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Biography

Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (b. Dec. 13, 1948, Washington D.C.) is a musician, composer and producer. He was a member of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, and he has played guitar with a large number of bands and performers (Carly Simon, Dusty Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr, Willy DeVille, Rod Stewart and Nils Lofgren to name a few).

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen meet and play with Jeff Baxter in New York. Baxter's credentials already included working with the Boston based band Ultimate Spinach, and session work on several albums from various musicians. Becker and Fagen end up in Los Angeles to put together a band. The producer, Gary Katz suggests the addition of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter to the ensemble to strengthen the guitar line. Steely Dan hits the recording studio to work on their first album Can't Buy a Thrill (1972). He plays the guitar and steel guitar on this album, and on the following, Countdown to Ecstasy (1973). I won't even attempt to describe his refined guitar play on these albums.

Baxter tours for about three years with Steely Dan, and then after a July 4, 1974 show (in Santa Monica, CA) Becker and Fagen decide that they should focus on studio work instead of touring. This decision prompts Baxter who loves live playing to leave the band and join the Doobie Brothers.

Baxter convinces Michael McDonald, who was enlisted as a backup singer for Steely Dan to join the band, when their lead singer/vocalist Tom Johnston is hospitalized. The influence of Baxter and McDonald on the Doobies' sound is very strong, and eventually Tom Johnston decides to leave the band to pursue a solo career. Following his departure, the Doobies release their most successful album Minute by Minute (1979). However, after the supporting tour, the musical directions of the members seems to diverge: Baxter along with John Hartman decide to leave the Doobie Brothers. This also allows Baxter to become a music producer.

After his split with the Doobie Brothers, Baxter works with a large number of musicians spanning a large number of musical styles. He is still involved with playing guitar, but also produces several albums.

Baxter is currently also enlisted as an advisor to the Republican Party, and he was contemplating running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The nickname

Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is very mysterious about the origin of his nickname. Maybe one day he'll tell us in a biography. In a July 1992 interview he mentions:
"Everybody wants to know and I really enjoy listening to all the myriad theories."

