Still going strong well into their fourth decade, the boys from Steppenwolf helped lay the foundation for 70s hard rock and heavy metal by introducing the notion of the classic rock anthem. Their roaring rebel biker classic "Born To Be Wild," first featured in the famous opening sequence of the movie Easy Rider, is every desert driver's singalong mantra. "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Rock Me" were also U.S. Top 10 singles, and the group showed remarkable depth by addressing contemporary issues such as politics, drugs and racial prejudice.
Although based in southern California, Steppenwolf evolved out of a Toronto act, the Sparrow. Steppenwolf's remarkable resilience is largely a reflection of the fierce determination and never-say-die tenacity that's driven lead singer John Kay for much of his life. Born Joachim Fritz Krauledat, he grew up in Hannover, West Germany, where he was profoundly affected by the American rock 'n' roll he heard on U.S. Armed Forces Radio. In 1958, the teenager emigrated with his mother and stepfather to Toronto, where he immersed himself in the rock, R&B, country and gospel music of late-night U.S. clear-channel AM stations.
By 1967, The Sparrow had run its course and Kay, eager to start a new band, moved to Los Angeles, where he 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.
On the strength of its self-titled debut that was recorded in only four days, Steppenwolf became one of the few bands of the late '60s to appeal to both the pop-oriented AM mainstream and the hip FM underground, scoring substantial success on both the single and album charts. "Born to Be Wild" cemented the band's status as counterculture icons.
The band's career momentum and musical progression continued with such best-selling albums as Steppenwolf The Second (which included the Top Five classic "Magic Carpet Ride"), At Your Birthday Party (the Top Ten hit "Rock Me"), the concept album Monster), Steppenwolf Live, Steppenwolf 7 and For Ladies Only.
Still popular but burned out, the quintet officially disbanded on Valentine's Day 1972, a day that L.A. Mayor Sam Yorty officially designated as "Steppenwolf Day." Kay then released a pair of critically acclaimed solo albums, Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes and My Sportin' Life.
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 for the Epic-distributed Mums label, before breaking up again in 1976.
In 1980 Kay launched an all-new lineup, now billed as John Kay and Steppenwolf, which toured over the next few years and built a Grateful Dead like cult following. Since then, the band has released seven albums and has beome the annual host of Wolf Fest, an annual weekend-long festival that draws fans from around the world -fondly dubbed "the Wolfpack"- 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. The same year, Kay published his autobiography, Magic Carpet Ride.
Operating without major-label financing, today's Steppenwolf is a self-contained operation that has an in-house 24-track digital recording studio, as well as an extensive website (www.steppenwolf.com) that serves as a cyber-clubhouse for fans around the world.