Renowned pedal steel guitarist Bucky Baxter has died at age 65, according to an Instagram post from his son and alt-country artist, Rayland Baxter. Baxter rose to prominence as a member of Bob Dylan‘s band on his Never Ending Tour in the early 1990s.
Born William Baxter in Melbourne, FL in 1955, he began studying pedal-steel in the 1970s. In the 1980s he met rising country star Steve Earle, and played on Earle’s breakout debut record, Guitar Town, in 1986. Baxter went on to play on future Earle albums including Copperhead Road in 1988 and The Hard Way in 1990. He eventually became a founding member of Earle’s touring band, The Dukes, which Earle still plays with to this day.
While touring with Earle, Baxter met Dylan and was commissioned by the legendary musician to teach him how to play pedal steel. The lessons must not have taken, as Dylan hired Baxter on to be his touring pedal-steel guitarist in 1992, just before embarking on the famed Never Ending Tour. In seven years of touring with Dylan, Baxter joined him at over 750 shows and lent his hand on Dylan’s 1997 Grammy-winning album, Time Out Of Mind.
Following his departure from Dylan’s band in 1999, Baxter went solo and cut the instrumental album, Most Likely, No Problem. Shortly after, he began working with Ryan Adams and toured with the musician in addition to playing on his albums Gold and Demolition. At this point, Baxter had become a name in the Americana scene and would go on to lend his hand on recordings for Kacey Musgraves, Old Crow Medicine Show, Los Lobos, and even Billy Ray Cyrus. He also holds multiple credits on the Beastie Boys‘ Anthology: The Sounds of Science album.
In an interview with the Bob Dylan fanzine On The Tracks, Bucky Baxter credited his longevity in the singer-songwriter’s group to his commitment to leaving the man alone. In all their years on the road together, Baxter said that he never tried to strike up a friendship with the elusive songwriter.
“I just worked for him. And we had a good working relationship … but I never went to his house for Thanksgiving or anything,” he said. “I think that’s why I lasted so long — I conducted myself professionally and let him be. I never bugged him.”
Tributes to the late musician have already started pouring in.
[H/T Rolling Stone]