streets, 1977's Livin' on the Fault Line, and particularly 1978's Minute by Minute, which spent five weeks as the #1 album in the U.S. and spawned several hit singles; Baxter's work on the album includes an extended solo at the end of the closing track "How Do the Fools Survive?".

In early 1979, Baxter left the band, as did drummer and band co-founder John Hartman.

Later music career edit

Baxter has continued working as a session guitarist for a diverse group of artists, including Willy DeVille, Bryan Adams, Hoyt Axton, Eric Clapton, Gene Clark, Sheryl Crow, Freddie Hubbard, Tim Weisberg, Joni Mitchell, Ricky Nelson, Dolly Parton, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, Gene Simmons, Rod Stewart, Burton Cummings, Barbra Streisand, and Donna Summer.[5] He has worked as a touring musician for Elton John,[5] Linda Ronstadt,[5] and Billy Vera and the Beaters.

In 1982, he featured on Spirit's album Spirit of '84, released as The Thirteenth Dream outside of the US.[16]

In 1984, Baxter played keyboards with Bobby and the Midnites' Bob Weir, Billy Cobham, Bobby Cochran, Kenny Gradney ("Tigger"), and Dave Garland at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey.[17] That same year, he produced and played guitar and synthesizer on the band's album Where the Beat Meets the Street on Columbia Records.

In 1986, Baxter joined James Brown and Maceo Parker on guitar for several North American tour dates.[18]

In 1990, Baxter joined John Entwistle, Joe Walsh, Keith Emerson, Simon Phillips and relatively unknown vocalist Rick Livingstone in a supergroup called The Best. The group released a live performance video in Japan before disbanding. He also produced two albums for the hard rock band Nazareth, and also produced albums for Carl Wilson, Livingston Taylor, The Ventures, and Nils Lofgren. He was producer on the 1982 Bob Welch album Eye Contact. In 1991 Baxter also produced a documentary video, "Guitar" (Warner Brothers VHS and LaserDisc), in which he travels the world and interviews guitarists he admires. In 1994 he performed on the video game Tuneland.

In 1997 Baxter scored the movie The Curse of Inferno.[19]

Baxter continues to do studio work, most recently on tribute albums to Pink Floyd and Aerosmith. In 2012, he appeared on keyboardist Brian Auger's Language of the Heart, and The Beach Boys' That's Why God Made the Radio. He also occasionally plays in The Coalition of the Willing, a band comprising Andras Simonyi, Hungarian Ambassador to the United States; Alexander Vershbow, US Ambassador to South Korea; Daniel Poneman, formerly of the United States National Security Council and later the Obama Administration's Deputy Secretary of Energy; and Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs. On June 19, 2007, Baxter jammed with former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's band Beats Workin' at the Congressional Picnic held on the White House South Lawn.

Other media edit

Baxter appeared on the TV sitcom What's Happening!! in the two-part episode "Doobie or Not Doobie" (1978) as a member of the Doobie Brothers.

Baxter worked on the animated TV series King of the Hill in 1997, composing songs for three episodes: "Peggy the Boggle Champ", "Hank's Unmentionable Problem", and "Square Peg". Also in 1997, he worked on two other TV series as a composer: The Blues Brothers Animated Series and The Curse of Inferno. He composed for Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories TV series episode "Bootsie Barker Bites/Ruby the Copycat" in 1993, the Pee-wee's Playhouse episode "Tons of Fun" in 1987, and the Beverly Hills, 90210 episode "The Green Room" in 1990. He is credited on the movie soundtrack for the feature film Roxanne (1987) as writer and producer for the songs "Party Tonight" and "Can This Be Love". Other credits include music for Class of 1984 (1982): "You Better Not Step Out of Line" and as a performer on "Suburbanite".[citation needed] He appeared in the film Blues Brothers 2000 and can be heard on the cast album.

Baxter has appeared in a number of documentaries, including Jan & Dean: The Other Beach Boys (2002), The History of Rock 'n' Roll (1995), American Bandstand's 40th Anniversary Special (1995), Emerson (2013), Turn It Up! (2013), Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who (2007), Overnight (2003), The Doobie Brothers: Let the Music Play (2012), The Making of 'Blues Brothers 2000' (1998) and Guitar (1991).[20]

Defense consulting career edit


Baxter fell into his second profession almost by accident. In the mid-1980s, his interest in music recording technology led him to wonder about hardware and software originally developed for military use, specifically data compression algorithms and large-capacity storage devices.[7]

His next-door neighbor was a retired engineer who had worked on the Sidewinder missile program.[7] This neighbor bought Baxter a subscription to Aviation Week magazine, provoking his interest in additional military-oriented publications and missile defense systems in particular. He became self-taught in this area, and at one point wrote a five-page paper that proposed converting the ship-based anti-aircraft Aegis missile into a rudimentary missile defense system.[7]

He gave the paper to California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and his career as a defense consultant began. Baxter received a series of security clearances so he could work with classified information. In 1995, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, then the chairman of the House Military Research and Development Subcommittee, nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense.

