Jeff Baxter Recalls How Giving Jimi Hendrix His First Strat Caused Him Trouble
Steely Dan’s Jeff Skunk Baxter recently spoke to Guitar Player and explained how he met with legendary late guitarist Jimi Hendrix when he was very young. The musician unveiled that a particular guitar trade between him and Hendrix led to problems with his boss.
Baxter discovered his passion and interest in music at a very young age, and he has been in several groups since he was eleven. Also, he worked at Jimmy’s Music Shop in the mid-sixties as a high school student. The young guitarist probably couldn’t know that a customer that came to buy a new guitar would turn into a great story and that customer’s future full of popularity and success thanks to his talent.
The man that came there was Jimi Hendrix, who was known as Jimmy James back then and wished to upgrade or change his old Fender Duo-Sonic with a better one. Baxter had a white reverse-strung Fender Stratocaster that he had worked on while at the shop and accepted to trade it with Hendrix’s previous instrument after making some changes. It was Hendrix’s first custom Strat, thanks to Baxter’s generosity.
However, in a recent interview, Baxter admitted that his boss Frank wasn’t happy about that, and he couldn’t believe how Baxter gave that guitar for this one. It coasted him two weeks’ pay, but one day Hendrix came again to reflect his gratitude by inviting him to his live performances. In one of them, the late guitarist’s bassist was late, so the Steely Dan icon joined them for that night. Jeff added that he also realized how Curtis Mayfield and Little Beaver influenced Hendrix.
In Baxter’s words, he said:
“This was at Jimmy’s Music Shop. A gentleman came in with a beat-up Fender Duo-Sonic. He wanted to upgrade the instrument or get a nicer guitar. I had already customized a Fender Stratocaster for a left-handed player who wanted to play righty; I made some changes to the vibrato arm and a few other small things. But the guy never showed up, so I traded Jimmy James the Strat for the Duo-Sonic.
I got in trouble with Frank, one of my bosses. He said, ‘What the hell was that?’ I said, ‘Well, he seemed like a nice guy.’ For that, I was docked two weeks’ pay. One day after that, Jimmy James came back to the store and invited me to come down to a club to see him play.
One night his bass player was late, so I got a chance to play a couple of tunes with him. We became friends – not deep, deep friends, but friends enough. We had some interesting conversations from then on. He was very kind and complimented my playing. Of course, I loved his playing. I was just such a fan of Curtis Mayfield and Little Beaver, and I could see how they influenced him. We had that in common.”
There’s no doubt that meeting and playing with Jimi Hendrix became unforgettable and milestone moments for Baxter, who would become a very famous guitarist soon. The guitar player also had a great story about Hendrix that he could tell everyone for years.