Jeff ’Skunk’ Baxter Once Traded Guitars With Jimi Hendrix and Got in Trouble for It

Known for his work as the original Steely Dan guitarist, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter recalled meeting pre-fame Jimi Hendrix and trading guitars with him.

The story takes us all the way back to the mid-1960s when Hendrix was still just another guitar player in a band, trying to make it as a musician. At that time, Baxter was working in a guitar shop in New York City, and Hendrix came in to trade one of his guitars.

However, speaking to Matt Pinfield in an interview, Baxter revealed that this trade would cost him no less than three weeks of pay. Looking back on that fateful day, he said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“He had a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames and came into the store and had a guitar. A kind of beat-up old Fender Duo-Sonic, and he wanted to get something nicer. And I was repairing guitars and doing a bunch of guitar work.”

Fortunately for Jimi, Jeff had just prepared the perfect instrument for him. The Steely Dan legend continued:

“I had just set up a right-handed guitar for left-handed players, and the guy never came in and bought it. So, I traded it even. Seemed like a nice guy.”

But, on the other hand, the trade would end up not going in Baxter’s favor. He added:

“Frank Squillaci [Jeff’s boss at the time] got real mad, and he said, ‘I’m docking you three weeks’ pay for that because it’s not a great deal.'”

Losing a three weeks’ pay sure is a bummer. But there’s no money in this world that would compare to the opportunity he got after this trade — Baxter ended up playing a live show with Hendrix. As he recalled:

“He invited me to come down to the club and hang out, and then the bass player didn’t show up for one gig, so I was there.”

And, on top of that, there was another guy in this lineup on the stage:

“Randy California was there in the band, and Randy and I became very close friends.”

Jimi Hendrix (Jimmy James - The Blue Flames) - I'm a man (1966)

Randy later on became known as a member of the rock band Spirit and the guy who wrote the band’s song “Taurus.” If this doesn’t ring any bells, it’s an instrumental piece that was in the spotlight for a long time due to similarities with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” resulting in the famous legal battle between the two parties.

Going back to Baxter’s story — as it turns out, there’s high chance that the guitar that was traded was Hendrix’s first Stratocaster. In another interview, conducted back in 2022, Baxter shared more details behind this encounter.

“This was at Jimmy’s Music Shop,” he recalled. “A gentleman came in with a beat-up Fender Duo-Sonic. He wanted to upgrade the instrument or get a nicer guitar.”

Buddy and Stacey with Jimi Hendrix

“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 just traded Jimi 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.'”

However, in this version of the story, it wasn’t the same amount that was deducted from his pay. Be that as it may, this still makes him an important part of rock ‘n’ roll history. He added:

“And for that, I was docked two weeks’ pay. One day after that, [Jimi] came back to the store and invited me to come down to a club to see him play.”

Skunk Baxter Rikki Don't Lose That Number

“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 [Willie Hale], and I could see how they influenced him. We had that in common.”

Photos: EJ Hersom (Multi-platinum-selling-grammy-award-winning-musician-Jeff-baxter), Unknown author (Jimi Hendrix playing Sound City)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.