Steppenwolf

  • Hard rock band formed in 1967 from Toronto Canada. Original bandmembers were John Kay (lead vocals), Goldy McJohn (keyboards), Jerry Edmonton (drums), Michael Monarch (guitars) and Rushton Moreve (bass guitar).
  • Kay was born in Germany – his birth name is Joachim Krauledat. His family moved to Canada when he was 14, and at 21, he joined a band called the Sparrows. The band was popular in the Toronto area, and they were ambitious to grow in the music business. A manager with connections in New York City booked them at clubs in the city, where they were well received. They signed a record deal, and 2 singles were recorded, but did not chart. In 1966, the band moved to California, performing in Los Angeles and San Francisco clubs. Eventually, they changed the name of the band to Steppenwolf, named after the Hermann Hesse book of the same name.
  • They were signed to a new record label, and they produced their first album, the self titled Steppenwolf, in December 1967. The first 2 singles from the album were not successful, but the third was the breakthrough that they hoped for – Born To Be Wild reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Some consider the song to be the first heavy metal song, and the lyric in the second verse – “heavy metal thunder” – is the first use of the term in rock music. Rolling Stone chose the song as #129 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Their next album, The Second, produced just 1 single, but it also was a huge hit – my favorite Steppenwolf song, Magic Carpet Ride. The song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 Chart. It has been used in 17 different films, including Easy Rider, Star Trek: First Contact, Apollo 13, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. 
  • The band managed only 1 more top 10 hit – Rock Me, from the 1969 album At Your Birthday Party. 
  • By 1972, the band broke up. They had released 6 studio albums, 2 live albums and 2 compilations. Kay recorded 2 solo albums, while other members performed in other bands. In 1974, Steppenwolf reunited. Three albums were released, but only 1 single cracked the Top 40 – Straight Shootin’ Woman reached #29 in 1974. By 1976, the group disbanded again.
  • Two former members began touring as The New Steppenwolf from 1976 to 1980. They were considered a bogus shell of the Steppenwolf of old.
  • In 1980, John Kay brought in new musicians, and started the group again, using the name John Kay and Steppenwolf. They band recorded 4 albums between 1982 and 1990. They performed a “farewell concert” in 2007, but they started making live appearances again in 2011, and they continue to perform today.
  • Born To Be Wild has evolved into an anthem for the motor biker culture. Its use in the film Easy Rider, a cult classic, along with its famous lyric “Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure and whatever comes our way” cemented this association with bikers. Watch the clip from the film that features the song.

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