Although based in southern California, Steppenwolf evolved out of a Toronto act, the Sparrow. John Kay (Joachim Fritz Krauledat, 12 April 1944, Tilsit, East Prussia; vocals), Michael Monarch (b. 5 July 1950, Los Angeles, California, USA; lead guitar), Goldy McJohn (b. 2 May 1945; keyboards), Rushton Moreve (d. 1 July 1981; bass) and Jerry Edmonton (b. 24 October 1946, Canada; drums) assumed their new name in 1967, inspired by the novel by cult author Herman Hesse. John Morgan replaced Moreve prior to recording. The bands exemplary debut album included Born To Be Wild which reached number 2 in the US charts. This rebellious anthem was written by Dennis Edmonton (aka Mars Bonfire), guitarist in Sparrow and brother of drummer Jerry. It was featured in the famous opening sequence of the movie Easy Rider, and has since acquired classic status (the song achieved its highest UK chart position, number 18, when it was re-released in February 1999). Steppenwolf actively cultivated a menacing, hard rock image, and successive collections mixed this heavy style with blues. Magic Carpet Ride and Rock Me were also US Top 10 singles yet the group deflected the criticism attracted by such temporal success by addressing contemporary issues such as politics, drugs and racial prejudice. Newcomers Larry Byrom (guitar) and Nick St. Nicholas (b. 28 September 1943, Hamburg, Germany; bass), former members of Time, were featured on Monster, Steppenwolfs most cohesive set. A concept album based on Kays jaundiced view of contemporary (1970) America, it was a benchmark in the fortunes of the group. Continued personnel changes undermined their stability, and later versions of the band seemed content to further a spurious biker image, rather than enlarge on earlier achievements. Kay dissolved the band in 1972, but his solo career proved inconclusive and within two years he was leading a reconstituted Steppenwolf. The singer has left and re-formed his creation several times over the ensuing years, but has been unable to repeat former glories.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.