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Nick Gravenites

Nick Gravenites
Nick Gravenites approaches his career in the style of the old bluesman-his way, on his terms. This seminal figure who injected life into the folk movement of the late-'50s, and the Chicago urban electric blues sounds of the early and mid-'60s, and was instrumental in the development of the psychedelic era, remains, now in his fifth decade, true to his art-the blues.

Nick Gravenites grew up on the Southside of Chicago hanging out in the mid-'50s with a coterie of misfit white kids-Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop and Mark Naftalin-who went on to form that protean powerhouse of watershed white blues, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. [The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's self-titled first album which opens with the Gravenites blues classic "Born In Chicago" was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in the category "Classic Blues Recordings" in 1997. ] Gravenites was instrumental in the formation of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He solidified the Butterfield Band by acquiring Howlin' Wolf's rhythm section-Jerome Arnold on bass and Sam Lay on drums, thereby creating the essential first inter-racial and most influential blues band of the modern era.

Learning their lessons first-hand from the Southside greats-Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Reed and a host of others-Gravenites, Bloomfield, Butterfield, Bishop and their fellow white blues musicians 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. This group of young white blues musicians are directly responsible for the re-emergence and cross-cultural mass exposure of such legendary bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, BB and Albert King. They are also responsible for the success that blues music and musicians enjoy today. Nick Gravenites was crucial to this scene that laid the foundation for, and explored, modern electric blues. Today Gravenites remains "the keeper of the flame."

>From the late-'50s through the mid-'60s, Gravenites gravitated between Chicago and San Francisco, establishing himself in the Bay Area in 1965. Nick Gravenites is the composer of "Born In Chicago," "Buried Alive In The Blues," "East-West," "Work Me Lord," "Joseph's Coat," "Groovin' Is Easy," "Bad Talkin' Bluesman," "Be A Brother," "Bad Luck Baby," "Small Walk In Box," "Blue Highway," "Southside," "Too Long," and "See To Your Neighbor" just to name a few of the 350 plus songs he has composed.


Gravenites' compositions have been recorded by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag, Michael Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, Janis Joplin, Big Brother & the Holding Company, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Jimmy Witherspoon, David Crosby, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Thunder & Lightning, Blue Gravy, Tracy Nelson, Howlin' Wolf, Sam Lay, Roy Buchanan, Pure Prairie League and an array of others. His production credits include: Otis Rush, James Cotton, Michael Bloomfield, The Electric Flag, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Janis Joplin, and Thunder & Lightning. Nick Gravenites has scored and played on soundtracks for The Trip, Steelyard Blues, and Medium Cool. In addition to his highly sought after first solo album, My Labors, Gravenites has appeared on over 45 albums as singer, songwriter, guitarist, leader, and producer. He is one of the last viable links between the 1950s folk scene, the early '60s urban electric blues scene in Chicago, and the late '60s psychedelic West Coast blues scene. His long-time association with Paul Butterfield, Michael Bloomfield, The Electric Flag, Janis Joplin, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Cipollina, and various others is legendary.

Nick has been playing and living for the last 30 years in Northern CA, where he gigs with his bands: Nick Gravenites and Friends, or Animal Mind, twice a week between San Francisco and Occidental. He is currently writing his book, Dead People Pay My Rent, (with award-winning music journalist Andrew M. Robble) and will be a musical consultant for two upcoming Janis Joplin movies (both movies have licensed a number of Nick's compositions that he wrote for Janis Joplin and for Big Brother & the Holding Company). He has a new live release available from Taxon Records, Don't Feed The Animals, and will be returning to the East Coast in 1998 for his first extended appearance since the Electric Flag reunion tour of 1975. His last show on the East Coast was a one-night sold-out engagement at Manny's Car Wash in New York City in January '96, immediately after coming off a highly successful and critically acclaimed three week, 17 sold-out performances tour of Greece.

Gravenites was recently honored-being selected as one of the featured performers at the Muddy Waters Tribute concert held at Washington, D.C.'s famed Kennedy Center to be broadcast on PBS and European television stations at the beginning of 1998.

Nick Gravenites is constantly in demand for interviews and speaking appearances. He will be available for radio and press interviews immediately upon his return from another tour of Greece in January '98.


Here's What The Critics Think of Nick Gravenites:

His eyes gaze through his glasses with a mixture of humor, street sense and pain. Those same qualities crop up in his best writing, songs like "Work Me Lord," "Buried Alive in the Blues" and "As Good As You've Been," (all written for Janis Joplin); or "Blue Highway" and "Swing With It Brother," the later from Steelyard Blues (the soundtrack that Gravenites composed). Or "Born In Chicago," which became an overnight contemporary blues standard at the hands of Paul Butterfield, in large measure due to its gritty lyrics. -John Grissom, Rolling Stone

The sensitivity and presence that Gravenites brings to his music is unparalleled today, and qualifies him as a National blues treasure to be savored and appreciated. Gravenites combines his guitar style, his songwriting abilities with a "made for the blues" voice, and remains one of the genres seminal figures today. -Andrew M. Robble, Blues Revue

Gravenites [always] resurrects the same blues-rock feeling he was so instrumental in first exposing. -Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle

It is Gravenites that galvanizes the band, as he has with every group he's ever sang with. When he stomps on stage, the band catches fire. -Dave Marsh, Newsday

Gravenites is alone in the field of recreating the old-blues sound. He flatters us by playing against some of the finest blues expressions ever heard. -Phil Elwood, San Francisco Examiner

Gravenites gets the beauty of Percy Sledge and the tone of Bobby Bland to project his own moving songs. -Charlie Gillette, Melody Maker

[Gravenites] the veteran player has chops out the ying-yang, but uses his chords like fat brush-strokes of rhythm and color to create a large sound, unfettered by pyrotechnic solo licks or gratuitous wanking. He plays melodically, fully focused, taking the audience up and down according to his whim. Listening to him play makes one aware of his tremendous influence on his peers. Hear Gravenites live . . . grab it to hear a big piece of the American electric blues experience. He's one of the greats. -Ed Ivey, Blues Revue