Today marks guitarist Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter’s birthday. Born on December 13, 1943, Baxter is perhaps one of the most successful journeyman guitarists in the business. Baxter also figured into a number of important moments in rock history.
While still in high school in 1966, Baxter worked at Manny’s Music Shop in Manhattan where he met a guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who was calling himself Jimmy James at the time. Baxter played bass — alongside future Spirit guitarist Randy California — in Jimmy James And The Blue Flames, a prototype of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. After gaining some recognition in a psychedelic rock band called Ultimate Spinach in the late 1960s, Baxter would help start another group, Steely Dan, in 1972. Considered a founding member of The Dan, Baxter played on the collective’s landmark early albums Can’t Buy A Thrill, Countdown To Ecstacy and Pretzel Logic.
Baxter joined the Doobie Brothers as a touring member in 1974 as the band headed out on the road to support their album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. He became a full-time member on the band’s 1975 album Stampede and when Doobies co-founder Tom Johnston was hospitalized with a stomach issue, Baxter suggested that the band bring in his collaborator in Steely Dan, Michael McDonald, to help on vocals and keyboards. Both musicians featured prominently on the Doobie’s 1976 album, Takin’ It To The Streets. McDonald wrote a number of hits during his Doobie Brothers tenure and was set to reunite with the band for his first tour since 1995 earlier this year before the pandemic scuttled those plans.
In 1977, The Dobbie Brothers — consisting of Baxter, McDonald, drummers and percussionists John Hartman, Keith Knudsen and Bobby LaKind, bassist Tiran Porter and guitarist Patrick Simmons — appeared on the famed PBS live music television program Soundstage, which originated from Chicago. The set included a number of Doobie classics including “China Grove,” “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “It Keeps You Runnin,” “Black Water” and more. The band would close out the session with the hit “Listen To The Music.” PBS aired hihglights from the set in an early-1978 episode of Soundstage.
To celebrate Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter’s birthday today, watch the Doobie Brothers’ apppearance on Soundstage via the Jambase Live Video Archive (JBLVA) for this edition of Sunday Cinema:
China Grove, Takin’ It To The Streets, Sweet Maxine, It Keeps You Runnin’, For Someone Special, I Cheat The Hangman, You’re Made That Way, Echoes Of Love, Interview, Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While), Chinatown, Little Darlin’ I Need You, Black Water, Listen To The Music
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