Discography

1969 Ultimate Spinach - Ultimate Spinach III
     Guitar, Vocals
1971 Buzzy Linhart - Time to Live Is Now
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1971 Carly Simon - Carly Simon
1972 Navasota - Rootin'
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1972 Swallow - Out of the Nest
     Guitar (Steel)
1972 Cashman & West - Song or Two
     Guitar (Steel)
1972 Steely Dan - Can't Buy a Thrill
     Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1973 Cashman, Pistilli & Wes - Moondog Serenade
     Guitar (Steel)
1973 Doobie Brothers - Captain & Me
     Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1973 Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstasy
     Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1973 Thomas Jefferson Kaye - Thomas Jefferson Kaye
     Guitar
1974 Thomas Jefferson Kaye - First Grade
     Guitar
1974 Ian Matthews - Some Days You Eat the Bear Some Day
     Guitar
1974 Tom Rush - Ladies Love Outlaws
     Guitar (Electric)
1974 Bob Neuwirth - Bob Neuwirth     
1974 Doobie Brothers - What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
     Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1974 Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic
     Guitar
1975 Eric Mercury - Eric Mercury
     Guitar (Steel)
1975 Jim & Ginger - Ain't It Good to Have It All
     Guitar (Electric)
1975 Doobie Brothers - Stampede
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1975 Joni Mitchell - Hissing of Summer Lawns
     Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
1975 Carly Simon - Playing Possum
     Guitar
1976 P.J. Colt - P J Colt
     Guitar
1976 Richie Havens - End of the Beginning
     Guitar
1976 Brian Russell - Word Called Love
     Guitar
1976 John Sebastian - Welcome Back
     Guitar (Steel)
1976 Doobie Brothers - Best of the Doobies
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel), Slide Guitar
1976 Doobie Brothers - Takin' It to the Streets
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1976 Carly Simon - Another Passenger
     Guitar, Guitar (Electric), Guitar (Steel), Slide Guitar
1977 Gene Clark - Two Sides to Every Story
     Guitar
1977 Steven Fromholz - Music from Outlaw Blues (3 Tracks)
     Guitar
1977 Hoyt Axton - Road Songs
     Dobro, Guitar
1977 Doobie Brothers - Livin' on the Fault Line
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1977 Little Feat - Time Loves a Hero
     Dobro, Guitar
1977 Hoyt Axton - Snowblind Friend
     Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
1978 Dusty Springfield - It Begins Again
     Guitar
1978 Bliss Band - Dinner with Raoul
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel), Producer
1978 Commander Cody - Flying Dreams
     Guitar
1978 Burton Cummings - Dream of a Child
     Guitar
1978 Cheryl Ladd - Cheryl Ladd
     Guitar
1978 Stanley Clarke - Modern Man
     Synthesizer, Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
1978 Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1978 Gene Simmons - Gene Simmons
     Guitar
1978 Hoyt Axton - Free Sailin'
     Guitar (Electric)
1978 Dolly Parton - Heartbreaker
     Guitar Synth
1979 Four on the Floor - Four on the Floor
     Guitar
1979 Bill Quateman - Just Like You
     Guitar, Guitar (Rhythm)
1979 Leo Sayer - Here
     Guitar
1979 Freddie Hubbard - Skagly
     Guitar
1979 Jakob Magnusson - Special Treatment
     Guitar
1979 Sandy Farina - All Alone In The Night
     Guitar
1979 Brooklyn Dreams - Joy Ride
     Guitar
1979 Steely Dan - Greatest Hits
     Guitar
1979 Donna Summer - Bad Girls
     Guitar, Vocals (bckgr)
1979 Barbra Streisand - Wet
     Guitar
1979 Judy Collins - Hard Times for Lovers
     Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Electric), Guitar (Steel)
1980 Bryan Adams - Bryan Adams
     Guitar
1980 Terence Boylan - Suzy
     Guitar
1980 Patrick Juvet - Still Alive
     Guitar
1980 Livingston Taylor - Man's Best Friend
     Guitar, Producer
1980 Dolly Parton - Dolly Dolly Dolly
     Guitar
1980 John Cougar Mellencamp - Nothin' Matters & What If It Did
     Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1980 Nazareth - Malice in Wonderland
     Producer
1980 Donna Summer - Wanderer
     Guitar
1980 Sesame Street - In Harmony
     Pedal Steel Guitar
1980 Firesign Theatre - Fighting Clowns
     Guitar
1980 Dolly Parton - 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs
     Guitar
1980 Steve Goodman - Hot Spot
     Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
1981 Billy Vera - Billy & the Beaters
     Guitar
1981 Lisa DalBello - Drastic Measures
     Guitar
1981 Nils Lofgren - Night Fades Away
     Guitar, Producer
1981 Sneaker - Sneaker
     Guitar, Producer
1981 Doobie Brothers - Best of the Doobies, Vol. 2
     Guitar
1981 Nazareth - Fool Circle
     Synthesizer, Producer, Vocoder
1981 Rod Stewart - Tonight I'm Yours
     Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar
1982 Steve Cropper - Night After Night
     Guitar
1982 Al Kooper - Championship Wrestling
     Guitar
1982 Sneaker - Loose in the World
     Producer
1982 Steely Dan - Gold
     Guitar
1983 Patrick Simmons - Arcade
     Guitar
1984 Spirit - Spirit of '84
     Guitar
1984 Spirit - Thirteenth Dream
     Guitar
1984 Carl Wilson - Youngblood
     Guitar, Vocals (bckgr), Producer
1984 Deniece Williams - Let's Hear It for the Boy
     Guitar
1984 Bobby & The Midnites - Where the Beat Meets the Street
     Synthesizer, Guitar, Producer
1985 Johnny Gill - Chemistry
     Guitar, Guitar (Synthesizer)
1985 Steely Dan - Decade of Steely Dan
     Guitar
1986 David Cassidy - David Cassidy
     Guitar, Engineer
1987 Nazareth - Classics, Vol. 16
     Producer
1987 Billy Vera - By Request: The Best of Billy Vera
     Pedal Steel Guitar, Producer
1987 Steve Goodman - Unfinished Business
     Guitar (Electric)
1988 Kristen Vigard - Kristen Vigard
     Slide Guitar
1988 Guitar Workshop in L.A.
     Guitar, Drums, Programming, Producer, Bass Programming
1988 Barbra Streisand - Till I Loved You
     Guitar
1989 Guitar's Practicing Musicians
     Guitar
1989 Michael Shrieve - Big Picture
     Guitar
1990 Classic Country Music - Classic Country Music, Vol. 4
     Guitar
1991 MC Lyte - Act Like You Know (Clean)
     Guitar (Acoustic)
1991 Bob Welch - Best of Bob Welch
     Producer
1991 MC Lyte - Act Like You Know
     Guitar (Acoustic)
1992 Wayne Newton - Moods & Moments
     Vocals (bckgr), Producer
1992 Ringo Starr - Time Takes Time
     Guitar
1993 Ian Matthews - Soul of Many Places
     Guitar (Acoustic), Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Electric), Guitar (Steel)
1993 Steely Dan - Citizen Steely Dan
     Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Spanish Guitar
1993 Roberto Carlos - Mujer Pequena
     Guitar (Acoustic)
1994 Willy DeVille - Backstreets of Desire
     Guitar (Electric)
1994 Robert Shaw - Songs of Angels: Christmas Hymn
     Tenor (Vocal)
1995 Jackie DeShannon - You're the Only Dancer/Quick Touche
     Guitar (Electric)
1995 Tales from the Rhino 2 - Tales from the Rhino 2
     Producer
1995 Nelson - Because They Can
     Pedal Steel Guitar
1996 Brooklyn Dreams - Music, Harmony & Rhythm
     Guitar
1996 Deniece Williams - Best of Deniece Williams
     Guitar
1996 Edgar Winter - Real Deal     
1996 Bosstown Sound
     Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
1996 Nazareth - Greatest Hits (A&M 1996)
     Producer
1996 Enanitos Verdes - Guerra Gaucha
     Production Director
1996 Joe Esposito - Treated & Released
     Guitar
1997 Inventing the Abbotts - Inventing the Abbotts
     Guitar
1998 Livingston Taylor - Carolina Day: The Collection (1970-
     Guitar, Producer
1998 Rod Stewart - When We Were the New Boys
     Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
1998 Hoyt Axton - Rusty Old Halo/Where Did the Money
     Guitar
1998 Vampires - Vampires     
1999 Stranger Than Fiction - Stranger Than Fiction
     Guitar, Engineer
1999 Linda Ronstadt - Linda Ronstadt Box Set
     Pedal Steel Guitar
1999 Nils Lofgren - Ultimate Collection
     Guitar, Synth Guitar
1999 Wayne Berry - Home at Last
     Guitar (Electric), Guitar (Steel)
1999 Sean Delaney - Highway
     Guitar (Electric), Guitar (Steel)
1999 John Henry Kurtz - Reunion
     Guitar, Guitar (Steel)
1999 Paul Pena, - Paul Pena
     Guitar (Steel)
1999 Thomas Jefferson Kaye - Not Alone
     Guitar, Guitar (Bass), Guitar (Rhythm)

Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's career as a musician is--and probably will always be--what he is most famous for in most of America, but in Washington, D.C., he's considered an expert on missile defense first, and a good guitarist second. At my last job, I had the privilege of sitting in on a closed-door briefing about missile defense with him.

Jeff Baxter wore a coat and tie, pulled his hair back into a very neat ponytail, and sat at the head of the table while my boss explained some aspects of my organization's work to him. I think we were all skeptical about how much he was really taking in, but then skepticism is a healthy trait in our field. About the time we were trying to decide whether to call him "Mr. Baxter" or just "Skunk" (I honestly forget which he asked us to call him), he started asking questions, and we smiled despite ourselves, because we pretty much had him pegged.

Is he an engineering genius? Doubtful, but history is full of famous inventors and eccentrics who weren't mainstream "engineers" and still did a lot for the field. The better question would be: does he know more about ballistic missile defense than you do? Probably. And another one: does he know the science behind ICBMs, intercept radars (which has some surprising analogues in the field of acoustics), and reentry vehicles better than you do? Absolutely.

You see, "on the side" Jeff Baxter is a private consultant for the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and a member of their board of Regents. He's currently serving as the Chairman of the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, and has done other work with the Missile Defense Agency and the Pentagon. I've seen his name linked to the National Imagery and Mapping Agency's "InnoVision" group. His work is only vaguely referred to in most of the articles I found probably for the same reason I only vaguely discussed what we actually briefed him on when he was in my building.1 He is well-respected within the DoD community for being an "outside the box" thinker on issues like battlespace visualization and missile defense, and is also rumored to be a fierce and creative "Red Teamer" in wargames.2

Many of the articles I've read about him point out the apparent incongruity of a classic rock guitarist doing technical and policy analysis for the Pentagon, or being--gasp!--a conservative. Like Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Skunk" will probably always have a hard time being taken seriously for his work in the government, and his possible planned run for Congress will probably be stuck in the News of the Weird section until a few "real people" have met him and listened to him speak. Personally, I'm glad he's on our side.



1. Because it's, um, really boring. Yeah, that's it. Boring. Nothing to see here. Don't bother trying to reconcile his security clearance with all the drug references in his band names.

2. Yeah, I went to ROTC for four years, got my commission, worked my tail off, and played real-time strategy games out the wazoo, and what do I do for the government? I buy weather satellites. Classic-rock boy just jumps right to the front of the "cool jobs" line. He's already had a cool job--he's a rock star!! No, I'm not bitter. Not a bit.

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