Nicholas George Gravenites (/ɡrævᵻˈnaɪtᵻs/; born October 2, 1938), sometimes performing under the stage names Nick "The Greek" Gravenites and Gravy, is a blues, rock and folk singer and songwriter, best known for his work with Janis Joplin, Mike Bloomfield and several influential bands and individuals of the generation springing from the 1960s and 1970s.
His parents were from Palaiochori, Arcadia, in Greece. 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 Kosmic Blues Band. He wrote several songs for Joplin, including her Woodstock hit "Work Me, Lord" and the unfinished instrumental track "Buried Alive in the Blues". 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 was the lead singer in the re-formed Big Brother and the Holding Company (without Joplin) from 1969 to 1972.
Gravenites was also a songwriter for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, consisting of Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Sam Lay, Mark Naftalin, Jerome Arnold and Michael Bloomfield; the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. 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. He 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, released in 1981, included Gravenites on vocals and Bloomfield, Sears, Naftalin, Taj Mahal, Darol Anger, Peter Rowan, Anna Rizzo, Ron Thompson, and others.
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.
Gravenites currently resides in Occidental, California.
- 1968: Long Time Comin', the Electric Flag
- 1969: My Labors
- 1970: Be a Brother, Big Brother and the Holding Company
- 1971: How Hard It Is, Big Brother and the Holding Company
- 1972: Joplin in Concert
- 1973: Steelyard Blues OST
- 1980: Blue Star (Line Records)
- 1981: The Usual Suspects
- 1982: Monkey Medicine, the Nick Gravenites–John Cipollina Band
- 1991: Live at the Rodon, Nick Gravenites and John Cipollina (Music Box)
- 1996: Don't Feed the Animals
- 1999: Kill My Brain
- 2005: Buried Alive in the Blues (live)