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Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Official SXSW Music Panelist
However cheesy, Jeff Baxter’s “POLICE LINE – DO NOT CROSS” guitar strap is appropriate. After a successful career playing guitar in Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, and numerous sessions, he became an in-demand consultant to the Department of Defense, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and various defense contractors.
Now, this wasn’t an entirely non-musical career change, like those made by James Williamson and Santiago Durango. In the 1980s, Baxter became interested in military developments like high-capacity storage devices and data-compression algorithms for their music recording applications. His monologues on physics, his defense work, and music comingle freely. And, as the Wall Street Journal reported in 2005, he still dresses for work like a session guitarist, even in a world of stern ex-military men.
Baxter’s talk was more focused on basic physics than on military applications, or musical applications for that matter, and his Strat began to seem like an unwieldy, needless prop. But it’d be silly to evaluate the lecture by any conventional public-speaking rubric. When you have a man with a white trucker moustache and ponytail who ‘s been a member of associations with names like “Ultimate Spinach” sitting on a stool, lecturing a crowd at an event that costs hundreds of dollars to enter about whether Native American drum circles prevent illnesses, it hardly matters that he’s wearing a sunburst Strat.
Questions ranged from whether tape still exists of the full outro guitar solo from “My Old School” to whether there is a particular frequency that will destroy tumors. Baxter also had a question for the audience. “Did anybody bring a guitar?” No hands rose. “Nobody brought a guitar?” Still no one. Feigning disappointment, he claimed that in five minutes he could have turned any one of us “into a great bebop jazz player.”