Steppenwolf were one of the most influential Rock bands to emerge from the late 1960’s rock scene
The legendary rocker John Kay from Steppenwolf turns 75 today
The legendary Rocker John Kay was born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany, now Sovetsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia on April 12, 1944. His early years were marked by the post-war scenario on the German/Russian war zone and he moved to Canada with his family in 1958. Kay joined a blues rock and folk music group known as The Sparrows in 1965, which had moderate success in Canada before moving to California, augmenting its line-up and changing its name to Steppenwolf in 1967. The band became one of the most important Rock acts during the late 1960’s and were pivotal on the development of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, being the first band to use the word “heavy metal” on their lyrics. The success of Steppenwolf was not limited to North America, the band became popular worldwide due to hits such as “Magic Carpet Ride”, “Born To Be Wild” (theme song from the 1969 movie “Easy Rider”, “Monster”, “The Pusher”, “Sookie Sookie” and “Rock Me”.
Steppenwolf released several albums but their most signficant and influential remain “Steppenwolf” and “The Second” both by 1968, “At Your Birthday Party” and “Monster” both released in 1969. In 1968, the popularity of Steppenwolf made them open for The Doors at the famous Hollywood Bowl concert. After several break ups and line up changings of the band, Steppenwolf 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. John Kay is married to Jutta Maue, whom he met in 1965 in Canada while she was working in a coffeehouse where Kay’s band, The Sparrows, was playing. They have one daughter, Shawn. The couple founded the Maue-Kay Foundation, which supports human rights and the protection of wildlife and the environment. One of Kay’s trademarks are his sunglasses, however, there is a strong motive for him to wear them. Kay was born with a congenital disorder called achromatopsia – complete color blindness – a defect of the cone cells in the eyes which causes him to see only with his rod cells and thus only in black and white and grey shades, and causes increased sensitivity to light, so he wears sunglasses regardless of time of day, and during his concerts. His eye condition qualified him as legally blind. In 2004, although never becoming a Canadian citizen,Kay was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in recognition of the beginning of his musical career.
Watch Steppenwolf performing their hit (and Rock anthem) “Born To Be Wild” on German TV show Beat Club in 1969
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