Jerry Edmonton [nee McCrohan]
John Russell Morgan
(bass; replaced Moreve)
Nick St. Nicholas
(bass; replaced Morgan 1968)
(bass; replaced St. Nicholas 1970)
(guitar; replaced Monarch 1969)
(guitar; replaced Byrom)
(guitar; replaced Henry 1974)
One of the most loved American acts, like The Band, were actually Canadian. At least 4/5ths were.
Singer John Kay arrived in Toronto with his family (mother and stepfather) in March 1958. He lived in Toronto's High Park region initially before moving to Humberside. After attending
sight-saving classes at Deer Park Elementary School run by the CNIB he went to Humberside Collegiate where he graduated from high school in 1963. The family then moved to Buffalo in 1963 but John kept coming back to Toronto hanging out in Yorkville before heading to LA in 1964. He returned to Toronto in the summer of 1965 and lived in Yorkville, regularly playing the Half Beat Club. It was then that he met up with Nick St. Nickolaus (Klaus Kasbaum) and joined The Sparrows (who were regulars at the Devil's Den club).
The Sparrow had moved from Oshawa to Toronto in late 1964 without its previous lead singer Jack London. Kay himself never lived in Oshawa but the group rehearsed in McCrohan (Edmonton's) garage after Kay and McJohn joined in the fall of 1965. The band, now called Sparrow, did some recordings with Kay in the lineup in Toronto before they headed off to New York in the spring of 1966 to cut 'Tomorrow's Ship'. Kay, meanwhile moved, to L.A.
By 1967, The Sparrow had run its course and Kay was back in Los Angeles, where ABC-Dunhill Records staff producer Gabriel Mekler encouraged him to form a new group to record for his label. Towards that end, the singer reenlisted two old Sparrow bandmates, drummer Jerry Edmonton and keyboardist Goldy McJohn, and recruited 17-year-old guitar prodigy Michael Monarch and bassist Rushton Moreve. The new outfit was christened Steppenwolf, after Hermann Hesse's mystical novel of the same name.
Steppenwolf's self-titled 1968 debut album introduced the band's tough, blues-rooted sound, a penchant for topical lyrics and the gritty growl of Kay. The single "Born to Be Wild" (written by ex-Sparrow member Dennis Edmonton -- aka Mars Bonfire) became Steppenwolf's first major hit, and was subsequently featured, along with Steppenwolf's recording of the Hoyt Axton anti-hard-drug composition "The Pusher", in the seminal '60s film 'Easy Rider'.
The band's career momentum and musical progression continued with such best-selling albums as 'Steppenwolf The Second' (which yielded another Top Five classic in "Magic Carpet Ride"), 'At Your Birthday Party' (which spawned the Top Ten hit "Rock Me"), the ambitiously conceptual 'Monster' (whose politically provocative title track became a surprise hit), 'Steppenwolf Live' (which featured studio single "Hey Lawdy Mama"), 'Steppenwolf 7' and 'For Ladies Only'. Along the way, various members came and went, with bassist Moreve leaving in late 1968; he was initially replaced by former Sparrow member Nick St. Nicholas, before being supplanted in early 1970 by George Biondo. Guitarist Monarch exited in 1969, replaced first by Larry Byrom and subsequently by Kent Henry.
Steppenwolf's popularity continued into the early 1970s. But, burned out from the endless album/tour grind, the quintet officially disbanded on Valentine's Day 1972. Kay then released a pair of critically acclaimed solo albums, 'Forgotten Songs And Unsung Heroes' and 'My Sportin' Life', which found him exploring new musical and lyrical territory.
Following Steppenwolf's highly successful 1974 European "farewell" tour, Kay reformed the band with Jerry Edmonton, Goldy McJohn, George Biondo and new guitarist Bobby Cochran. The group recorded three more albums: 'Slow Flux' (which yielded the Top 20 hit "Straight Shootin' Woman"), 'Hour Of The Wolf', and 'Skullduggery' for the Epic-distributed Mums label, before folding again in 1976. Kay then signed with Mercury Records and relaunched his solo career with 1978's well-received 'All In Good Time'.
It was around this time that Kay learned that two of his former bandmates were touring with a bogus Steppenwolf. The notion of the fake band playing tarnishing the band's legacy and name motivated Kay and Steppenwolf co-founder Jerry Edmonton (who by then had retired from music in favor of a career in photography) to take steps to establish their legal claim to the band name.
In 1980 Kay launched an all-new lineup, now billed as John Kay And Steppenwolf, virtually starting from scratch to restore his band's good name. The new group spent the next several years working a punishing touring regimen, playing anywhere and everywhere it could to rebuild Steppenwolf's reputation. By 1987 the band hadn't conquered the Top 40, but had re-established themselves with a devout following.
