Jeff “Skunk” Baxter Talks About Getting Rid of His 400 Guitars

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Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is one of the greatest guitars for hire in the business. After playing with Jimi Hendrix and Randy California in the Hendrix-led Jimmy James and the Blue Flames in the mid-Sixties, Baxter went on to perform in Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers in the Seventies. Since about 1979, he’s worked mostly as a session guitarist, playing on recordings by Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams, Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr and Rod Stewart, to name just a few. And that’s when he’s not working as a defense consultant for the U.S. military.

In the video below, Baxter talks about guitars—or as he puts it, the “tools of the trade.” He begins by showing the Fender Stratocaster he played on Steely Dan’s “My Old School,” from 1973’s Countdown to Ecstasy, and goes on to talk about the feeling guitarists get from collecting guitars.

He notes that at one point he had amassed 400 guitars. “Thirty or 40 of ’em I actually needed,” he explains. “Because when you go to a recording session, you never know what they’re going to ask for. It could be anything from a six-string banjo to a four-string guitar tuned to a natural tuning.”

Eventually, though, he felt guilty about having so many unused guitars. After giving some away and selling others, today he says, “I’m probably down to about maybe 40 or 50 guitars, many of which I keep because I use them.

“You pick up certain instruments,” he adds, “and for some reason, immediately a melody or a song or a theme comes to mind, inspired by the instrument.”

This clip is an excerpt filmed for the brand-new guitar documentary Turn It Up!, out now on DVD and Blu-ray via 71st Street Entertainment. Baxter’s interview is among the bonus footage in the “Conversations and Extras” disc included with the Turn It Up! sets.

In the film, a host of performers—including Les Paul, B.B. King, Steve Lukather, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Slash, Jerry Cantrell, Paul Stanley, John 5, Robby Krieger, Nancy Wilson, Steve Howe and Dave Mason—tell stories about their relationship to the instrument. Shot in high-definition, Turn It Up! includes performances and in-depth interviews, with narration by actor and musician Kevin Bacon.

In addition to Baxter’s interview shown below, the bonus disc includes extended interviews with the guitarists, mini-documentaries on RKS Guitars and Seymour Duncan, Robby Krieger improvising and Baxter’s performance from the film S.S. United States: Lady in Waiting, a documentary about the famed U.S. ocean liner.

Turn It Up! is available now on Amazon. You can watch the documentary trailer below the Baxter clip.