When Craig Chaquico was a boy who learned to swim in Lake Tahoe, he could not have his imagined he would forever be intertwined with a “Red Octopus.”
Chaquico returns to Tahoe on the 40th anniversary of the release of “Red Octopus,” the best-selling album by Jefferson Starship or its earlier band, Jefferson Airplane. Chaquico played lead guitar on the record, but only after surviving a horrific auto accident as a child.
When the Sacramento youth broke most of the big bones in his body, his father told him how Les Paul overcame similar injuries in a crash and went on to become a guitar innovator.
“He said if I stayed with my physical therapy and worked through the time in a wheelchair and on crutches that he would buy me a Les Paul,” Chaquico said. “My dad kept his promise … and years later I am now back in Tahoe playing this weekend with a guitar with my own name on it. My dad said, ‘Someday someone will make a guitar with your name on it.’ Maybe he’s smiling up there in heaven saying, ‘I told you.’ ”
The signature guitar is an acoustic-electric Carvin, which Chaquico plays during the jazzy portions of his live show, which on Saturday will be at the South Shore’s new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on a night which also celebrates the release of the book, “Guitar Player: The Inside Story of the First Two Decades of the Most Successful Guitar Magazine Ever.”
Chaquico, who said he read the magazine during his time in rehabilitation, has appeared on the magazine’s cover as the lead guitarist for Jefferson Starship. After he left that band, he changed guitars and musical styles; some call it new age, others say jazz.
“To me there are two kinds of music: good music and bad music, and I try to play good music,” Chaquico said. “I’ve been doing jazz since 1990. I started putting a couple of Starship songs in the set about 10 years ago and I was surprised how well it went.”
In 2012 Chaquico added more to his repertoire, releasing a blues and rock album on Blind Pig Records, “Fire Red Moon.” His live shows touch on all three phases of his career.
“It’s a great combination of instrumental jazz, acoustic guitar, Starship and some of the covers I do of (Jimi) Hendrix and (Eric) Clapton,” he said. “As a guitar player I get to play all my favorite styles of music in one show.”
Chaquico’s rhythm section has been consistent for 20 years with drummer Wade Olsen and bassist Jim Reitzel. The keyboardist is Mark Thomas and the singer is Shaeny Celine Johnson, who was a classmate of Chaquico’s son at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore.
“She’s going to be the real thing,” Chaquico said. “Every town has one of those, but she really is. She doesn’t know it, but I think I’m auditioning to be her guitar player someday.”
“I’d like to think I was like her when I was her age because she’s in her 20s and she lives and breathes music,” Chaquico said. “She’s so fun to work with, kind of like Grace Slick, who had this reputation of being kind of an eccentric but she was always an inspiration, and Shae’s kind of the same way with the same energy and dedication to music where it’s not about the image and looking good. It’s about delivering the actual talent and performance.”
Band members Olsen and Reitzel live in Northern California and the others reside in Southern Oregon. Chaquico noted the region nearly attained statehood in the 1940s with the name Jefferson.
“I was wondering if I could call my band the Jefferson Stateship,” he said.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 7
Where: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Vinyl
Also: Book release party for “Guitar Player: The Inside Story of the First Two Decades of the Most Successful Guitar Magazine Ever,” a reflection on the magazine’s pioneering early days, from its 1967 founding through its 1989 sale by founder, Bud Eastman, and Jim Crockett, the editor and publisher.