Steppenwolf (band)

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Steppenwolf
Steppenwolf (1971).png
Steppenwolf in 1970 (L-R: Goldy McJohn, Jerry Edmonton, John Kay, Larry Byrom, George Biondo)
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States [1]
Genres
Years active
  • 1967 (1967)–1972 (1972)
  • 1974 (1974)–1976 (1976)
  • 1980 (1980)–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website steppenwolf.com
Members

Steppenwolf is a Canadian-American rock band, prominent from 1968 to 1972. The group was formed in late 1967 in Los Angeles by lead singer John Kay, keyboardist Goldy McJohn, and drummer Jerry Edmonton (all formerly in Jack London & the Sparrows from Oshawa, Ontario). [6] Guitarist Michael Monarch and bass guitarist Rushton Moreve were recruited by notices placed in Los Angeles-area record and musical instrument stores.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Typically, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known colloquially by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California and the second most populous city in the United States, after New York. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. Nicknamed the "City of Angels" partly because of its name's Spanish meaning, Los Angeles is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood, and the entertainment industry, and sprawling metropolis.

John Kay (musician) musician

John Kay is a German-Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist known as the frontman of Steppenwolf.

Contents

Steppenwolf sold over 25 million records worldwide, [7] released eight gold albums and 12 Billboard Hot 100 singles, of which six were top 40 hits, [8] including three top 10 successes: "Born to Be Wild", "Magic Carpet Ride", and "Rock Me". Steppenwolf enjoyed worldwide success from 1968 to 1972, but clashing personalities led to the end of the core lineup. Today, John Kay is the only original member, having served as the lead singer since 1967.

The Billboard Hot 100 is the music industry standard record chart in the United States for songs, published weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on sales, radio play, and online streaming in the United States.

In the music industry, the top 40 is the current, 40 most-popular songs in a particular genre. It is the best-selling or most frequently broadcast popular music. Record charts have traditionally consisted of a total of 40 songs. "Top 40" or "contemporary hit radio" is also a radio format. Frequent variants of the Top 40 are the Top 10, Top 20, Top 30, Top 50, Top 75, Top 100 and Top 200.

Born to Be Wild single

"Born to Be Wild" is a song written by Mars Bonfire and first performed by the band Steppenwolf, The song is often invoked in both popular and counter culture to denote a biker appearance or attitude. It is sometimes described as the first heavy metal song, and the second verse lyric "heavy metal thunder" marks the first use of this term in rock music.

History

The Sparrows

In 1965 John Kay joined the Sparrows, a popular Canadian band, and was followed by Goldy McJohn. The group eventually broke up. [9]

The Sparrows, also known as Jack London and the Sparrows from 1964 to 1965, was a Canadian blues rock band that existed in the 1960s. Notable for being the first group to break out musician John Kay into the mainstream, The Sparrows later morphed into the popular heavy rock group Steppenwolf.

Breakthrough success and decline (1968–1972)

In 1968, Gabriel Mekler urged Kay to re-form the Sparrows and suggested the name change to Steppenwolf, inspired by Hermann Hesse's novel of the same name. [10] [6] [9] Steppenwolf's first two singles were "A Girl I Knew" and "Sookie Sookie". The band finally rocketed to worldwide fame after their third single, "Born to Be Wild", was released in 1968, as well as their version of Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher". Both of these tunes were used prominently in the 1969 counterculture cult film Easy Rider (both titles originally had been released on the band's debut album). [6] In the movie, "The Pusher" accompanies a drug deal, and Peter Fonda stuffing dollar bills into his Stars and Stripes-clad fuel tank, after which "Born to Be Wild" is heard in the opening credits, with Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding their Harley choppers through the America of the late 1960s. The song, which has been closely associated with motorcycles ever since, introduced to rock lyrics the signature term "heavy metal" [6] (though not about a kind of music, but about a motorcycle: "I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racin' with the wind..."). Written by Sparrow guitarist Dennis Edmonton, who had begun using the pen name Mars Bonfire and inspired by a billboard roadside advertisement Bonfire liked which depicted a motorcycle tearing through the billboard artwork, the song had already reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1968. [6] It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. [11]

Gabriel Mekler was an American songwriter, musician, and record producer who attained fame in the 1960s, helming albums for Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, and Janis Joplin. He also collaborated with R&B singer Etta James for two critically acclaimed albums in the early 1970s, mixing blues, soul, land then topped it off with Genya Ravan production jazz and rock.

