Steppenwolf (band) - History - John Kay and Steppenwolf

John Kay and Steppenwolf

Kay had a couple of meetings with David Pesnell (after his release from rehabilitation for his drinking and drug problems), about management, concert promotions and producing a new album for the band. Pesnell wanted to produce an album featuring new songs on Side A, by the reformed band Three Dog Night and with Side B of the album featuring songs by Steppenwolf. The album's working name was "Back to Back", a play on each band having a side of the album and the fact the bands were back together again. Pesnell's concept was simple: each band would record four new songs, with a fifth song on each side featuring a medley of the band's past songs. This would give the Pesnell-produced album a double release of singles to support a concert tour featuring the two bands. Even though both bands liked the concept of the album and tour, the arguments included who would be Side A and Side B and which of the two would headline the upcoming concert tour.

The reformed John Kay and Steppenwolf line-up featured John Kay, Mike Palmer (guitars, backing vocals), Steve Palmer (drums, backing vocals), Danny Ironstone (keyboards, backing vocals) and Kurtis Teel on bass. The Palmer brothers had played in a group called Tall Water and had also been involved with Kay in his solo career in the late 70s. Teel was replaced by Chad Peery and Ironstone by Brett Tuggle by 1981 and the new grouping put out Live in London overseas. Tuggle was then displaced by Michael Wilk and a new studio album, Wolf Tracks, was released in 1982 on the small Attic (Nautilus in the U.S.) record label. Bassist Welton Gite, who appeared on this album, left shortly after its completion and was replaced by Gary Link. Another album, Paradox, followed in 1984.

In December 1984, the band as it was disbanded and Kay and Wilk decided to continue on in early 1985 with a pared-down quartet that comprised: Kay, Wilk, Ron Hurst (drums, backing vocals) and Rocket Ritchotte (guitars, backing vocals). Wilk would also handle bass duties from his keyboards from here on. This line-up released Rock N' Roll Rebels (1987) and Rise & Shine (1990). Both of these were on the Qwil and I.R.S. Records imprints, respectively. Ritchotte had departed temporarily in 1989 to be replaced by Les Dudek and then Steve Fister, but then returned in 1990 for three more years. Fister (ex-Iron Butterfly) came back in late 1993, but turned guitar duties over to Danny Johnson (formerly of Derringer, Rod Stewart and others) in 1996.

As the band was named after the novel Der Steppenwolf by German author Hermann Hesse, who was born in the Black Forest town of Calw, the city invited them to come over and play in the International Hermann-Hesse-Festival 2002, along with other bands inspired by Hesse, such as Anyone's Daughter. The concert drew considerable media coverage, with Kay's fluent German stunning those who did not know beforehand about his growing up in Germany.

The band performed its 'farewell concert' on October 6, 2007 at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland, featuring Kay, longtime keyboardist Michael Wilk, drummer Ron Hurst, and guitarist Danny Johnson.

A 2007 newsletter from Kay's Wolfpack fanclub stated there would be some remastering of the band's albums throughout 2007 and 2008. Since the group's official retirement, they have continued to play a limited number of shows each year with the 2007 grouping. In 2009, bassist Gary Link rejoined them.

In 2010, John Kay granted Glen Bui and Goldy McJohn a license under Steppenwolf Productions to perform as The Magic Carpet Ride.

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