Guitarist Sues to Stop Use of Jefferson Starship Name

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Former members of Jefferson Starship are “tarnishing” the iconic rock band’s legacy by using its name and likenesses to promote their new group, the band’s lead guitarist claims in court.

In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, Craig Chaquico says his former bandmates continue to use the Jefferson Starship name, even though they agreed to officially retire the band in a 1985 agreement.

“Defendants have also used images of the original Jefferson Starship and Starship albums to promote themselves and their live performances in a further attempt to mislead the public and pass off their current band as the original Jefferson Starship,” Chaquico claims in his 14-page complaint.

Chaquico wants a judge to bar his former bandmates, David Freiberg and Donny Baldwin, from using the Jefferson Starship name and images to sell concert tickets and merchandise.

Jefferson Starship was formed in 1974 by two former members of Jefferson Airplane – Paul Kantner and Grace Slick. Chaquico was part of Jefferson Starship’s original lineup.

When Kantner left the band in 1984, he took legal action to block his former bandmates from continuing to use the Jefferson Starship name. That led to a 1985 agreement, in which the band’s remaining members, including Chaquico, Freiberg and Baldwin, agreed to retire the name.

The agreement also allowed the band to continue performing and releasing albums as “Starship.”  Starship went on to earn Grammy Award nominations in the late 1980s for “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” the latter of which earned Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for its inclusion in the 1987 film “Mannequin.”

After Chaquico left Starship in 1990, Kantner started touring with a new band of musicians and using the name Jefferson Starship again, despite the 1985 agreement.

In 1993, Chaquico struck a new agreement with Kantner, giving him and only him permission to use the Jefferson Starship name for live performances and merchandise, according to the lawsuit.

“Chaquico granted Kantner permission to use the name because of their prior close relationship arising from Kantner’s original invitation to join Jefferson Starship, the fact that Kantner created the name originally, and Chaquico’s belief that Kantner would preserve and honor the legacy of the band’s music,” the complaint states.

Chaquico’s former bandmates Freinberg and Baldwin later joined Kantner’s new Jefferson Starship lineup in 2005 and 2008, respectively, according to the suit.

When Kantner died in January 2016, Chaquico says the permission he granted for the use of the Jefferson Starship name expired.

“Nevertheless, defendants continue to perform and sell merchandise using the Jefferson Starship name after Kantner’s death without Chaquico’s permission to do so and in direct violation of paragraph 4 of the 1985 agreement,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also names other members of the current Jefferson Starship lineup – Chris Smith, Jude Gold and Catherine Richardson – as defendants.

Chaquico accuses the band of breaching the 1985 agreement and violating multiple laws that prohibit using his likeness for profit without compensating him.

He says he is not seeking monetary damages for the use of the name, but rather an injunction to preserve the band’s legacy.

Chaquico is represented by Davis Swift, of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert in Santa Monica, California.

The new Jefferson Starship band has tour dates booked over the next year, including four dates in Minnesota and California this May, according to its website.

Its booking agent Jim Lenz did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday morning.

 

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