Hermann Hesse German writer

Hermann Karl Hesse was a German-born poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Demian, Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

<i>Steppenwolf</i> (novel) novel by Hermann Hesse

Steppenwolf is the tenth novel by German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse.

In 1968, Steppenwolf played one of their biggest shows up to that time at the Filmore East to rave reviews, sharing the bill with Buddy Rich and Children of God. [12] On November 27, 1968, they played a concert with Iron Butterfly at the Baltimore Civic Center.

Buddy Rich Jazz drummer and bandleader

Bernard "Buddy" Rich was an American jazz drummer and bandleader. He is considered one of the most influential drummers of all time and was known for his virtuoso technique, power, and speed. He performed with Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Count Basie, and led a big band.

Iron Butterfly American rock group

Iron Butterfly is an American rock band best known for the 1968 hit "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", providing a dramatic sound that led the way towards the development of hard rock and heavy metal music. Formed in San Diego, California, among band members who used to be "arch enemies", their heyday was the late 1960s, but the band has been reincarnated with various members with varying levels of success, with no new recordings since 1975. The band's seminal 1968 album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is among the world's 40 best-selling albums, selling more than 30 million copies. Iron Butterfly is also notable for being the first group to receive an RIAA platinum album award.

The group's following albums had several more hit singles, including "Magic Carpet Ride" (which reached number three) from The Second and "Rock Me" (with its bridge lasting 1:06, which reached number 10) from At Your Birthday Party . [6] It also sold in excess of a million units. [11] Monster , which questioned US Vietnam War policy, was the band's most political album. Following the Monster album from 1969, the following year, the band released Steppenwolf 7 , which included the song "Snowblind Friend", another Hoyt Axton-penned song about the era and attitudes of drugs and associated problems. The band lineup for their live performances in the middle of 1970 was John Kay, Jerry Edmonton, Goldy McJohn, Larry Byrom, and George Biondo. This lineup was also unable to remain together, as Byrom became upset with McJohn over personal issues and quit the band in the early part of 1971.

Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf song) 1968 single by Steppenwolf

"Magic Carpet Ride" is a rock song written by John Kay and Rushton Moreve from the Canadian-American hard rock band Steppenwolf. The song was initially released in 1968 on the album The Second. It was the lead single from that album, peaking at number three in the US, and staying in the charts for 16 weeks, longer than any other Steppenwolf song.

<i>The Second</i> album by Steppenwolf

The Second is the second studio album by Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf, released in October 1968 on ABC Dunhill Records. The album contains one of Steppenwolf's most famous songs, "Magic Carpet Ride". The background of the original ABC LP cover was a shiny "foil", in contrast to later LP issues and the modern CD sleeve.

<i>At Your Birthday Party</i> album by Steppenwolf

At Your Birthday Party is the third studio album by Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf. The album was released in March 1969, by ABC Dunhill Records.

Several changes in the group's personnel were made after the first few years. [6] Moreve was fired from the group in 1968 for missing gigs after he became afraid to return to Los Angeles, convinced by his girlfriend that it was going to be leveled by an earthquake and fall into the sea. Rob Black briefly filled in for Moreve until former Sparrow bandmate Nick St. Nicholas came aboard in the latter months of 1968. Monarch quit the group in August 1969 as his relationship with Kay deteriorated. Larry Byrom, who had been in TIME with Nick St. Nicholas, ably replaced Monarch. Nick St. Nicholas was let go in mid-1970. He had supposedly appeared in nothing but rabbit ears and a jock strap at the Fillmore East in April 1969 [13] – a poorly documented tale hotly denied by St. Nicholas[ citation needed ] – and his habit of wearing muumuus and kaftans on stage began to wear on Kay, whose penchant for leather vests and pants was more in line with the image he wanted for the band. George Biondo was then recruited, and guitarist Kent Henry replaced Byrom in early 1971. [6] In November 1971, the band released For Ladies Only, with the lineup consisting of Kay, Henry, Biondo, McJohn, and Edmonton. The album was notable for several reasons, most notably the controversial LP inside cover art, the romantic, political, and social lyrical content, and the fact that it featured several of the group members on lead vocals.

