On his 16th birthday, Grace Slick and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Starship recruited him to play on their side-project albums.
At 20, Chaquico (pronounced Cha-KEE-so) joined Jefferson Starship full time and, throughout his tenure with the Bay Area-based Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, penned a handful of hits — including "Find Your Way Back," "Jane" and "Laying It on the Line" — that are still played regularly on classic-rock radio.
After leaving the Starship, Chaquico delved into acoustic contemporary jazz and in 1993, released his solo debut, "Acoustic Highway."
The album found its way to No. 1 on Billboard's New Age charts, and its 1994 follow up, "Acoustic Planet," earned a Grammy Nomination.
"That was right after I left the Jefferson Starship and I wasn't sure if anybody would like the music I did on my own," Chaquico said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from Oregon. "[But] when the album went to No. 1 and I was nominated for Grammy, I felt as if I had fallen off my motorcycle and was in a coma dreaming. I couldn't believe that was happening."
The guitarist will demonstrate some of his musical chops when he plays the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, Jan. 10, and Saturday, Jan. 11.
The show will feature Chaquico's rock and instrumental works, but also include some new tracks from his new blues album "Fire Red Moon" that was released on Blind Pig Records.
"I've always been a fan of Blind Pig because of their roots-blues music," Chaquico said.
Chaquico was hesitant because his blues-influences didn't go all the way back to the 1920s.
"I'm not that old, so the roots blues I think about would be Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and those guys," he said. "But the more we talked, the more we agreed that through osmosis by listening to my heroes such as Clapton, Santana and Pink Floyd, I was able to get a hold of the blues.
"I mean, when the Rolling Stones would do songs with sax, keys and percussion and Led Zeppelin would do their thing with their wonderful instrumentals, the songs would float around in my sphere of influences," Chaquico said. "While I played pop and rock with Jefferson Starship and contemporary instrumental jazz with my solo records, I pictured all the music spiraling around in a galaxy of influences."
When the guitarist plays in Park City, he'll be joined by bassist Jim Reitzel, drummer Wade Olson and keyboardist Mark Johnson.
"This tour will also feature live vocals for my Starship hits," Chaquico said. "I don't want to say her name, because I want this to be a surprise, but I think the audience will be surprised at how she comes into the show."
Chaquico is looking forward to playing in Park City because he loves the town and because he loves the skiing.
"I also think its ironic that I'm playing a few days before the Sundance Film Festival, because I also like to think of my songs as little movies," he said. "When I play my acoustic music, I use a lot of guided imagery. I explain what a song is about, like eagles flying and things like that, or how a song was written around a campfire after a gathering of Native American tribes that I was invited to.
"I'm drawn to the action and special effects of a movie, and I also like the love scenes and the cinematography and the introspective aspects a film can relay," he said. "When I do an album or a tour, I like to have some special effects, such as some flashy guitar playing, but I also like to have some of the love scenes or introspections that are conveyed through a little melody that may cause someone to get a tear in their eye or reach out to hold their date's hand."
The part of the job Chaquico likes best is relating to his audience.
"I may not know these people by name who are in the audience, but we know each other because we're sharing the same emotions that we have in common through the music," he said.
Former Jefferson Starship lead guitarist and Grammy Award nominee Craig Chaquico will perform at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday, Jan. 10, and Saturday, Jan. 11, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $39 to $70. For more information and tickets visit www.parkcityshows.com.