This is one interesting man… Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is celebrating his 69th birt…
Written by megarock on December 13, 2017
This is one interesting man…
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is celebrating his 69th birthday today.
In brief. He played in Ultimate Spinach, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers and played on countless albums by others and is now a missile defense consultant and government contractor.
While working at Manny’s Music Shop in Manhattan in 1966, 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.
Baxter first reached a wide rock audience in 1968 as a member of the psychedelic rock band Ultimate Spinach. Baxter joined the band for their third and final album, titled III.
After the breakup of Ultimate Spinach, Jeff 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. 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.
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.”
Jeff’s first album as a full member of the group was 1975’s “Stampede.” He 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.
After his time with The Doobies, Jeff did session guitar work 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, Barbra Streisand, and Donna Summer. He has worked as a touring musician for Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, and Billy Vera and the Beaters.
Jeff 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 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 he 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 (MDA) and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He now consults to the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community, as well as for defense-oriented manufacturers including Science Applications International Corporation (“SAIC”), 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 after 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.”
Happy Birthday Jeff!! You’ve had a very interesting life so far.