Breakup (1972–1973)

The band broke up after a farewell concert in Los Angeles on Valentine's Day, 1972. Kay went on to a brief solo career, scoring a minor solo hit in 1972 with "I'm Movin' On" from his album Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes. Although it received generally high marks from most critics, the album sales were disappointing in the US. [6] Kay released a second solo album in 1973 on the Dunhill label titled My Sportin' Life. This album sold less than his first solo album and was less gritty and more LA studio-polish in sound.

Following the first official breakup of Steppenwolf, and after the release of Kay's first solo album, a late summer and autumn 1972 tour in the USA and Europe occurred, which featured Kay heading both the John Kay Band and Steppenwolf, at the top of the bill. Dunhill had released an album of a collection of Steppenwolf songs titled Rest in Peace. Thus, the tour was known as the RIP tour. [14] The John Kay Band included Hugh Sullivan on keyboards and Whitey (Pentti) Glan on drums (both were contributors to John Kay's first solo album). Kent Henry on lead and slide guitar and George Biondo on bass joined Kay in both lineups. The Steppenwolf band lineup featured Goldy McJohn on keyboards and Jerry Edmonton on drums. This tour proved to be a fairly positive experience for all of the musicians and drew respectable crowd turnouts.

Following this tour, while Kay was recording his second solo album in 1973, McJohn and Edmonton continued to play and formed a band called Manbeast. Some of the material created in the Manbeast days showed up on the 1974 Steppenwolf reunion album, most notably "Gang War Blues", which was recorded as a demo with Edmonton singing slightly different lyrics.

Reunion (1974–1976)

Steppenwolf reformed in 1974 with its core lineup of Kay, Edmonton, and McJohn, along with longtime bassist Biondo and newcomer Bobby Cochran, Eddie Cochran's nephew, on lead guitar. [6] The band signed with Mums Records in retaliation for what Kay perceived as a lack of support by Dunhill Records for his solo albums. Their first reunion album was Slow Flux, which included their last top 40 hit, "Straight Shootin' Woman". [6] In February 1975, McJohn was dismissed for what Kay described as a decline in the quality of his performances, as well as erratic behavior. McJohn was replaced by Andy Chapin on Hour of the Wolf in 1975, though McJohn appeared in artwork for the single to Caroline. After the album peaked at number 155, Kay attempted to dissolve the band again, but the label, now having been absorbed by Epic Records, insisted Steppenwolf record one more album to satisfy their contractual obligations. The ensuing album, Skullduggery (1976), featuring Wayne Cook on keyboards, was released without a tour to support it, and by the early fall of 1976, Steppenwolf disbanded a second time. Kay appeared in a segment of the popular music TV show The Midnight Special to announce the end of Steppenwolf and also played a solo version of the song "Hey I'm Alright". This song appeared on Kay's third solo album All In Good Time, released on Mercury Records in 1978. [6]

"New Steppenwolf" revival act (1976–1980)

After Kay disbanded Steppenwolf, former members Goldy McJohn and Nick St. Nicholas formed a "revival act" called "New Steppenwolf". McJohn did not last long, but St. Nicholas continued with the venture for several years. Various incarnations included, according to author Dave Thompson, a "revolving door of musicians" consisting of "jobbing players". [15] Among those players were vocalist Tom Holland and drummer Steve Riley of future W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns fame. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll described these bands as "unprofessional, bogus versions" of Steppenwolf. [9] Although Kay and Edmonton had originally licensed the use of the "New Steppenwolf" name, they later sued for breach of the contract. St. Nicholas agreed in 1980 to cease use of the name, but legal disputes about promotional use of the Steppenwolf name continued until 2000. [16]

John Kay and Steppenwolf (1980–present)

Kay and Steppenwolf performing in Lillehammer, Norway, May 26, 2007 John Kay.JPG
Kay and Steppenwolf performing in Lillehammer, Norway, May 26, 2007

Kay had a few meetings with David Pesnell about management, concert promotions, and producing a new album for the band. Pesnell wanted to produce an album featuring new songs on side A, by the reformed band Three Dog Night and with side B of the album featuring songs by Steppenwolf. The album's working name was "Back to Back", a play on each band having a side of the album and the fact the bands were back together again. Pesnell's concept was simple: each band should record four new songs, with a fifth song on each side featuring a medley of the band's past songs. This would give the Pesnell-produced album a double release of singles to support a concert tour featuring the two bands. Though both bands liked the concept of the album and tour, the arguments included who would be side A and side B and which of the two would headline the upcoming concert tour.

