Posted by: kubiakl | March 14, 2009

Checkout Time In Vegas

In honor of a friend of mine getting married this summer we’re going to Las Vegas over Spring Break.  Thursday we fly out to meet up with friends of his from Colorado and California.  I’m looking forward to it.  This will be the first vacation I’ve really taken since I started teaching and I’ve never been to Vegas.  But Scott Baxendale has.

I don’t know Scott Baxendale, but every time I hear someone mention Las Vegas I think of his story.  He was a talented luthier (that’s guitar builder for you lay folk) from the Dallas area who burned his life away in a crack pipe.  Family, business, and friends all disappeared in the clouds of smoke.  In a two-year period he went from making instruments for some of the biggest names in the music industry to living in a homeless shelter in Arlington.  It was at the shelter that Baxendale met a man who would change his life.

But not in the way you’d think.  The man told Baxendale that he knew where to get a large pile of money and that the two of them should head out to Belize for a fresh start.  That sounded good to Baxendale.  First they needed some supplies, so the man (who went by many aliases, so I’ll call him the Unnamed Man) told Scott to go rent a car.  They loaded the trunk full of guns and ammo and headed out, eventually winding up in Las Vegas at Baxendale’s suggestion.  There they ran into some bad luck at the slots and with the local police, so they headed back to Texas after detouring through Denver.  In Denver they picked up another friend named Kevin Rutherford who would wait for them until they got back from Texas.

In Texas they found that Baxendale’s friend had turned his apartment into a crackhouse, so they robbed him at gunpoint.  Plans to sell what they had confiscated turned into a crack binge, and so the Unnamed man and Baxendale headed back to Denver.  Scott had plans to find a job at a guitar shop, call it quits with the Unnamed man and marry a girl he had met during his exploits.  But during a beer run, Rutherford and Baxendale were surprised when the Unnamed man decided he wanted to rob a dope dealer with a fake police badge.  The night ended up with all three arrested.

Scott Baxendale was cooperative with the authorities and hoped for placement in a drug rehabilitation program.  He managed to get his wish.  Meanwhile, Rutherford claimed innocence and is serving time in prison.  The Unnamed man was found hanging by a bedsheet the morning of his sentencing.

Baxendale, thanks to the rehab, was able to put his life back together.  His wife and kid moved back in with him.  He opened up the Colfax Guitar Shop and went back to building custom guitars for some of the greats.

One of those greats is Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers.  Cooley and Baxendale became friends, and Cooley wrote a song based on Scott’s story.  That song is “Checkout Time In Vegas”, from the album “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark”:

Now I realize that was a long story to introduce one song, but I think it’s a story worth telling.  And I’ll be sure to let you know if the sun rises in Vegas.



  1. […] parts at home once the main idea is there.  Married Man (formerly Bachelor Guy in the post about Vegas) got a Mac around the same time and he and I have been learning the ins and outs of Garageband […]

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