Just two days before Steppenwolf will play their 50th Anniversary show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, word has come that the band’s original keyboard player, Goldy McJohn, has died at the age of 72.
An announcement was made on his Facebook page:
Our hearts weep as we announce the passing of Goldy McJohn, Founding Father of Steppenwolf. Goldy suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack the morning of August 1st, 2017. The family thanks all of those who have protected their privacy leading up to this announcement while they dealt with this unexpected loss.
Information regarding services will be announced as it becomes available. However, Goldy’s next performance was to take place at a benefit concert honoring legendary drummer, Alvin Taylor, with good friends Terry Ilous, and Harold Brown among others. It is at the very core of his wife, Sonja’s beliefs that Goldy would have wanted this show to go on. This concert, in full agreement of all participating, will now also stand as a tribute to Goldy and the indelible mark he has left on the world of Rock and Roll and the lives of all those who knew and loved him.
Goldy had been an active and enthusiastic mentor for Stand Up for the Music, working closely with HungryGenius managing partner, Anthony Spadaro.
“Goldy was an amazing soul and an incredible artist, and just plain fun. May his legacy live on forever.” – Anthony Spadaro
“I connected with him immediately, may his transition be smooth.” – Harold Brown
“Long live rock and roll. Love you Goldy.” – Terry Ilous
Tickets went on sale for the Locals and Legends Benefit Concert Sunday, July 30th. Spardaro had just announced the event to social media 20 minutes prior to getting the call from Sonja that Goldy had passed. “I was devastated. We all are still devastated, but I know in my heart, as does Sonja, that this concert must go on. Goldy would want us to do this. As Goldy would say, “It’s showtime.” Goldy got the ball rolling on a new chapter a year ago, when he posted this to his website: “STAY TUNED. The next chapter of my magic carpet ride has just gotten underway! #SUPPORTLOCALMUSIC #BorntobeWild #UnitedWeRoll.”
The train will keep on rolling, eh. Long live rock and roll. We love you, man!
McJohn was born John Goadsby in 1945. By the mid-60’s, he was playing in the Canadian band Little John and the Friars and later moved on to The Mynah Birds which also counted as members Rick James, Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, the latter two of which would go on to Buffalo Springfield.
Next up was The Sparrow where he met John Kay who suggested he change his name to Goldy with Goadsby choosing the last name of McJohn. Renaming their band Steppenwolf, they signed with ABC Records and released their self-named debut album in December of 1967.
By mid-1968, the band had a major hit on its hand with Born to Be Wild (1968 / #2) and quickly followed with The Second which included the equally big Magic Carpet Ride (1968 / #3). McJohn featured on both with his Hammond B3 Organ, one of the earliest cases of the instrument being used in metal rock.
Steppenwolf followed with Rock Me (1969 / #10), Move Over (1969 / #31), Monster (1969 / #39) and Hey Lawdy Mama (1970 / #35) but their popularity began to wane. They broke up in 1972 but ended up playing a farewell tour into the next year.
McJohn and band drummer Jerry Edmonton formed the group Manbeast and, while there was never an album from the band, some of their recordings ended up on the 1974 reunion album Slow Flux.
Goldy was fired from the band in February of 1975 by John Kay and after another breakup, formed New Steppenwolf with fellow band member Nick St. Nicholas. McJohn was only in the band a short time.
McJohn went on to play with Steve Marriott in a revived Humble Pie and has recorded a number of solo albums. In recent years, he has put together a number of Steppenwolf related bands.