The reformed John Kay and Steppenwolf line-up featured John Kay, Michael Palmer (guitars, backing vocals), Steve Palmer (drums, backing vocals), Danny Ironstone (keyboards, backing vocals), and Kurtis Teel on bass. The Palmer brothers had played in a group called Tall Water and had also been involved with Kay in his solo career playing live gigs in the late 1970s. Teel was replaced by Chad Peery and Ironstone by Brett Tuggle by 1981, and the new grouping released Live in London overseas. Tuggle was then displaced by Michael Wilk and a new studio album, Wolftracks , was released in 1982 on the small Attic (Nautilus in the U.S.) record label. Wolftracks was one of the earliest digitally recorded albums in the industry. It was recorded live on a two-track Sony digital recording system. Bassist Welton Gite, who appeared on this album, left shortly after its completion and was replaced by Gary Link, formerly with Dokken. Another album, Paradox, followed in 1984.

In December 1984, the band as it was disbanded and Kay and Wilk decided to continue on in early 1985 with a pared-down quartet composed of Kay, Wilk, Wilk's friend Ron Hurst (drums, backing vocals), and Rocket Ritchotte (guitars, backing vocals). Wilk also handled bass duties from his sequencing computer keyboards from then on. This line-up released Rock N' Roll Rebels (1987) and Rise & Shine (1990); these were on the Qwil and I.R.S. Records imprints, respectively. Ritchotte had departed temporarily in 1989 to be replaced by Les Dudek and then Steve Fister, but then returned in 1990 for three more years. Fister (ex-Iron Butterfly) came back in late 1993, but turned guitar duties over to Danny Johnson (formerly of Derringer, Rod Stewart, and others) in 1996.

As the band was named after the novel Der Steppenwolf by German author Hermann Hesse, who was born in the Black Forest town of Calw, the city invited them to come over and play in the International Hermann-Hesse-Festival 2002, [17] along with other bands inspired by Hesse, such as Anyone's Daughter. The concert drew considerable media coverage, with Kay's fluent German stunning those who did not know beforehand about his growing up in Germany – in fact, he was born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany (now Sovetsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia).

The band performed what they then labeled their "Farewell Concert" on October 6, 2007 at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland, featuring Kay, keyboardist and programmer Michael Wilk, drummer Ron Hurst, and guitarist Danny Johnson; however, they started making live appearances again in 2011 in North America, and continue through all of 2017.

Band members

Current members

Discography

Steppenwolf
John Kay and Steppenwolf

Notable performances

Related Research Articles

Jerry Edmonton Canadian rock drummer

Gerald Michael Edmonton was the drummer for the rock band Steppenwolf.

<i>Slow Flux</i> album by Steppenwolf

Slow Flux is an album by Steppenwolf, released in 1974 under the label Epic. In the US it was released on the Mums Records label, a short-lived CBS Records subsidiary. It was the first of three albums the band created after reforming in 1974 before they disbanded again in 1976. "Straight Shootin' Woman" was the last Steppenwolf song to chart on the Billboard magazine Top 40. The song "Children of the Night" notably posits that the hippie movement at this time had died, and president Richard Nixon is referred to as "the fool who believed that wrong is right".

<i>Steppenwolf</i> (Steppenwolf album) album by Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf is the debut album by Canadian rock band Steppenwolf, released in January 1968 on ABC Dunhill Records.

<i>Early Steppenwolf</i> live album by Steppenwolf

Early Steppenwolf is a collection of live recordings by Steppenwolf when they were still known as "The Sparrow" [nee: "The Sparrows"]. It was released in July 1969 on the ABC Dunhill Records label.

<i>Monster</i> (Steppenwolf album) 1969 Steppenwolf album

Monster is the fourth studio album by Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf. The album was released in November 1969, by ABC Dunhill Records. It was their first LP with new lead guitarist, Larry Byrom instead of Michael Monarch. The album was Steppenwolf's most political one, making references to important issues at the time, such as the Vietnam War.

