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Craig Chaquico finds new frontiers

Guitarist and songwriter Craig Chaquico celebrates the 40th anniversary of his first album with iconic rock band Jefferson Starship with a new project — a rock group that is part Rogue Valley musicians and part San Francisco musicians.

"I told my wife that when the frontier turns into a pasture, it's time to look for a new frontier," Chaquico says. "I wanted new, creative inspiration, and I found it here in Southern Oregon."

Singer Shae Johnson of The Rogue Suspects and keyboard player Mark Thomas will team up with Chaquico and his long-time band members — bassist Jim Reitzel and drummer Wade Olsen from the San Francisco Bay Area — for shows to be announced this summer and fall at venues around the country.

"Our first show was in January at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival," Chaquico says.

The band members left their respective homes to meet at the show, but experienced enough difficulties that would stress the most seasoned professionals.

"We had delayed flights, missed a connecting flight, finally got to Salt Lake City and then had to drive through snow to get to the Egyptian. It was hectic and stressful, but Shae got on stage and blew away a sold-out show with her acting and singing talents."

Johnson and Thomas made a fine first impression of what Chaquico's band is all about — finding new frontiers, he says.

Chaquico, Johnson and Thomas — sans Reitzel and Olsen — will perform as Chaquico and Friends with various members of The Rogue Suspects — guitarist Dirk Price, bassist Greg Frederick, keyboard player Don Harriss, percussionist Mary Rydman and drummer David Bolen — at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, April 13-14, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent.

Reserved seats cost $25 and can be purchased online at www.camelottheatre.org or by calling 541-535-5250.

Chaquico's first set of the evening will feature many of his Grammy-nominated jazz hits from albums "Acoustic Highway," "Acoustic Planet," "Panorama" and others.

"The second set will be like 'The Wizard of Oz' in brilliant technicolor," Chaquico says. "The real stars will come out. The Rogue Suspects will back me playing some of my Starship hits, new songs I'm working on with Shae and Mark and some arrangements of Hendrix and Clapton covers. Guitarist Steve Spalding will be joining us, along with Native American flute player Martin Ball and singer David Gabriel.

"To play at Camelot is just like playing Carnegie Hall," he says. "It has all of the technological advantages of a large concert hall and there's not a bad seat in the house. I'm living my dream playing music with all of these talented people, just like Dorothy's dream in 'The Wizard of Oz.' "

Chaquico was 19 when he joined Jefferson Starship in 1973, and the first album he played on was the 1974 "Dragonfly," which became a gold-selling record. He'd recorded with various members of the group — Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, David Freiberg — since he was 16.

"Every album I played on with Starship went gold or platinum," Chaquico says. "But that's just a coincidence, a statistic."

Chaquico also found success in the '90s and 2000s as a contemporary jazz, blues and new age solo artist. His newest CD, "Fire Red Moon," was released in 2012 on Blind Pig Records.

Left to right: Keyboard player Mark Thomas, singer Shaeny Celine Johnson and songwriter and guitarist Craign Chaquico.