Bucky Baxter, pedal steel great who played with Bob Dylan, dies aged 65

(Image credit: Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Guitarist and pedal steel great Bucky Baxter, who played on Bob Dylan’s Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind and spent years on tour with the folk icon, died on May 25 in Sanibel Island, Florida. He was 65.

No cause of death has been given, but his passing was confirmed by his son, singer songwriter Rayland Baxter, in a social media post.

“He is my everything and now he is an angel,” Rayland wrote. “My heart is broken yet I am blinded by joy.”

Born William Baxter in Melbourne, Florida in 1955, Bucky began learning to pedal steel in the 1970s.

“When I was a kid I played oboe and the string guitar but I really didn’t get too serious about music until I was about 20 or 21,” he said in an interview posted to B-Dylan.com.

“I bought a pedal steel guitar, and that basically was it. I started playing that, and about two weeks later I had a gig with a band, and then all of a sudden it was a few months ago and I was still on the road.”

Baxter spent time working with artists like Steve Wariner and Johnny Paycheck, and in the 1980s he met and befriended Steve Earle, contributing guitar and pedal steel to Earle’s seminal 1986 debut, Guitar Town.

He accompanied Earle on subsequent records like 1988’s Copperhead Road and 1990’s The Hard Way, and was also a founding member of his backing band, The Dukes.

While touring with Earle in the early 1990s, Baxter met Bob Dylan, who asked him for pedal steel guitar lessons.

About meeting Dylan, Baxter recalled, “I was playing with Steve Earle. We’d opened up a whole tour for Bob. So I was just playing with G.E. Smith on the sound checks when Bob invited me to sit in. He asked me to get him a steel guitar, so I bought him a steel in Nashville and gave him some lessons. Then when that tour was over he got my phone number and, I thought, Well, cool, I’m going to get this great gig. But then he never called.

“Two years later he called me up on like a Monday saying, ‘Be here Tuesday, we’re leaving Thursday for Australia.’ That’s basically how it happened.”

Baxter joined Dylan’s band and performed with him on his Never Ending Tour from 1992 to 1999. He also played dobro and pedal steel on Dylan’s 1995 Unplugged recording, as well as pedal steel on 1997’s Time Out of Mind.

Baxter released an instrumental solo album, Most Likely, No Problem, in 1999, and contributed pedal steel and guitar to a variety of albums by other artists, including R.E.M.’s Green, Ryan Adams’ Gold and Demolition, and Ben Folds’ Songs for Silverman.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.