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 & The Holding Co., Michael Bloomfield, the Electric Flag, Tracy Nelson, Roy Buchanan, Jimmy Witherspoon, 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.
Nick Gravenite: The Beat Bluesman
Nick Gravenites grew up on the south side 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 south side 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 Buchanan, 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.
Interview © by Michael Limnios Special Thanks: Nick Syllas
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 “The Greek” Gravenites 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 ‘Greatest 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.