the chaotic world of rock 'n' roll, in which the lifespan of most
bands can be measured in terms of a few years or a few months,
John Kay and Steppenwolf have emerged as one of rock's most
enduring and respected bands, delivering hard-hitting,
personally-charged music for more than three decades.
In the late 1960s, Steppenwolf embodied that era's
social, political and philosophical restlessness, building an
impressive body of edgy, uncompromising rock 'n' roll that retains
its emotional resonance more than 3 decades after the band's
Such Steppenwolf standards as "Born to
Be Wild," "Magic Carpet Ride," "Rock Me"
and "Monster" stand amongst
Rock's most indelible anthems.
At last count, the band's worldwide record sales
exceed 25 million units. Its songs remain fixtures on classic-rock
radio, and have been licensed for use in approximately 50 motion
pictures and an even greater number of television programs. And,
in addition to being the first band to use the term "heavy
metal" in a song (in "Born to Be
Wild"), Steppenwolf's punchy style helped to establish
the fundamentals of the hard rock sound that would flourish in the
Along the way, various members came and
went. "Steppenwolf was always kind of a work in
progress," says Kay. "By our second album, we had become
more confident in not having to mimic others in our attitude, in
our look or in our music. ..."
Steppenwolf's popularity and influence continued
unabated into the early 1970s. But, 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, which
found him exploring new musical and lyrical territory, with
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 3 more albums, Slow Flux,
which yielded the Top 20 hit "Straight
Shootin' Woman", Hour of the Wolf and Skullduggery,
before calling it a day once again in 1976. Kay then signed with
Mercury Records and relaunched his solo career with 1978's All
In Good Time.
It was around this time that John Kay and
Steppenwolf co-founder, Jerry Edmonton (who by then had retired
from music in favor of a career in photography), took steps to
establish their legal claim to the band name.
1980 Kay launched an all-new lineup, now billed as John Kay and
Steppenwolf, spending the next several years working a punishing
touring regimen. This period put Kay and company back in
touch with a large and loyal fan base, as well as an influx of
younger listeners responsive to band's enduring appeal, that has
kept Steppenwolf rolling ever since. Since then, John Kay and
Steppenwolf, which now includes longtime members Michael Wilk on
keyboards and bass; Ron Hurst on drums; and relatively recent
addition Danny Johnson on guitar, have released 7 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 - fondly dubbed "the Wolfpack"- to the
band's adopted home base in Tennessee.
In 1994, John Kay published his autobiography,
Magic Carpet Ride, compellingly relating the ups and downs
and his and his band's history.
Today's Steppenwolf continues to generate vital
new music, with a number of recording projects in the works,
including the recent John Kay solo effort, Heretics and
"There's a lot of truth in that old cliché
about whatever doesn't kill you making you stronger," Kay
concludes. "Looking back, I realize that it's the struggles
that have taught us how to gain our independence and live the rock
'n' roll of life on our own terms."