The Redbird (Beaumont, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 26, Ed. 1 Friday, May 8, 1970 Page: 3 of 8
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Lead Singer John Kay Analyzes Steppenwolf
By Belinda Schexnayder
Fusion of the primitive aspects
of early rock and roll with a lot
of blues thrown in is the basic
foundation for the hard rock sound
of Steppenwolf. This was' the an-
alysis made by lead singer and
songwriter, John Kay.
Clad in black leather bells
belted with a handmade silver
and turquoise product of the Na-
vajo Indians, Kay appeared bare-
footed and wearing a gold medal
around his neck engraved “Love*
for our hour-long interview at
his Royal Coach living room
The 25-year-old German lead
singer traced what he termed
the “complicated" formation of
Steppenwolf. Kay, who came to
Toronto, Canada in 1958 from
West Germany, later began a
single act strumming his guitar
and singing country blues in folk
clubs and joints across the U.S.
On a return trip to Toronto,
he met and joined a four-man
group called “Sparrow*. The
group restructured their music
but after touring the states split
up in San Francisco after has-
sles with their recording com-
Drummer Jerry Edmonton, and
bushy-haired organist GoTdy Me
John, both original members of
“Sparrow*, joined with Kay and
two new members to form Step-
penwolf in Los Angeles in 1968.
Edmonton and McJohn oc-
casionally wandered through-the
interview scene' where two re-
presentatives of National Pro-
ductions, a plainsclothes police-
man, Redbird photographer
Bucky Calias, and a high school
cub reporter listened and watched
as I questioned an informed and
considerate John Kay.
The Symphonic Bank of Lamar
Tech will present its annual
Spring concert Sunday in the The-
atre at 1:30 p.m. under the dir-
ection of Dr. C.A. Wiley, profes-
sor of music.
The concert will feature two
movements from a suite entitled
“From Our Fathers,* written
and to be directed by Lamar
music major Leroy Osmon. The
composition is a musical tri-
bute to Edgar Allen Poe and
Frank Lloyd Wright.
Also to be featured during the
“The thing that keeps us most
together is that we keep throw-
ing out people that prevent us
from staying together—if you
can follow that,* said Kay. He
went on to explain that three
people have been removed and
replaced for musical and person-
ality reasons since the concep-
tion of Steppenwolf.
Kay stated that the five pre-
sent members are the most har-
monious group thus far in terms
of agreement on what they want
to do musically and getting along
personality-wise. Rather than
splitting up to do things separ-
ately, they feel a need for con-
stant change to retain essential-
ly what makes up Steppenwolf.
Each individual in the group,
including Kay, Edmonton, Me
John, bass guitarist Nick St.
Nicholas and lead guitarist Lar-
ry Byron, has a different musi-
cal background which seems to
meet on common grounds—pre-
sently that is blues and gospel.
Kay, whose dark glasses con-
ceal the fact that he possesses
only 20 per cent vision, wrote
all the original music and lyrics
for the first two albums. Since
the third album, there has been
a group effort with no real for-
mula for producing the music.
Members of the group come up
with music or ■ ideas and Kay
writes the melodies and lyrics.
Steppenwolf*s latest album,
“Steppenwolf Live," is a double
album recorded at a benefit con-
cert for the Vietnam Moratorium
in Santa Monica, Calif. R was
gold two weeks after its release
and will probably be the group’s
biggest album, according to Kay.
Being a “visual juke box" is
one aspect of performing that
Steppenwolf tries to avoid. To
reach the potential of a real
experience the audience must
concert is “Jean* from the Aca-
demy Award nominee “The Prime
of Miss Jean Brodie,* arranged
for the band by J. Frank Shof-
ner, sophomore music major.
Other selections on the pro-
gram include “The Gladiator"
by John Phillip Sousa, “1812
Overture* by Tschaikowsky,
“Linchlnshire Posy* by Persy
Grainger, and “La Fiesta Mex-
icana* by Owen Reed.
For special effects in “1812*
and “La Fiesta*, Dr. Wiley said
the band would use the iron vic-
tory bell from Cardinal Stadium.
participate, said Kay. “If some-
thing moves you, then react.
And if there’s something you don’t
dig, then boo—but do something*.
He continued with his philos-
ophy, “Don’t sit there like a
vegetable—that’s what the older
generation is doing and we’ve
got enough problems already
without having a farm club.*
The songwriter said that about
60 to 70 per cent of the college
gigs are far more rewarding and
responsive audiences where the
“artist and audience sorta ping-
pong things back and forth with
enthusiasm, energy, improvisa-
tion, and just letting it pip.*
The group, earning fees from
a minimum of $10,000 to $25,000
a performance, has been playing
for weekend trips mainly in the
states of Ohio and Texas. Their
future plans call for perform-
ances at the Bath festival in Eng-
land and Expo ‘70 in Japan.
The group tries to do the best
they can and keep it at a level
where they can be proud of what
they’re doing. “If you try to
create with the idea of what
wUl appeal to someone, you start
worrying, lose your self-confi-
dence and train of thought,* said
With regard to their songs in
“Easy Rider*, Kay said that di-
rector Peter Fonda called them
and asked them to view the flick
he’d made. “I wasn’t too crazy
about it, that is, before I saw
the movie,* said Kay, “because
I associated Fonda with the Wild
Angels. So when I heard there
were motorcycles in the flick,
I thought that I was going to
blow two hours of a valuable
But as it turned out Steppen-
wolf was somewhat stunned arid
quite pleased that Fonda saw
fit to consider their songs, “Born
to be Wild* and ‘The Pusher*
along with music by Hendrix,
Dylan, The Byrds, The Band,
Our interview ended because
the guys had to prepare for the
Saturday night concert in Me
Donald Gym. Kay closed with
his belief that “Every human
being has a responsibility to be
more than just a sheep being
manipulated and you must ful-
fill this responsibility by being
He expressed his belief in the
fundamental rights of the Consti-
tution which our country is get-
ting away from—the premise that
people of different colors, reli-
gions and philosophies could live
here together without throwing
rocks and being pushed aside.
For Sale: 8-Track Belair Tape
Player. Play from A/C, D/C
or batteries. 962-1252
TE 3- 4434 j
(Acton item Sooth
An Interview With John Kay
Symphonic Band Presents
Annual Spring Concert
Steppenwolf Arrives At Airport
John Kay Lets It All Hang Out
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Ramsey, Mike. The Redbird (Beaumont, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 26, Ed. 1 Friday, May 8, 1970, newspaper, May 8, 1970; Beaumont, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth499263/m1/3/: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Lamar University.