Saturday/Sunday Sounds #1: Childhood Dreams and Finding Your Way Back
When I was in junior high many of us had big dreams and high hopes of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Craig often had his guitar with him, and while I was amazed watching his prodigy-level skills at that age, most of all I loved listening to the heartfelt feeling behind his growing technical dazzle.
I wasn’t surprised when Craig told me that he’d be a famous rock star someday. Between his amazing talent, passion for music, good looks, and sparkling personality, I knew he could make those dreams come true.
Craig moved away to pursue his dreams and I pursued mine in my home town. Those were the days when James Taylor was singing Fire and Rain for the first time, Simon and Garfunkel sang Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Santana sang Black Magic Woman. Jefferson Airplane, the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, and Joe Cocker were standards on the radio. I listened to this music right along with Beethoven as I continued to study classical piano.
In the midst of it all more troops were heading to Viet Nam.
Craig appeared with Jefferson Airplane for a few songs and tours while he had his own group, Steelwind. Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship, and Craig became Jefferson Starship’s lead guitarist and one of their songwriters. He ended up spending around 20 years with them, which included the group’s evolution to Starship, playing alongside Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, and others.
Craig’s incredible guitar skills, songwriting, and musicianship were consistently well received and admired, and songs he wrote were quite popular, too, such as Find Your Way Back, Jane, and others. Jefferson Starship has won Grammy awards, they’ve had numerous gold records, and they have a long list of other top recognitions in the industry.
After leaving Jefferson Starship, Craig went on as a solo acoustic artist, entering the world of contemporary Jazz. His music has continued to rank high on Billboard’s charts and win top awards and highest honors. His 1994 Acoustic Planet CD was nominated for a Grammy. His 1993 Acoustic Highway CD was Billboard’s top New Age Indie Album for 1993, and it was Billboard’s Adult Alternative Album of the Year. Craig was also voted Best Pop Instrumental Guitarist of the Year in a recent Guitar Player Magazine’s reader’s poll. In addition he’s been recording, touring, or both with Richard Elliot, David Benoit, Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons, Warren Hill, and others.
Once again, I’m not surprised.
Center of Courage (E-lizabeth’s Song), Acoustic Planet
When Craig was 12 years old he was hit by a drunk driver, spent a few weeks in a coma, had multiple broken bones, and spent over 2 months in the hospital. His doctor encouraged him to play his guitar to help him heal from his injuries. He took off with that bit of advice, didn’t he?! This experience was the inspiration behind his Acoustic Planet release, Center of Courage (E-lizabeth’s Song). Here’s what Craig wrote for that song’s description:
“Fear knocked at the door
Faith answered and no one was there
To the Courage Centers everywhere—
Lee’s in Minneapolis, Lane’s in San Francisco
Maria’s in Chicago, and the ones in all our hearts
To Dr. 'E-lizabeth' and the parents
Of the 12 year old boy who encouraged him
to keep playing that high E-string on his acoustic guitar
With little fingers sticking out of plaster casts”
The singing, heartfelt melody lines and the way he so skillfully plays his acoustic guitar portrays the challenge, courage, and appreciation for the amazing support that helped him recover. The piece begins slowly, repeating a simple melodic phrase several times, reminiscent of that twelve-year-old trying to play a guitar with casts that impaired his movements over the strings. He sticks with it, though, continuing to practice, and it becomes easier. The tempo speeds up, the technical skills improve, and his fingers fly across the strings, dazzling the listener with his familiar amazing mastery. The initial slow melody phrase returns at the end as a reflection of understanding where he’s been to get to where he is today.
Find Your Way Back and NASA
NASA used Craig’s song, Find Your Way Back on an instructional video about the space program released to schools all over the country. His song, Just One World became part of NASA’s Space Ark project, permanently orbiting the Earth.
I first heard the top hit Find Your Way Back in 1981 when it was initially released with the Jefferson Starship’s Modern Times album. At the time I had recently been accepted to graduate school and started a master’s degree program in piano performance. We were both pursuing our music dreams, Craig as a rock star and me as a classical pianist.
While I’d known all along that Craig was playing guitar with Jefferson Starship, it was only recently that I discovered that Craig had written Find Your Way Back and other songs that I’d sing right along with on the radio or on my stereo—what a major lesson in remembering to read those liner notes!
Craig also plays a terrific all-instrumental version of Find Your Way Back on his Grammy-nominated Acoustic Planet album.
Craig Chaquico’s Latest
Craig’s most recent CD as an acoustic solo artist, Shadow and Light, is also doing quite well on the charts, and he’s in the midst of working on his next CD. You can hear clips of Shadow and Light and his other CDs at amazon.com, Higher Octave Music, your local music store, contemporary Jazz stations, and elsewhere.
This musical journey the past few weeks through some of Craig Chaquico’s music career has been quite inspirational to me, remembering him having such strong dreams and incredible talent and seeing where he’s gone with it all. Amazing.
I believed in Craig’s dreams long before the whole world was buying his records and seeing him in concert. I still believe in him and wish him well, just as I did so long ago.