CRAIG CHAQUICO REUNITED WITH LONG LOST 1959 LES PAUL
CRAIG CHAQUICO REUNITED WITH LONG LOST
1959 LES PAUL SUNBURST THAT WAS STOLEN DURING
FAMOUS RIOT AT JEFFERSON STARSHIP CONCERT IN SUMMER OF 1978
For Jefferson Starship guitarist and original founding member Craig Chaquico, “Find Your Way Back” has a whole new meaning some 35 years after writing, and performing on, the Billboard Top Ten single from the band’s 1981 album, Modern Times.
It was a year ago this month that Craig informed his worldwide fans about his quest to retrieve his beloved 1959 Les Paul Sunburst guitar (9-2180) that was thought to have been destroyed during a summer of ‘78 fiery riot in Lorelei, Germany, right after it was announced that Jefferson Starship wouldn’t be taking the stage that day as a result of legendary singer Grace Slick not feeling well.
Fearing for their safety, the band members that were on site — Craig, David Frieberg, and John Barbata — quickly evacuated the area. Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Pete Sears were still at the hotel. Devout fans of the band know that their next show in Hamburg together would mark the last for this original line-up.
Almost all of the bands’ instruments and gear went missing during this riot, including Craig’s rare 1957 Les Paul Gold Top (still missing – Serial No. 7 8793 – played on the first two Jefferson Starship hit albums, Dragon Fly (1974) and Red Octopus (1975)), and this recently discovered ’59 Sunburst guitar that was near-and-dear to Craig’s heart, as he used it on the platinum-selling Jefferson Starship albums, Spitfire (1976) and Earth(1978), and can be heard on such classic hits as “With Your Love,” “Count on Me” and “Runaway” among others. Of course, it’s this rock and roll history that has added extreme value to the guitar.
Part of the successful identification process which, without the serial number, included Craig going through thousands of high-resolution photos in the vast archives of Roger Ressmeyer who was a key band photographer throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, including for both the Spitfire and Earth albums.
Three years after he was tipped off that the guitar might still be in existence, Craig’s difficult quest to get it back has ended after a meeting of the musical minds between Craig and the instrument’s current owner, a guitar aficionado, himself.
After more than a year of back-and-forth’s in the legal system, the two musicians sat down and talked about the history of the guitar (now known affectionately as “Lorelei”) and what it meant to each of them. And it was this discussion that led to a confidential settlement agreement and resolution between the parties…
“Seeing the guitar for the first time after so many years brought back so many memories for me,” states Chaquico. “One of my dreams from the outset was simply to perform or record with it again… and it looks like that dream just might come true.”
In a gesture of good will from one musician to another, the current owner of the ’59 Sunburst (who has now owned the instrument for almost a dozen years) would like Craig to continue making great music and providing further heritage to the instrument that already has an illustrious past thanks to Craig. This guitar went everywhere with him beginning in the mid-70’s until it vanished at the riot.
“I’m thoroughly excited about hitting the stage with it again sometime this year,” says Craig. “It’ll be a magical moment for me and I’m sure I’ll feel like a ‘kid’ in the mid-70’s all over again. ‘Lorelei’ truly is one of my favorite guitars of all-time.”
The value of the guitar can only increase over time if it remains in its impeccable condition.
According to a Guitar Player magazine article in April 2016, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett purchased a 1959 Les Paul Standard that was previously owned by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green and guitar great Gary Moore for a reported $2 million.
Craig looks forward to great things ahead, commenting, “What I’d really like to see is a reunion of Jefferson Starship original members who lost their instruments that day come together and perform with them again. Pete Sears got his bass back in 2013 and John Barbata got his cymbals back shortly after the riot.”
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Christian is the founder and Editor of Rock Paper Rock as well as a freelance concert and event photographer serving the Pacific Northwest and Beyond. He is a certified member of the PPA and Gold Level member of the CPS. He has recently began working with Mental Itch Records and has launched his own Photography website.
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