Since then, John Kay And Steppenwolf which now includes longtime members Michael Wilk (keyboards/bass) and Ron Hurst (drums) and relatively recent addition Danny Johnson (guitar) have released seven albums and maintained a busy international touring schedule that keeps the band on the road for several months per year. The band also hosts Wolf Fest, an annual weekend-long festival that draws fans from around the world to the band's adopted home base in Tennessee.
In 1994, on the eve of Steppenwolf's 25th anniversary, Kay returned to the former East Germany for a triumphant series of Steppenwolf concerts; that trip reunited him with friends and relatives he had not seen since his early childhood. The same year, Kay published his autobiography, "Magic Carpet Ride".
Today's Steppenwolf, operating without major-label financing, is the model of a successful cyber-age cottage industry. The band's self-contained operation incorporates an in-house 24-track digital recording studio, as well as an extensive website that serves as clubhouse for fans around the world. The website also functions as an outlet for Steppenwolf music, allowing fans easy access to the group's recent work, as well as CD reissues of the entire Steppenwolf and John Kay album catalogue. The band continues to generate vital new music, with a number of recording projects in the works, including the recent John Kay solo effort, 'Heretics And Privateers'.
Steppenwolf's dramatic and sometimes turbulent history recently became the subject of an episode of VH-1's documentary series Behind the Music. That much-talked-about broadcast underlined the band's ongoing stature and influence, but John Kay, now in his fourth decade with Steppenwolf, remains focused firmly on the future.
with notes from John Einarson and John Kay.
A Girl I Knew/The Ostrich (ABC-Dunhill) 4019
Sookie Sookie/Take What You Need (ABC-Dunhill) 4123
Born To Be Wild/Everybody's Next One (ABC-Dunhill) 4138
Magic Carpet Ride/Sookie Sookie (ABC-Dunhill) 4161
Rock Me/Jupiter Child (ABC-Dunhill) 4182
It's Never Too Late/Happy Birthday (ABC-Dunhill) 4192
Move Over/Power Play (ABC-Dunhill) 4205
Monster/Berry Rides Again (ABC-Dunhill) 4221
Hey Lawdy Mama/Twisted (ABC-Dunhill) 4234
Screaming Night Hog/Spiritual Fantasy (ABC-Dunhill) 4248
Who Needs Ya/ (ABC-Dunhill) 4261
Snow Blind Friend/Hippo Stomp (ABC-Dunhill) 4269
Ride With Me/For Madmen Only (ABC-Dunhill) 4283
For Ladies Only/Sparkles Eyes (ABC-Dunhill) 4292
Straight Shootin' Woman/ (Mums/Epic) 6031
Get Into The Wind/ (Mums/Epic) ZS-86034
Steppenwolf (ABC-Dunhill) 50029
Steppenwolf The Second (ABC-Dunhill) 50037
At Your Birthday Party (ABC-Dunhill) DSX-50053
Early Steppenwolf (ABC-Dunhill) DS-50060
Monster (ABC-Dunhill) DS50066
Steppenwolf Live (ABC-Dunhill) DSD-50075
Steppenwolf 7 (ABC-Dunhill) DSX-50090
Steppenwolf Gold (ABC-Dunhill) SX-50099
For Ladies Only (ABC-Dunhill) DSX-50110
Rest In Peace (ABC-Dunhill) DSX-50124
16 Greatest Hits (ABC-Dunhill) DSX-50135
Slow Flux (Mums/Epic) PZ-33093
16 Great Performances (ABC) ABCD-4011
Hour Of The Wolf (Epic) PE-33583
Skullduggery (Epic) PE-34120
The ABC Collection (ABC) AC-30008
Reborn To Be Wild (Epic) PE-34382
as JOHN KAY AND STEPPENWOLF
Live In London (Mercury/Polygram - Australia) 6437147
Wolftracks (Attic/Wolf) LAT-1145
Paradox (Attic/Wolf) LAT-1191
Rock 'N' Roll Rebels (Qwil) NU-1560
Rise & Shine (IRS) IRSD-82046
Born To Be Wild: A Retrospective (MCA) MCAD2-10389
Live At 25 (ERA) 5030
Feed The Fire (Winter Harvest) WH3310-2
Paradox [CD re-issue] (Attic/Wolf) LAT-1191
Rise & Shine [CD re-issue] (IRS) IRSD-82046
as JOHN KAY AND SPARROW
John Kay & Sparrow (Columbia) CS-9758
The Best Of... (Columbia/Legacy) CK-50344
"Straight Shootin' Woman" on 'Canada Gold - 22 Karat Hits' (K-Tel) TC-225
Official Steppenwolf Website
Official Goldy McJohn Website
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