Our feature this week is on an artist that has accomplished a rare feat in over a fifty year career in music. He has been highly successful in two different formats of music at different times.
Guitarist and composer Craig Chaquico was born in Sacramento. He spent a lot of memorable time camping and vacationing in our area during his youth. His mother gave him his first guitar at age 10. When he was twelve, he and his father were in a car hit head-on by a drunk driver. Both of his arms were broken, as were his leg, ankle, foot, wrist, and thumb. During physical therapy, his father told him that guitarist Les Paul had been in a car accident and had played guitar to help himself heal. His father promised to buy him a Les Paul guitar if he would work hard to recover. Although he could play only the high E string of his acoustic guitar due to his casts, he benefited from playing and his father kept his word about that Les Paul guitar.
Chaquico started playing professionally in nightclubs at age 14. He began his association with the rock group Jefferson Starship when he was 16. At first he began recording with a few of the members and then was formally asked to join them on tour as a lead guitarist.
Soon afterward, he developed into one of their main songwriters writing or co-writing some of their biggest hits. Over its career Jefferson Starship earned twenty platinum and gold albums, including Red Octopus, which was certified double-platinum in 1995. Chaquico was the only member to appear in every recording, album, tour, and music video. He was a member of Jefferson Starship from 1974-1985. Then he played with Starship from 1985-1991.
In 1987 Chaquico played guitar with Starship on a wonderful song Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. It is the theme for the romantic comedy film Mannequin. This song peaked at number one on the Billboard hot 100 and was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.
Although highly successful as a rock guitarist for twenty years, it is Craig Chaquico’s career in Smooth Jazz that is of primary interest to me.
Since the early 1990’s, Chaquico has worked on diversifying his music and branching out more into new age or world music. Craig turned to the acoustic-electric guitar and became a million-selling, chart-topping solo jazz guitarist, composer and producer, skillfully weaving lyrical melodies and active rhythms reminiscent of his rock roots with the rippling, glistening fluid tones of contemporary and smooth jazz compositions.
His first solo Smooth Jazz album Acoustic Highway was released in 1993. It was the number one Independent New Age Album of the Year in Billboard Magazine and a number one on the Billboard New Age Albums chart. His follow-up album, 1994’s Acoustic Planet also reached number one on Billboard's Top New Age Album chart, received a BAMMY Award for Best Independent Album of the Year and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Age album. That Grammy nominated album has a song Just One World that became part of NASA's Space Ark project and was launched and is now in permanent orbit around the Earth.
In 1998 Craig Chaquico released an album Riders Of The Ancient Winds that was a collaboration with another guitarist, the longtime leader of The Rippingtons, Russ Freeman.
His first release in the new century, 2002's Shadow and Light, was inspired by the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on New York City in 2001.
One thing is for sure, Craig Chaquico is very socially conscious. He has been involved in benefits for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. As much as his schedule permits he plays one free hospital concert a week for children and he encouraged many of his contemporaries and friends to perform similar shows. As a result of his recovery from the car crash when he was twelve, Craig Chaquico became a believer in the healing power of music. With the National Association of Music Therapy, he has provided instruments to patients in hospitals. He has worked with organizations such as the American Music Therapy Association, an organization that uses music therapy with injured and traumatized people and those with various forms of dementia. He supports Guitars In The Classroom, a group with the mission to train and equip teachers to transform learning into a creative, musical process. In 2020 he premiered a personal music video to say thank you to the firefighters and first responders and to raise funds for victims of fire.
For the past few years Chaquico has been all over Northern California and Southern Oregon composing, recording, and producing a CD project with the National Park Service titled The Circle Of Discovery.
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