Nicholas George Gravenites (born October 2, 1938) is an American blues, rock and folk singer, songwriter, and guitarist, best known for his work with Electric Flag as their lead singer, Janis Joplin, Mike Bloomfield and several influential bands and individuals of the generation springing from the 1960s and 1970s. He has sometimes performed under the stage names Nick “The Greek” Gravenites and Gravy.
Gravenites was born in Chicago, into a Greek-speaking family; his parents were from Palaiochoriton, Arcadia, in Greece. After his father died, he worked in the family candy store before he was enrolled at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy; he was expelled shortly before he was due to graduate. He then attended the University of Chicago, met Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, became a fan of blues music, and learned guitar.
He regularly patronised clubs where Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy and other leading blues musicians played. Gravenites spent time both in Chicago and San Francisco in the early 1960s. He wrote the song “Born in Chicago”, which became the opening track on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band debut album, and, with guitarist Bloomfield, co-wrote the title track of their second album, East-West; the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Gravenites played in clubs with Mike Bloomfield, Charlie Musselwhite and others, and settled in San Francisco in the mid 1960s. In 1967 he formed the Electric Flag with Bloomfield. Gravenites also wrote the score for the film The Trip and produced the music for the film Steelyard Blues. According to author and pop music critic Joel Selvin, Gravenites is “the original San Francisco connection for the Chicago crowd.”
Gravenites is credited as a “musical handyman”, helping such San Francisco bands as Quicksilver Messenger Service and Janis Joplin’s first solo group, the Kozmic Blues Band. He wrote several songs for Joplin, including “Work Me, Lord” and the unfinished instrumental track “Buried Alive in the Blues”. Gravenites was the lead singer in the re-formed Big Brother and the Holding Company (without Joplin) from 1969 to 1972. He also worked extensively with John Cipollina after producing the first album by Quicksilver Messenger Service. He and Cipollina formed the Nick Gravenites–John Cipollina Band, which toured throughout Europe.
Gravenites produced the pop hit “One Toke Over the Line” for Brewer & Shipley and the album Right Place, Wrong Time for Otis Rush, for which he was nominated for a Grammy Award. He and John Kahn produced the 1970 album Not Mellowed with Age, by Southern Comfort (CBS S 64125). Gravenites often used pianist Pete Sears in his band Animal Mind, including on his 1980 Blue Star album, on which Sears played keyboards and bass.
In the early 1980s, Gravenites performed and recorded with a revolving group of San Francisco Bay area rock, blues, and soul musicians called the Usual Suspects. Their first album, The Usual Suspects, was released in 1981. Gravenites and Sears played together in front of 100,000 people on Earth Day 1990 at Crissy Field, San Francisco. Sears also joined him for a tour of Greece. Gravenites still performs live in northern California. He was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in 2003 for his song “Born in Chicago”. He has toured with the Chicago Blues Reunion and a new Electric Flag Band.
Gravenites is featured in the documentary film Born in Chicago, in which he and several other Chicago natives tell of growing up with blues music in Chicago. The film was shown at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, in 2013. He currently resides in Occidental, California (by wikipedia)
And here´s a great live recording with his group “Animal Mind”:
Excellent recording, live in Bodega Bay, it captures his late 90s sound at an energetic time. Involving well-balanced sound, the most repeatable CD imho. They played locally regularly, so the band’s chops are up and there is a happy barroom groove. (Though I do have a positive bias because I used to see him every Friday back then.) Good times. (by Gecko)
Nick Gravenites came out of the Chicago blues scene, along with Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield. Those two are long gone now, but Nick is still delivering the goods. This is a fine live cd of Nick and his band Animal Mind doing some of Nicks own timeless blues tunes and many others. Any fan of the blues and any fan of Nicks rich vocals should enjoy this cd very much. (by Philly Mike)
Mark Adams (harmonica)
Roy Blumenfeld (drums)
Nick Gravenites (guirtar, vocals)
Doug Killmer (bass)
01. You Can’t Hurt Me 4:14
02 Gypsy Good Time 7:57
03 Big Bad Etta 7:27
04 Funky News 6:45
05 Wintry Countryside 10:56
06 Blue Highway 6:04
07 My Party 6:47
08 Key To The Highway 4:48
09 Six Weeks In Reno 4:39
10 Southside 5:19
11 Burried Alive In The Blues 5:19
All songs written by Nick Gravenites,
except 08., which was written by Charlie Segar & Big Bill Broonzy