Craig Chaquico

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Craig Chaquico
Craig Chaquito - Jefferson Starship - 1974.jpg
Craig Chaquico in 1974.
Background information
Born (1954-09-26) September 26, 1954 (age 62)
Origin San Francisco, CA
Genres Contemporary jazz, new-age
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1971–present
Associated acts Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Starship

Craig Chaquico (/əˈks/ chə-KEE-soh; born September 26, 1954) is an American guitarist of Portuguese[1] descent. He has had over thirty years of success in a variety of genres: in the 1970s with the post-Summer of Love Jefferson Starship,[2] in that band's 1980s incarnation, Starship, and in the 1990s and 2000s as a contemporary jazz, blues and new-age solo artist.


Childhood and musical beginnings[edit]

Chaquico was raised in Sacramento, California, and attended La Sierra High School. He grew up in a musical household; his mother played piano and organ while his father played the saxophone and accordion. As Chaquico recalls, "My mom and dad were musicians and played around the house all the time. I thought everybody played the piano and organ like mom and the sax and accordion like Dad together after dinner."[3] He began playing the guitar as a young boy, when his parents bought him his first guitar at the age of 10. By the time he was 14 he was playing professionally in nightclubs.[4]

Tragedy struck for Chaquico and his family when he and his father were involved in a serious automobile accident, caused by a drunk driver. The head-on collision left the 12-year-old Chaquico with two broken arms, a broken rib, broken wrist, broken thumb, broken ankle and broken foot.[3] In the physical therapy that followed, Chaquico's father made a deal with him. "He told me that Les Paul had once been in a terrible accident and played guitar the whole time to help him heal... My dad said that if I stayed with it and got to the light at the end of the tunnel, once I was back up to speed, he would buy me a Les Paul guitar."[5] Despite the fact that he could only play on the high E string of his acoustic guitar (due to the his casts from the injury), the therapy helped Chaquico make a full recovery, saying, "it was a great place for my spirit to go."[3] The accident and recovery would later push Chaquico to support organizations and efforts that use music as a therapeutic, healing power for injured, traumatized, and elderly people.

Jefferson Airplane/Starship and Starship[edit]

For much of his career he has lived in nearby San Francisco and has been closely associated with the music of that city. Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane saw him play as a 16-year-old, and invited Chaquico to join him for a series of recording sessions and concerts. During this period members of the Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Crosby, Stills and Nash often appeared together in concerts and recordings, and Chaquico played alongside a number of musicians including Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, David Freiberg and Carlos Santana. His first recording was with Kantner and Grace Slick in 1971 on their Sunfighter duo album.[4]

After informally joining the newly renamed Jefferson Starship he expected to go back to school after one tour. Instead, Slick and Kantner approached him in 1974, inviting him to join the band permanently. He jumped at the chance.

Chaquico played a crucial role in launching Jefferson Starship into commercial success, as the band eventually earned 20 platinum and gold albums. Despite members joining and leaving, Chaquico was the only member to appear in every recording, album, tour, and music video over the course of the band's tenure in the rock and roll scene, except for the band's debut album, Blows Against the Empire.[4]

Chaquico remained when Kantner left and the band morphed into Starship. Many people remember his guitar riffs from We Built This City, as well as his flowing long brown hair in the accompanying video. He co-wrote one of Starship's most memorable songs, "Find Your Way Back" from 1981's "Modern Times" LP, with Tom Borsdorf. A smooth jazz version of this same tune also appears on Chaquico's 1994 solo CD "Acoustic Planet".

Post-Starship and solo career[edit]

When Starship broke up, Chaquico formed Big Bad Wolf, a hard rock band continuing in the same vein as Starship, recording one eponymously titled album before disbanding. He then forged a new career as a contemporary jazz/New Age guitarist.[2] As a solo artist he quickly gained popularity, combining his rock and blues roots with that new age style, sending him back to the top of the charts. He has collaborated with Ozzie Ahlers for his ten solo albums since 1993, the most famous of which is the second, 1994's Acoustic Planet, which garnered Chaquico a Grammy Nomination for Best New Age album. His song "Just One World" off of the same album became a part of NASA's Ark Project, which now permanently remains in orbit above the Earth.[4] Since then Chaquico has cemented his standing as one of the top-selling contemporary jazz/New Age artists, selling over a million copies of his solo material.

On the career switch and success, Chaquico commented, "My wife became pregnant in 1990 ... and the acoustic guitar became a lot more welcome around the house than the electric, and I had no idea that it would lead to a Grammy nomination and selling more than a million albums."[6]

In early 1995, he contributed guitar tracks for the animated children's film Gumby: The Movie. most notably in the scenes where Gumby plays his guitar solos in his concerts.

In addition to his work with the various incarnations of Jefferson Starship, Chaquico also has worked regularly for the last 25 years as a studio musician with a wide range of artists, including Commander Cody, Mickey Thomas, Tom Scott, and Rippingtons' guitarist Russ Freeman.


After recovering from the injuries sustained in the car crash he experienced when he was twelve, Chaquico became a believer in the healing power of music. As such he now is an avid supporter of the American Music Therapy Association. The AMTA says this about Chaquico on their website's artist support page:

"Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist and New Age artist Craig Chaquico is one of music therapy's most avid supporters. Craig's personal belief in the power of music, as well as his deep respect for, and understanding of, the work that music therapists do have led him to become one of music therapy's most dedicated advocates. Craig has visited and performed at music therapy programs in schools and health care facilities across the country. He has donated guitars, given by him to Washburn Guitar Co., to the music therapy programs he visited while on tour. Craig also continues to increase public awareness of the benefits of music therapy services by educating audiences in his concerts and at other public appearances."

Chaquico is a member of Bikers for Charity, Harley Davidson's charitable effort aimed to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

When he negotiated a contract to make his signature guitar, the two parties pledged to plant a tree for every Craig Chaquico guitar manufactured.[4]


With Paul Kantner and/or Grace Slick (as lead guitarist)[edit]

With Jefferson Starship (as lead guitarist)[edit]

With Starship (as lead guitarist)[edit]

As solo artist[edit]

Big Bad Wolf[edit]



  1. ^ Chaquico, Craig. Interview by Mark T. Johnson, July 15, 2013
  2. ^ a b Brennan, Sandra. "Craig Chaquico: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 
  3. ^ a b c Chaquico, Craig. "About Craig". Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Craig Chaquico". Blind Pig Records. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Taylor, Chuck (31 August 2002). "Craig Chaquico: Musical Lone Ranger". Billboard. 
  6. ^ Thomas, Teresa (2 April 2010). "Craig Chaquico at Culture Works". Mail Tribune. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 

External links[edit]