John Kay was born in Germany and as a teenager immigrated with his family to Toronto in 1958. In 1967, he and Dennis Edmonton recruited drummer Jerry Edmonton, keyboardist Goldy McJohn, 17-year-old guitar prodigy Michael Monarch and bassist Rushton Moreve. They took the name Steppenwolf after Hermann Hesse's mystical novel of the same name.
One of the first hard rock bands to blast its way out of Canada and onto the international music scene, Steppenwolf was at the leading edge of the rebellious and psychedelic late-1960s. Signature songs like Born to be Wild, Magic Carpet Ride and Rock Me, provided a voice to a generation raised on "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll".
In what surely must seem like a miracle by the standards of the 21st century, Steppenwolf cut its first album in 1968 in a mere four days. Kay would later observe, "our philosophy was 'Hit 'em hard, make your point and move on.'" The album spawned the rock anthem Born to be Wild, which, along with their hard-edged rendition of The Pusher, highlighted the sound track of Easy Rider one of the most influential films of the 1960s.