Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, whose 70th birthday is today, is a rock and roll legend with an even more surprising sideline.
The guitarist who was in The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, is a missile defense expert who holds security clearances and chairs a Congressional Advisory Board.
Baxter tells The Washington Post, "Back in the early ’90s, I wrote a paper on utilizing the Navy platform and a Navy air defense system [and]... gave it to a congressman friend of mine who then gave it to the vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee." The Washington bigshot wondered, "Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?" -- and was shocked to learn he was a rock guitar player.
Baxter's interest stemmed from the early days of digital recording. While working for "a couple of major musical instrument companies... the only way I could get the information [about new software] was to read the defense magazines. So I guess something clicked somewhere and I wrote the paper. Next thing I knew I was working for General [Malcolm] O’Neill at the Pentagon."
Despite his Defense Department ties, Baxter says he avoids politics. "There are presidents that I like and presidents that I don’t like, but I took an oath to defend the Constitution and a duly elected president of the United States is my president." Regarding President Trump, "There’s some things I do like about him" -- specifically his signing of the Music Modernization Act, which will bring royalties to artists on pre-1972 recordings. He calls it "a nice move."
Long reluctant to discuss how he got the nickname Skunk, Jeff says, "That’ll be in my book. I wanted to write a book because people have told me that my life is very interesting... You know, I live in an America where a rock and roll star can decide that he wants to contribute to national security, and vice versa."