Best-known for his work with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's versatility and highly developed technique as a soloist made him a hugely in-demand session guitarist from the '70s on. Perhaps because he's never recorded a solo album, Baxter isn't quite a household name, but his talent and taste have never been in question. Born December 13, 1948, in Washington, D.C., Baxter (who refuses to discuss the origins of his nickname) landed his first recording gig in 1969 with the psychedelic pop group Ultimate Spinach. In 1972, he began his association with Steely Dan, playing on their debut album, Can't Buy a Thrill; his ability to blend rock's visceral power with smooth, sophisticated jazz-pop made him an important element of the group, until Walter Becker became accomplished enough to handle the guitar leads himself. Following 1974's Pretzel Logic, Baxter moved on to the Doobie Brothers, debuting later that year on What Once Were Vices Are Now Habits and continuing on for several more albums through 1978; he also frequently doubled on steel guitar. During the mid-'70s, Baxter also began to expand his session work, eventually playing everything from rock to folk to pop to country to fusion to R&B; he also went on to work with the likes of Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, Donna Summer, Joni Mitchell, Rick Nelson, Hoyt Axton, and Freddie Hubbard, among many others. Baxter's general interest in technology led him into production, most notably helming several albums for hard rockers Nazareth. In keeping up with technological advances, though, Baxter also developed an interest in military hardware and weapons systems, which he developed an amazing grasp of; thanks to his self-education and staunch Republican politics, he was hired in 2001 by the Bush administration as a defense analyst, also serving as a consultant to several U.S. congressmen (and continuing his music career).
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