Steely Dan’s Jeff Baxter “got in trouble” with his boss after giving Jimi Hendrix his first Stratocaster
Baxter was teenager working in a Manhattan music shop when he encounter the young Hendrix.
Image: Hulton Archive / Getty
Baxter recounted his days as a teenager working in a Manhattan music shop, where he encountered a pre-fame Jimi Hendrix looking to upgrade his Duo-Sonic. In as interview with Andy Levine and Scott Merritt’s Second Act Stories podcast, Baxter recalls, “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 just traded Jimi the Strat for the Duo-Sonic.”
Baxter’s boss at the time, known as Frank, was angered over Baxter’s decision and docked two weeks from the teenager’s pay. It paid off in the end, however, as Hendrix later returned to the store to invite Baxter to one of his shows.
He went on to attend more of Hendrix’ shows, even joining Hendrix onstage one night when his bass player was late. Baxter continues, “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.”
While he says he didn’t know at the time how famous Hendrix would become, Baxter shared that he knew the appearance of famed producer, manager and artist Chas Chandler at Hendrix’ shows signalled big things for the guitarist. “All you had to do was look at people’s faces as they listened to the music,” he shared, “There was certainly the suggestion that this wasn’t a mere club band.”
“I still can’t believe he did what he did, It’s just freaky,” Satriani continued. “Every once in a while I’ll get the courage to listen to Machine Gun, Live at the Fillmore again. Somebody could do that live, you know, it’s absolutely amazing. And that was 1969, you know. Just crazy when you think of the tools that he had, It’s just amazing.”