According to author and popular 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 Maine, 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 (without Joplin). 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 and John Kahn produced the 1970 album Not Mellowed with Age, by Southern Comfort (Columbia Broadcasting System South 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.