Bucky Baxter, Steel Guitarist For Bob Dylan And Founding Member Of The Dukes, Passes At 65

Nashville instrumentalist Bucky Baxter passed away in Florida on Monday (May 25) at age 65.

Best known as the longtime steel guitarist for Bob Dylan, the Nashville picker also recorded with mainstream country stars, Americana performers, bluegrass acts and pop/rock artists. He was the father of critically applauded Americana singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter, on whose albums he also appeared.

Born William Baxter, the multi-instrumentalist came of age in New Jersey. Already accomplished on guitar, dobro and other stringed instruments, Bucky Baxter took up steel guitar playing in the 1970s.

He rose to prominence in Nashville as a founding member of Steve Earle’s band The Dukes. As such, he performed on Earle’s breakthrough albums Guitar Town (1986), Exit 0 (1987), Copperhead Road (1988) and The Hard Way (1989).

During his early years on Music Row, he also backed rock greats R.E.M. and country hit makers Suzy Bogguss and Sara Evans.

While on the road with The Dukes, Baxter met Dylan, who asked him for steel guitar lessons. He joined Dylan’s band in 1992, touring constantly and appearing on a string of the superstar’s albums, including the Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind (1997).

He left Dylan’s group in 1999 and returned to Nashville session work. His resume during the next decade included playing on albums by Los Lobos, Ben Folds, Joe Henry and Webb Wilder. He was a particular favorite of bluegrass artists Shawn Camp and Kathy Chiavola, rocker Ryan Adams (with whom he toured) and Americana star Jim Lauderdale.

Baxter also released a solo album, 1999’s Most Likely No Problem.

Since 2010, Bucky Baxter had continued to pursue a musically eclectic career. He played on recordings by Will Hoge, Billy Ray Cyrus, Greta Gaines, Old Crow Medicine Show and Kacey Musgraves, among others during the past decade.

Rayland Baxter has included his father’s instrumental talents on both of his career-launching albums, 2015’s Imaginary Man and 2018’s Wide Awake. Rayland announced his father’s death on Tuesday (May 26).

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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