Why You Should Know Him
Jefferson Airplane rose to prominence at the end of the ‘60s and into the ‘70s, but a lineup change, new musical direction, and new name paved the way for the most successful chapter in the band’s career as the next decade began. Craig Chaquico and Jefferson Starship took the ‘80s by storm releasing three Gold albums from 1981 to 1984: Modern Times, Winds of Change, and Nuclear Furniture. By 1985, Jefferson Starship had some lineup changes and the band continued as Starship. Their first release under the new name was Knee Deep In The Hoopla, which featured two number one hits, “Sara” and “We Built This City.” The album went Platinum, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard “We Built This City.”
Following the success of Knee Deep In The Hoopla, Starship released No Protection, featuring the number one hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” The album went Gold, and the band finished up the decade with the release of Love Among The Cannibals in 1989.
Commercial success aside, you should know Chaquico because he is a guitarist’s guitarist. Chaquico developed his skills early in life without the help of a teacher. Learning primarily from listening to his favorite records over and over, by the time he was fourteen Chaquico could be found playing professionally at clubs, often wearing a fake mustache just so he could get in.
By sixteen, Chaquico was contributing as a session musician, officially joining Jefferson Starship at the age of twenty. Because Jefferson Starship became such a popular band, there was often pressure by managers to cut or eliminate guitar solos, but Chaquico fought to keep them in. Chaquico recalls being at an awards show when the guys from Metallica came up to him and said, “Man, we really like that song ‘Jane’ because when we were in high school, that was the only song on the radio that had a guitar solo.” Chaquico did not fold to the pressures of writing “radio hits” and thus inspired an entire generation of guitar players… while writing songs that became huge hits anyway.
Craig Chaquico had a respectable collection of vintage guitars and gear during his early days with Jefferson Starship until almost all of it was destroyed or stolen during a riot in 1978. After that there was only one company you saw Chaquico playing—Carvin.
His axe of choice was the V220, but he could also be seen playing a custom Carvin doubleneck, made out of Hawaiian Koa. Chaquico’s amp of choice was the Carvin X100B. This simple set up gave him all the tone he needed, proving that less can truly be more.
Where Is He Now?
Since the breakup of Starship, Chaquico has enjoyed a successful career as a solo musician, playing acoustic instrumental jazz. He has released eleven studio albums, plus a “Best Of” CD to critical acclaim. His first solo record, Acoustic Highway, reached number one on the Billboard charts and was named “Independent New Age Album of the Year.” His following album, Acoustic Planet, was Grammy-nominated and also reached the number one spot on the Billboard charts.
Chaquico continues to write music, his latest being a blues-inspired record, Fire Red Moon, released in 2012.
Aside from staying active with recording, Chaquico is an avid supporter of the American Music Therapy Association. Having been in a car crash at the age of twelve, Chaquico credits the guitar with helping him recover, and he now volunteers with the AMTA to help bring therapy to those in need.
The IES Independent Summit recently inducted Chaquico into the 2016 Rock Honors in Los Angeles, California. He has since been reunited with his long-lost guitar, a 1959 Les Paul Sunburst, which was stolen during a Jefferson Starship concert in 1978.