<i>Steppenwolf 7</i> 1970 Steppenwolf album

Steppenwolf 7 is an album by the band Steppenwolf, released in 1970, and their fifth studio recording for Dunhill Records. It is the first Steppenwolf album with new bass player George Biondo. While the album featured Steppenwolf's trademark rock and roll sounds, none of the songs were able to make the top 40. The album featured a cover of Hoyt Axton's "Snowblind Friend", their second cover of one of his antidrug songs. Along with "Who Needs Ya", it was one of two singles from the album which made the charts, but fell short of the top 40. The album track "Renegade" is autobiographical for lead vocalist John Kay, recounting his flight with his mother from the Soviet occupied part of Germany to the West in 1948. The intro to "Earschplittenloudenboomer" is spoken by Kay partially in German.

<i>For Ladies Only</i> 1971 Steppenwolf album

For Ladies Only is the sixth studio album by Steppenwolf, released in 1971. It is a political concept album mainly about feminism but with several more conventional songs about romance as well, both unusual themes for Steppenwolf. Some critics saw the album as sexist, citing the lyrics of the songs and a photo of a car shaped like a penis alongside the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the gatefold. The album saw the band hinting toward the progressive rock movement that was popular at the time with more complex arrangements and sophisticated keyboard playing, particularly on the title track. Like their previous album, it was accompanied by two minor hit singles which fell just short of the Top 40.

<i>Hour of the Wolf</i> (album) album by Steppenwolf

Hour of the Wolf is the eighth studio album by the Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf, released in 1975. It was the second of their four albums released under the label Epic. Andy Chapin replaced long time keyboardist Goldy McJohn on this album.

<i>Steppenwolf Live</i> 1970 live album by Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Live is primarily a collection of recordings from a single concert early in 1970 at the Santa Monica Civic Center by Steppenwolf staged in support of their 1969 album Monster. Released in April 1970 by Dunhill Records, it contains Steppenwolf's well-known hits: "Born to Be Wild", "Magic Carpet Ride" and "The Pusher", as well as most of the songs from Monster, including the top 40 hit live version of "Monster".

Rushton Moreve was an American bass guitarist best known for his work with the rock band Steppenwolf from 1967–68 and again in 1978. According to singer John Kay, Moreve was an intuitive bassist with a melodic style that brought a non-commercial sound to Steppenwolf, a technique exemplified on the hit he co-wrote with Kay, "Magic Carpet Ride".

The Pusher

"The Pusher" is a rock song written by Hoyt Axton, made popular by the 1969 movie Easy Rider which used Steppenwolf's version to accompany the opening scenes showing drug trafficking.

George Biondo American musician

George Michael Biondo was the bass guitarist of the American rock band, Steppenwolf, from April 1970 to October 1976. Though born in New York, he has been based in Southern California throughout his ongoing career as a session musician and songwriter.

<i>Gold: Their Great Hits</i> 1971 compilation album by Steppenwolf

Gold: Their Great Hits was the first greatest hits collection released by the American rock band Steppenwolf. The album, released in 1971, charted at #24 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts and was certified "gold" by the RIAA on April 12, 1971. Initial pressings of the album came in a gatefold sleeve, with a detachable poster of the band.

<i>Wolftracks</i> Album by Steppenwolf

Wolftracks is an album by John Kay and Steppenwolf, released in 1982. It was originally released only in Canada and Australia. The album was the first new studio album in six years for John Kay, with a new line-up of Steppenwolf. 1982—Imported.

<i>20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Steppenwolf</i> compilation album by Steppenwolf

20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Steppenwolf, released by Universal Music as part of their 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection series, is a CD that collects material by Steppenwolf from 1968 to 1971. The compilation focuses on Steppenwolf’s Dunhill recordings, with the bulk of material coming from their Steppenwolf through At Your Birthday Party albums. While generally regarded as a solid representation of Steppenwolf’s early-period proto-metal work from the 1960s, there were no new tracks or previously unreleased songs included. It includes liner notes by Joseph Laredo and was digitally remastered by Erick Labson. It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on October 29, 2004, the first output by Steppenwolf to earn such a designation since 16 Greatest Hits went gold on April 12, 1971.

Live at 25 is a live album released by the American hard rock band Steppenwolf in 1995.

Live in Louisville is a live album from John Kay & Steppenwolf which was released in 2004 on Rainman Records. It contains Steppenwolf's well-known hits, such as "Born To be Wild," "Magic Carpet Ride," and "The Pusher" as well as material from John Kay's 2001 release, Heretics & Privateers.

The Collection is a compilation album released in 2003 by the Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf.

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  14. [ dead link ]
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