Baxter's work with that panel led to consulting contracts with the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He consults for the US Department of Defense and the US intelligence community, as well as defense-oriented manufacturers such as Science Applications International Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corp., General Dynamics, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. He has said his unconventional approach to thinking about terrorism,[7] tied to his interest in technology, is a major reason the government sought his assistance.

"We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,"[21] Baxter has said. "My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at."

Baxter has also appeared in public debates and as a guest on CNN and Fox News advocating missile defense.[7] He served as a national spokesman for Americans for Missile Defense, a coalition of organizations devoted to the issue.

In 2000, Baxter considered challenging Representative Brad Sherman for the 24th Congressional District seat in California before deciding not to run.[22]

In April 2005, he joined the NASA Exploration Systems Advisory Committee.

Baxter was a member of an independent study group that produced the Civil Applications Committee Blue Ribbon Study recommending an increased domestic role for US spy satellites in September 2005.[23] This study was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on August 15, 2007.[24] He is listed as "Senior Thinker and Raconteur" at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition,[25] and is a Senior Fellow and Member of the Board of Regents at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.[26]

Discography edit

With Richie Havens

  • The End of the Beginning (A&M Records, 1976)
  • Connections (Elektra Records, 1980)

With Steve Cropper

  • Night After Night (MCA Records, 1982)

With Glen Campbell

With Dolly Parton

With Ringo Starr

With Jackie DeShannon

  • Quick Touches (Amherst Records, 1978)

With Livingston Taylor

With Al Kooper

  • Championship Wrestling (Columbia Records, 1982)

With Steely Dan

With Rod Stewart

With Dalbello

With Judy Collins

With Carly Simon

With Leo Sayer

  • Here (Warner Bros.Records, 1979)

With Joe Cocker

With Elton John

With Deniece Williams

With John Mellencamp

With Albert King

  • Red House (Essential Records, 1991)

With Dusty Springfield

With Barbra Streisand

With Tom Rush

With Donna Summer

With Cher

  • Stars (Warner Bros. Records, 1975)

With Carl Wilson

With Steve Goodman

  • Hot Spot (Asylum Records, 1980)
  • Unfinished Business (Red Pajamas, 1987)

With Joni Mitchell

With The Beach Boys

Solo albums edit

  • Speed of Heat (2022, BMG Records)

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Jeff Baxter | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  2. ^ "The Doobie Brothers | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame". Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  3. ^ "Jeff Baxter - Electronic Musician - Roland Users Group Interview - Volume 1 - Number 1".
  4. ^ "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Taft School. March 25, 2010. Archived from the original on August 8, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e Baxter, Jeff (July 13, 1992). "Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter online interview". America Online. Archived from the original on May 30, 2000. Retrieved September 5, 2017 – via
  6. ^ "Jeff "Skunk" Baxter Interview". Archived from the original on February 2, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Dreazen, Yochi J. (May 24, 2005). "Rocker Jeff Baxter Moves and Shakes In National Security". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on June 7, 2015. Retrieved September 5, 2017 – via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Alt URL
  8. ^ "Jeff "Skunk" Baxter-This Week's Podcast". May 5, 2022.
  9. ^ Brown, Chris "Kit" (Summer 2016). "King Thunder Band" (PDF). Taft Bulletin. Taft School: 5. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Roby, Steven (2002). Black Gold: The Lost Archives of Jimi Hendrix. New York City: Billboard Books. pp. 53–54. ISBN 0-8230-7854-X.
  11. ^ a b "Jeff Baxter (credits)". Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  12. ^ Obrecht, Jas. "GP Flashback : Jeff Baxter, December 1980". Archived from the original on July 20, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  13. ^ Menn, Don. "GP Flashback : The Doobie Brothers, June 1976". Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  14. ^ Bustillo, Miguel; McGreevy, Patrick (May 20, 1999). "Origin of Ex-Doobie's Nickname Revealed--Well, Maybe". Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  15. ^ "Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a ballistic missile and anti-terrorism expert". San Diego Union-Tribune. July 31, 2022. Retrieved November 16, 2023.
  16. ^ Review of Spirit of '84 at
  17. ^ "Bobby and The Midnites - Full Concert - 08/01/84 - Capitol Theatre (Official)". Capitol Theatre (Passaic, New Jersey). Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved September 5, 2017 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ 1/26/1986 - Ritz (New York, NY) Archived May 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Music Vault
  19. ^ Ryon, Ruth (July 21, 1996). "'J.R.' Will Sell Malibu Spread". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  20. ^ "Guitar". September 20, 1991. Archived from the original on December 21, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  21. ^ Quiggin, Thomas. Seeing The Invisible, World Scientific, 2007, p. 37. ISBN 981-270-482-5
  22. ^ Barone, Michael; Cohen, Richard E. (2002). The Almanac of American Politics. p. 222.
  23. ^ "Civil Applications Committee Blue Ribbon Study" (PDF). Department of Homeland Security. September 2005.
  24. ^ Block, Robert (August 15, 2007). "U.S. to Expand Domestic Use of Spy Satellites". The Wall Street Journal.
  25. ^ "Jeffrey Baxter". Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  26. ^ "Fellows". Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  27. ^ "Elton Expands 'Captain Fantastic' With Live Tracks". August 4, 2005. Retrieved July 18, 2023.

External links edit