Born in East Prussia, Germany at the end of World War II, John Kay grew up trapped behind the iron curtain. His first distinct memory is a daring nighttime escape with his mother to West Germany; where later he was profoundly affected by the American rock ‘n’ roll he heard on U.S. Armed Forces Radio. Though he didn’t speak English at the time, the music’s primal energy touched something deep in him, instilling both a driving ideal of personal freedom and an abiding interest in American culture.
In 1958, he immigrated to Canada and continued his love affair with music, performing as a folk and blues singer throughout North America before joining the rock band The Sparrow which became part of the scene happening in Toronto’s Yorkville, later, San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury and finally LA’s Sunset Strip. There in 1967 Kay formed Steppenwolf, which quickly became one of the world’s foremost rock n’ roll bands releasing such standards as “Born to Be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride”, songs which catapulted the band into international prominence and which today stand amongst rock’s most indelible anthems. Other classics include powerful songs like “The Pusher” and “Snow Blind Friend” In addition, because of the lyrical content of songs such as “Monster” Steppenwolf has long been considered “the thinking man’s rock band”.
Since the group’s humble beginnings in a garage on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood, John has led and continues to lead the band, now in its sixth decade. As Steppenwolf’s vocalist and primary songwriter, he’s been the band’s driving force, guiding it through personnel changes, the good times as well as some rough times, always ready to speak his mind, never willing to compromise the band’s music.
Because John now spends more time working on the Maue Kay Foundation’s Wild Life conservation and human rights projects, JOHN KAY & STEPPENWOLF only perform on a selective basis, approximately 10 to 12 concerts per year. In this way, the “Wolf Pack” still has an opportunity to see their favorite band and – through the foundation’s efforts – John is able to support the causes he deeply cares about.