If You Go
MANCHESTER, NH – When it comes to musicians who started out during the ‘60s and ‘70s, they usually offer some amazing resumes to back up their repertoire. This is true for Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, who was the original guitarist of jazz-rock icons Steely Dan along with being a founding member. He was also the main man on the six-string for The Doobie Brothers’ albums “Stampede,” “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “Livin’ on the Fault Line” and “Minute by Minute” during the latter half of the 1970s.
During his time with that particular band, he was vital for the inclusion of vocalist and keyboardist Michael McDonald, who lent his talents on a variety of hits including “What a Fool Believes,” “Real Love” and “It Keeps You Runnin.’’ Baxter has since played with a ton of other musicians and he’ll be performing some of his tunes and telling some tales on November 17 at The Rex Theatre in Manchester at 7:30 p.m.
As a session guitarist, Baxter has worked with the likes of Willy DeVille, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell, Freddie Hubbard, Dolly Parton, Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. He’s toured with the likes of James Brown, Maceo Parker, Bob Weir as well. More recently, Baxter has been collaborating with keyboardist and producer CJ Vanston, who he originally started working with on various commercials. After deciding that their collective skills should be put towards a music project, an album titled “Speed of Heat” started coming together. It eventually became Baxter’s debut solo release that came out last year while including the talents of McDonald, Johnny Lang and Clint Black into the songwriting and recording process.
Baxter has had an interesting foray into other things outside of music, notably defense consulting. He found his way into this career almost by accident during the mid-’80s when his interest in music recording technology opened his mind toward hardware and software being developed for the military. This specifically centered on data compression algorithms and large-capacity storage devices, which still have a major presence in our tech sphere today. One thing led to another and he became self-taught in military-oriented publications and missile defense systems, which was the eventual catalyst for him starting this second profession. Through his engagement in this field, Baxter was nominated to head the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense in 1995.
He has consulted for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the United States Department of Defense and even NASA along with several defense-oriented manufacturers. Baxter has noted that his peculiar view on terrorism, which is fueled by his attention to modern technology, is a major reason for his position with these various government agencies.
“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 mentions in Thomas Quiggin’s 2007 book “Seeing The Invisible: National Security Intelligence In An Uncertain Age.” “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 is sure to talk about his music career as well as his involvement in defense consulting while going through his vast discography, but the best way to see exactly what he’ll do is by showing up to The Rex this Friday night.