Mr. Baxt also makes his own “Richie’s” brand guitars. He’s known for collecting “used, castoff pieces that no one thought was good enough to be a guitar” and resurrecting them as instruments that even the snobbiest aficionados swear by. He sells about one a week.
One of Mr. Baxt’s most famous clients was the Strokes, who used him constantly in their early years, well before the days of worldwide fame and platinum records. In fact, the only way the band got in to see Mr. Baxt was because a record producer vouched for them.
“It was a word-of-mouth operation,” Nikolai Fraiture, the band’s bassist, said recently. “He didn’t really want too many people knowing about it.” The live-in workshop was a dreamland to the young band. “Packed to the gills with tools and guitars,” Mr. Fraiture recalled.
Albert Hammond Jr., one of the Strokes’ guitarists, shared Mr. Fraiture’s wonder in finding Richie’s. “I can’t explain how cool it felt to go to his house,” he said.
Of course the Strokes have a dedicated guitar tech now, but they didn’t leave without taking one of Mr. Baxt’s strange and beautiful creations. “Richie made this Frankenstein bass where he attached a Les Paul sunburst guitar body to a Gibson bass neck,” said Mr. Fraiture. “It’s now hanging on my wall.”
Mr. Baxt’s last decade has been punctuated by a series of severe health scares, and he employs five interns to perform basic tasks so he can maintain a fast turnaround.
With the workload he maintains, there’s little time to dwell, and that’s the way he likes it. Excusing himself, he swiveled around in his chair, head bent over a guitar, trying wrangle a better sound out of the Fender draped across his lap. The buzzer rang again.