And Gravenites got his chance to play at an afternoon blues workshop, as he was considered "a member of the Butterfield-Grossman entourage," before Dylan's turn came later. One must realize that just the year before, Dylan was considered not part of the dirty rock and roll scene, and was identified with the "topicality" purists.
They were concerned with not stooping to crass commercialization; which was more grotesque to them than just the greasers in jeans. More significantly, it was the brouhaha the next day, with Dylan having those Chicago musicians become his electrified back-up, which horrified die hard folk fans. Later Gravenites would learn from Paul that Grossman was not really taking care of him and Mike in New York in the studio, and elsewhere on the road, as Grossman concentrated more on the money makers, i.
Bob Dylan. Gravenites' successful contribution would in when the Paul Butterfield Blues Band released their album on Elektra. The first thing one hears is his signature song recorded that year, "Born in Chicago.
Meanwhile Jeff Spitz, who had recorded Gravenites with other musicians on an under-marketed album, joined him in their own jointly operated blues club, The Burning Bush. Here he was able to front his own group, the Chicago Folk Quintet, made up of Nick on guitar and vocals, helped on guitar by Bob Perry, and Gilbert Moses; Roger Wundershide performed duties on the drums, his bassist was Lou Hensley, who helped with songwriting with him and Gilbert Moses. Gravenites had to borrow Spitz's Fender Mustang electric guitar to be plugged-in for a change from his acoustic habit.
From a guy that was around shootings and heavy drugs, it is kind of strange he tells this story:. One time between songs the guitar brushed up against the microphone stand and there was a big explosion and a blue flash that melted the strings off of the guitar.
Luckily, I had the guitar hanging loosely from my neck with my hands not touching or I would have died from the electric shock. I've been living with the nightmare of death by electric shock ever since. Being a singer keeps you close to the microphone and I've had a lot of shocks over the years, but nothing to compare to that one experience at the Bush.
If running your fingers across steel strings gives you calluses on your tips, constant electrical shocks gave me calluses on my lips.
Every time I get on a new stage and I look at the microphone I'm thinking, "is this the big one? It's a crap shoot every time you get on stage. Since his bunch were not quite ready, he gave a venue for a Muddy Waters ' musician, James Cotton , and his new ensemble, to open the weekend before his own group. Gravenites admits the audience was not ready for the eclectic mix from their debut. His anecdote about Steve Miller is pertinent and worth relaying here:. He had another encounter with Janis Joplin when she came to Chicago with Big Brother and the Holding Company looking to find a more receptive audience at the club Mother Blues.
Gravenites first welcomed the group more as a guide and bodyguard as the mellow Californians were way out of their element on the streets of Chicago. Gravenites had previously known James Gurley during his forays to Frisco. Chet was in a losing ended competition with Bill Graham and his Fillmore Ballroom, furthermore San Francisco was not ready in for their blues approach, that was a bit different from the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.
Gravenites, when he saw them at their gig, saw a struggling and tired bunch:. Some bad politics and management would eventually spell the end to Chicago remaining a blues mecca in its heyday. Gravenites did not mention how Detroit's Mo-town sound and rock and roll had catalyzed that decline. After business partner Jeff Spitz subsequently divorced, remarried, and died on a motorcycle, Gravenites made the decision to move back to the Left Coast in , ending his resident part of the Chicago blues story.
He explains how his mixed bag style was part of emigrating:. It was not hard coming back to the beauty that surrounds the San Francisco Bay area, that first enthralled him when he initially visited crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. This time it was not to rejoin the West Coast beatnik folk scene, that he had already departed from musically in Chi-town, but to bring his version of the blues to Frisco. In there was finally the big recording break when "Gravy", as Gravenites was sometimes known, hooked up with his old Chicago pals, Michael Bloomfield and keyboardist Barry Goldberg.
Bloomfield had just left the Paul Butterfield Blues Band after they had finished their second album, East West , And along with Goldberg who had previously been working with Steve Miller they brought in Peter Strazza on tenor saxophone. They secured on trumpet, Marcus Doubleday , who did studio work for Bobby Vinton , the Drifters , and Jan and Dean , then obtained experienced journeyman Herbie Rich for baritone sax.
For this movie exploring the trials and tribulations of LSD , they were able to proceed no holds barred, musically. Their first live show was mid-June at the Monterey Pop Festival , and if you replay the movie documentary over again thinking you missed them, gone , it was swept up off the cutting floor.
That August they were the opening act before Cream at the Fillmore West. Released in , it continues to have mixed reviews, mostly less than exemplary, I happen to like Gravenites pleasant voice, which sometimes is one of the complaints: but he does not try to be what he is not. There are enough tracks, where the music is strong, even if lyrics are not Shakespeare 's, to have something to please most anyone: some with more pure rhythm and blues, others a bit more avant garde.
They are listed here. Like so many great artists, some fell to the temptations of self-medication, ego-trip ping and add to that their lost leadership, especially when founder Bloomfield left. He played at the Fillmore East and West with Al Kooper and Bloomfield and those recordings came out later in albums named for the venue, and again re-released in Killing My Love - 2.
Gypsy Good Time - 3. Holy Moly - 4. Moon Tune - 5. My Labors - 6. Throw Your Dog A Bone - 7. Wintry Countryside - 9. It Takes Time Otis Rush - Blues On A Westside - After that project he was ready to rejoin his brothers and sisters of Big Brother again since the original big sister, Janis, had reformed elsewhere in It was at this time he wrote many more songs, and helped vocals with Kathi McDonald on an album in , Be a Brother and followed it the next year with How Hard It Is , and they toured a bit, finished in New Year's day, , he reunited with Rothchild and Butterfield for Electra to finish Janis' last album at Bearsville.
The Band also used this studio, now the last analog one. He and Bloomfield did a soundtrack for the movie Steelyard Blues. There was a feeble attempt by Bloomfield at a reunion of the Electric Flag that never got hoisted, but resulted in the vinyl, The Band Kept Playing. On this project he had Pete Sears, who would become his regular pianist, and it featured Huey Lewis on harmonica. The decade of the eighties brought more news of friends dying, 37 year-old Michael Bloomfield was found dead from an overdose in his car that February of Gravenites helped Cipollina again in a San Francisco project called "Thunder and Lightning" And while he was having a paid vacation of sorts, visiting the Old Country, in Rodon, Greece, and putting on a concert there, recorded but not released until , his old friend Paul Butterfield , 44, had either a fatal heart attack or a heroin overdose, as in different reports, in May, Not too long afterwards, he finished working with Cipollina, that guitarist friend died in May, in lifelong chronic emphysema catching him at only 45 years old.
Buddy Miles, who was touring at the end of , died in at Alternating members kept this Reunion going on through the fall of In the documentary, Born in Chicago was in theaters, to great joy of blues fans. Not only did it have all of the musicians mentioned earlier, it included vignettes by Marshall Chess of the record company, Keith Richard , Eric Burdon , and B.
Fast forward to today, , though he still plays, it is preferably in the local Bay area clubs. He has one son from the first marriage, and another boy from his second and present wife Marcia, whom he lives with in Sonoma County, California.
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