Skunk Baxter’s Unlikely Second Act

   His parents named him Jeffrey, you know him as Skunk.

   How did he get the nickname Skunk? He isn’t saying. 

   He played guitar for two of the best rock and roll bands ever, Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Doobies. He played on the first three Steely Dan albums, contributing the guitar fills and signature solo heard on the group’s highest charting hit Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” according to Wikipedia.

   As a session guitarist, he has played with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Hoyt Axton, Carly Simon, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton and Burton Cummings to name just a few. 

   But wait until you hear what Jeff “Skunk” Baxter got into as a second career. 

   “Baxter fell into his second profession almost by accident,” according to his Wikipedia page.   “In the mid-1980s, his interest in music recording technology led him to wonder about hardware and software 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 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 Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and his career as a defense consultant began.”

   At the height of his rock and roll powers Baxter sported a legendary mustache, long hair and an impossibly long beard. He did not look the part of a defense consultant.   

   “Backed by severalinfluential Capitol Hill lawmakers, Baxter received a series of security clearances so he could work with classified information,” according to Wikipedia.  In 1995, Pennsylvania 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 and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He consults for the US Department of Defense and the US intelligence community, as well as defense-oriented manufacturers such as Science Applications International CorporationNorthrop Grumman Corp.General Dynamics, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. 

    “He has said his unconventional approach to thinking about terrorism,  tied to his interest in technology, is a major reason the government sought his assistance.”

   “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 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.”

   “Baxter appeared on the TV sitcom What’s Happening!! in the two-part episode “Doobie or Not Doobie” in 1978 as a member of the Doobie Brothers,” according to Wikipedia. “He worked on the animated TV series King of the Hillin 1997, composing songs for three episodes.”

   Baxter has a lot of other television credentials. That is the sort of moonlighting you would expect from a rock and roller. 

   It was Baxter who introduced singer-keyboardist Michael McDonald to the Doobie brothers. While preparing to tour in support of the Doobies album Stampede, founder Tom Johnston was hospitalized with a stomach ailment. To fill in for Johnston on vocals, Baxter suggested bringing in McDonald, whom he had worked with in Steely Dan. With Johnston still convalescing, McDonald soon was invited to join the band full-time,” according to Wikipedia.

   “So what makes Baxter so valuable? He’s whip-smart, learning the ins and outs of missile defense and military technology on his own, but his biggest draw is creativity,” wrote Doug Bonderud on the Northrup Grumman website.   

“He’s able to examine current tech and consider new ways it might be used to threaten U.S. security, a skill he has in common with the new breed of terrorists, and that won him a regular spot as the leader of enemy forces in Pentagon war games.”

   “Baxter first reached a wide rock audience in 1968 as a member of the psychedelic rock band Ultimate Spinach,” according to Wikipedia. 

   From Ultimate Spinach to the pinnacle of rock, to the pentagon, this Skunk has enjoyed the sweet smell of success. 

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