Jeff "Skunk" Baxter
born on 13/12/1948 in Washington, DC, MD, United States
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 been working as a defense consultant and chairs a Congressional Advisory Board on missile defense.
Early life and education
Jeffrey Baxter was born in Washington, D.C.
Baxter graduated from the Taft School in 1967 in Watertown, Connecticut, and was a self-described preppie. At Taft, he played drums in an upperclassmen band, King Thunder and the Lightning Bolts. He enrolled at the School of Public Communication (now College of Communication) at Boston University in September 1967, where he studied journalism while continuing to perform with local bands.
Baxter joined his first band at age 11. While still a high school student, he worked at Manny's Music Shop in Manhattan in 1966. At Manny's, Baxter met guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who was just beginning his career as a frontman. For a short period during that year, Baxter was the bassist in a Hendrix-led band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, along with fellow Manny's employee Randy California. 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. Baxter joined the band for III, their third and final album. After leaving the band, he played with the Holy Modal Rounders and backed singer Buzzy Linhart. By this time, he was using the moniker "Skunk," although the nickname's origins have been kept secret by Baxter.
With Steely Dan
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 (and session player Elliott Randall on various tracks).
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.
With The Doobie Brothers
While finishing work on Pretzel Logic, Baxter became aware of Becker and Fagen's intentions to retire Steely Dan from touring, and to work almost exclusively with session players in the future. 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. Baxter contributed an acoustic interlude entitled "Precis," significant turns on slide and pedal steel guitar, and the guitar solo for the hit single "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)".
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 a noted performance at the end of "How Do the Fools Survive?".
In early 1979, Baxter and co-founding drummer John Hartman left the band.
Later music career
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. He has worked as a touring musician for Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, 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 USA.
In 1984, Baxter sat in and 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. That same year, Baxter produced and played guitar and synthesizer on the band's album Where the Beat Meets the Street on Columbia Records.
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 a Bob Welch album in 1982, Eye Contact. In 1994 Baxter performed on the video game Tuneland. In 1991 Baxter also produced a documentary video titled 'Guitar' (Warner Brothers VHS and LaserDisc) where he travels the world and interviews respected guitarists he admires.
He continues accepting studio work; his most recent such work involved 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 B. Poneman, formerly of the United States National Security Council and later the Obama Administration's Deputy Secretary of Energy; and Lincoln Bloomfield, 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 South Lawn of the White House.
Baxter worked on the animated TV series King of the Hill in 1997, composing songs for three episodes: "Peggy the Boggle Champ", "Hank's Unmentionables 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. He composed for 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". 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, Vol. 7 and 8 (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). He appeared on the TV sitcom What's Happening!! in a two-part episode "Doobie or Not Doobie" (1978) as a member of the Doobie Brothers.
Defense consulting career
Baxter fell into his second profession almost by accident. In the mid-1980s, Baxter's interest in music recording technology led him to wonder about hardware and software that was originally developed for military use, specifically data compression algorithms and large-capacity storage devices. His next-door neighbor was a retired engineer who had worked on the Sidewinder missile program. 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. He gave the paper to California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and his career as a defense consultant began.
Backed by several influential Capitol Hill lawmakers, 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 to the US Department of Defense and the US intelligence community, as well as for defense-oriented manufacturers including Science Applications International Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corp., General Dynamics, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. He has been quoted as saying his unconventional approach to thinking about terrorism, tied to his interest in technology, is a major reason he became sought by the government.
"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," 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 Channel advocating missile defense. He served as a national spokesman for Americans for Missile Defense, a coalition of organizations devoted to the issue.
In 2000, Baxter considered challenging Rep. Brad Sherman for the 24th Congressional District seat in California before deciding not to run.
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. This study was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on August 15, 2007.
Baxter is listed as "Senior Thinker and Raconteur" at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.
Baxter is a Senior Fellow and Member of the Board of Regents at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.
- "Jeff Baxter | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
- "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". taftschool.org. Taft School. 2010-03-25. Archived from the original on August 8, 2013. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
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- Brown, Chris "Kit" (Summer 2016). "King Thunder Band" (PDF). Taft Bulletin. Taft School: 5. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Jeff "Skunk" Baxter Interview". trajectorymagazine.com. Archived from the original on February 2, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Dreazen, Yochi J. (May 24, 2005). "Rocker Jeff Baxter Moves and Shakes In National Security". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on May 24, 2005. Retrieved September 5, 2017 – via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- "Jeff Baxter (credits)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
- Obrecht, Jas. "GP Flashback : Jeff Baxter, December 1980". Guitarplayer.com. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
- Menn, Don. "GP Flashback : The Doobie Brothers, June 1976". Guitarplayer.com. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
- Bustillo, Miguel; McGreevy, Patrick (May 20, 1999). "Origin of Ex-Doobie's Nickname Revealed--Well, Maybe". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
- Review of Spirit of '84 at Allmusic.com
- "Bobby and The Midnites - Full Concert - 08/01/84 - Capitol Theatre (Official)". Capitol Theatre (Passaic, New Jersey). Retrieved September 5, 2017 – via YouTube.
- 1/26/1986 - Ritz (New York, NY), Music Vault
- Chaikin, Peter (March 15, 2011). "CJ Vanston in the Studio with Jeff "Skunk" Baxter". guitarplayer.com. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
- "CJ Vanston strikes again: There's a thirst for real music". News & Articles. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
- "Guitar". EW.com. 1991-09-20.
- Quiggin, Thomas. Seeing The Invisible, World Scientific, 2007, p. 37. ISBN 981-270-482-5
- Barone, Michael; Cohen, Richard E. (2002). The Almanac of American Politics. p. 222.
- "Civil Applications Committee Blue Ribbon Study" (PDF). Department of Homeland Security. September 2005.
- Block, Robert (August 15, 2007). "U.S. to Expand Domestic Use of Spy Satellites". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Jeffrey Baxter". ihmc.us. Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
- "Potomac Institute for Policy Studies". PotomacInstitute.org. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jeff Baxter.|
- Editor & Publisher article referencing the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association dinner
- Article and photos about the "Coalition of the Willing" band
- NASA Establishes Exploration Systems Advisory Committee, NASA.gov
- Interview on Today show (December 2005), MSNBC.com
- Beets, Greg (March 14, 2003). "Crash Course: Guitar Workshop With Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- Interview with Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (2001), NAMM Oral History Library