It's not so easy to introduce Nick Gravenites because the man has done so many things that one can easily write a book or build a web site only dedicated to Gravenites who is singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer in one person. Subsequently everything found on this page concerning Nick can only be described as incomplete. Nevertheless let's start with a short introduction Taxim Records added to one of their Bay Area Blues Samplers 'More Bay Area Blues' which contains the song 'Hard Thing' by Nick.
'Nick Gravenites grew up on the southside of Chicago hanging out in the mid-50's with a coterie of misfit white kids - Elvin Bishop, Paul Butterfield, Michael Bloomfield - who went on to form that protean powerhouse of watershed white blues, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Learning their lessons first-hand from the southside greats - Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush - Gravenites & Co. burst open the seams of the scene with a feverish intensity and undeniable authenticity, redefining the blues with as much impact as the introduction of electric instrumentation had 15 years earlier. From the late 50's through the mid 60's, Gravenites gravitated between Chicago and San Francisco, establishing himself in the Bay Area in 1965.
In addition to authoring the classic "Born In Chicago" and the groundbreaking "East West" for Butterfield, Gravenites scribed hits for Janis Joplin and has his songs recorded by Big Brother and the Holding Company, Michael Bloomfield, the Electric Flag (of which Gravenites was a founding member), Pure Prairie League, Tracy Nelson, Roy Buchana, Jimmy Witherspoon as well as blues giants Howlin' Wolf, Otis Rush, and James Cotton. He has a couple of solo albums and has scored and played on the soundtracks for "The Trip", "Medium Cool", and "Steelyard Blues". He has appeared on some 40 albums as singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer.
Other bands: He formed the short lived Blue Gravy and joined Big Brother And The Holding Company early in 1969 staying until early 1972. He was involved with the Taj Mahal/Mike Bloomfield live album, and again in 1973 with "Steelyard Blues". He also formed the Nick Gravenites Band which became Nick Gravenites Blues in 1978 and in the summer of ‘78 he joined Huey Lewis' Monday Nite Live sessions but by the end of the year that too had disbanded.
Nick also worked a lot with John Cipollina, a connection that started with Nick producing the first Quicksilver Messenger Service albums. Later they built the Nick Gravenites-John Cipollina Band which toured a lot in Europe and their record label Line being based in Germany. One of the band's drummers was former Clover drummer Marcus David - who later recorded his solo album 'Greates Hits' on Line Records in 1980. Nick Gravenites himself recorded 'Bluestar' which was also released on Line in 1980 as a solo album but it already had John Cipollina on guitar. Harmonica player on this blues album was Huey Lewis - at that time being something of a session cat who, after Clover's demise, played harp also on albums by Phil Lynott, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and City Boy.
The next album "Monkey Medicine" was recorded in Germany after Nick and John finished their European tour in Germany. Under very primitive conditions but with a lot of heart they recorded this album in Hamburg accompanied by Marcus David on drums and Al Staehely on bass/vocals.
In late 1984 Gravenites was again a member of one of John Cipollina's many projects - Thunder and Lightning - in San Francisco.
During the last few years Gravenites regularly played the psychedelic blues in a small club called the Bodega Bay Grange, Marin County - joined by Doug Kilmer (bass), Mark Adams (harp) and Roy Blumenfeld (drums). The German Taxim label released one of these concerts (rec. Jan. 1994) on CD in 1996.
1999 saw the release of yet another Gravenites' solo album on which Huey Lewis plays harmonica again.
Nick Gravenites Discography:
1969 My Labours
1973 Steelyard Blues OST (with Bloomfield; Warner)
1980 Bluestar (with H. Lewis, J. Cipollina)
1982 Monkey Medicine (with J. Cipollina)
1991 Live In Athens At The Rodon
1996 Don't Feed The Animals
1999 Kill My Brain
From the AllMusicGuide by Richard Skelly
Unless you're familiar with Chicago blues of the 1960s, or from the San Francisco Bay area, the name Nick Gravenites may not be a familiar one. That's because Gravenites has been an important and unfortunately sparsely recorded behind-the-scenes blues player for many years. More people are likely to know Gravenites for the dozens of great songs he wrote: "Born in Chicago" (Paul Butterfield), "Buried Alive in the Blues" (Janis Joplin), "East-West," "Work Me Lord," "Groovin' Is Easy," "Bad Talkin' Bluesman," and literally hundreds of others. Gravenites' compositions have been recorded by Butterfield, Joplin, the Electric Flag, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, Big Brother and the Holding Company, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Jimmy Witherspoon, David Crosby, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Tracy Nelson, Blue Gravy, Howlin' Wolf, Roy Buchanan, Pure Prairie League, and others. He's also made quite a name for himself as a producer, working on albums by Otis Rush, James Cotton, Michael Bloomfield, Janis Joplin and others. Gravenites' sessionography is extensive; he's performed on more than 45 albums as a singer, guitarist, songwriter, or bandleader.
Gravenites, the son of first-generation Greek immigrants, grew up on Chicago's South Side and entered the University of Chicago in 1956. He began to play guitar in college, was immediately drawn to the university's large folk music club, and shortly thereafter began hanging out in the blues clubs. He met Paul Butterfield, who was still in high school, through the university's folk music club, though Butterfield never attended the University of Chicago. They began playing acoustic blues and folk songs together at campus-area coffeehouses. Also in the late 1950s, he became friends with other black and white blues players then hanging out in the Chicago blues clubs, musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite. In the late 1950s, he began making periodic trips to San Francisco, and spent nearly ten years commuting between Chicago and San Francisco before finally settling in northern California in the mid-1960s. Gravenites was a key player and impresario on both the Chicago blues scene and the emerging blues-rock and psychedelic rock scene in San Francisco. In 1967, he formed a short-lived but legendary band, the Electric Flag, with guitarist Bloomfield, organist Barry Goldberg, bassist Harvey Brooks and drummer Buddy Miles. The Electric Flag made their first performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and their first album, A Long Time Comin', made the Top 40; the group continued to record into the mid-'70s. Gravenites' solo albums include My Labors (1969), Steel Yard Blues (1973), Junkyard In Malibu (1980), and Blue Star (1980) and a mid-1990s album with his group Animal Mind, titled Don't Feed the Animals.
Gravenites continued to perform through the 1970s and '80s around San Francisco and northern California, filling his live shows with raw, burning, very economical guitar playing and soulful singing. Most recently, Gravenites joined Bob Margolin and others in a Kennedy Center tribute concert to bluesman Muddy Waters, taped in the fall of 1997 for eventual airing on PBS.