‘Ay Man’ It’s Goldy McJohn! And He Is, In Fact, Still Alive In The Burien Area
by Rachel M. Lusby
After years of ups and downs, Goldy McJohn, (best known as the original keyboardist for Steppenwolf,) is happier than ever; and, despite rumors, also still alive in the Burien area.
Born on May 2, 1945 Goldy, (birth name “John Raymond Goadsby”) was raised by middle class parents in Toronto, Canada. They put him into piano lessons at a young age and with this foundation he became a pioneer in the use of the electronic organ in rock and roll.
“I was classically trained,” said Goldy. He also stated that no one else in rock and roll was doing was he was at the time. “I played on a Lowrey,” he said. And this is part of what he said gave songs such as “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” their unique sound.
“I was up at 4 a.m. daily to practice from the age of seven until…I got stupid,” Goldy said.
While school in general was not his thing, (he was suspended from high school for three months,) he always did exceptionally well in music.
“I got 100 in music, which brought my average up to maybe 14,” Goldy said. His parents could not afford private school that could have catered more to the needs of a student like him.
Prior to Steppenwolf, Goldy was in a few other bands, including Little John and the Friars and The Mynah Birds in 1964, (which included Rick James and Bruce Palmer and later after Goldy left, Neil Young). He then joined The Diplomats for a short time before he joined The Sparrows in 1965. It was during this time he was dubbed “Goldy,” as suggested by John Kay, the future lead singer of Steppenwolf.
The name ‘Goldy Goadsby,’ “just didn’t sound right,” according to Goldy. After thinking on it a while, Goldy decided to honor his mother, who had passed away in 1965, by adding “Mc” to his first name “John” thus becoming known as “Goldy McJohn.” Goldy’s mother’s maiden name had been McIntyre.
Goldy said at first his father did not appreciate the idea but came to accept it over time.
Steppenwolf had its first hit single, “Born to be Wild,” in 1968 on the self-titled album “Steppenwolf.” The song was featured in the opening scene of the film “Easy Rider” in 1969 which featured actors Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.
“Born to Be Wild” is also accredited for being the first “heavy metal” song, and in the second verse of the song the words “heavy metal” appear for the first time in music.
“We were the first heavy metal band, man! Other groups have tried to say they were, but you know where the words ‘heavy metal’ came from?” Goldy exclaimed, noting the line “heavy metal thunder.”
The name “Steppenwolf” came from the novel by Nobel Prize winning author Hermann Hesse. The book was published in English in 1929. The group went through a number of changes in line-up and after the release of “Slow Flux” in 1974 Goldy was fired from the band by John Kay.
The original line-up included members of The Sparrows: Goldy, John Kay, Michael Monarch, Jerry Edmonton and newcomer Ruston Moreve. Goldy was indefinitely recognizable, sporting a large afro throughout his time with the band.
“My afro was natural!” he said.
Kay remains the only original member of the band still performing under the name “Steppenwolf,” today.
Not unlike many other stars of rock and roll during this time, Goldy had his own battle with substance abuse; including LSD, acid and Quaaludes. But what really brought him down was being taken advantage of by agents and former bandmates. He went from being a well-off rock and roll star to being completely broke; at one point even being homeless.
Surprisingly enough, the person who helped him get clean was famous body builder Dave Draper.
Draper had won the Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia titles in the 1960s and just like Goldy, had been a victim of scheming agents, according to Goldy.
Draper encouraged Goldy to get himself back on track, and it took many attempts before it finally worked.
Going clean was an extremely difficult task, Goldy explained.
“For three weeks my heart pounded and I was curled up on the kitchen floor,” he described.
“Want to know what the amazing thing about all this is?” he said, “I’m still alive!”
Today, Goldy is a happy man, having let go of the bad past experiences, married and living in King County, although he will be moving soon. He watches “House” reruns, not unlike the average Joe, has two bull terriers and still rocks out on his piano and keyboard. He has been a golfer for many years, is a painter, as well as a photographer.
“I really like texture,” he said.
If you look closely at his paintings, despite being abstract you can actually make out several faces of people.
He enjoys hearing his songs from the Steppenwolf days. “When I listen to my old stuff I think ‘who the f**k is playing the keyboard,” he said. He is proud of everything he’s done even to this day.
Goldy also runs a charity which donates to the Children’s Hospital of the USA and Canada.
He has a show coming up on May 7th at the Hard Rock Café in Seattle. The doors open at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. For further information on this show, visit http://www.goldymcjohn.com.
Here are some videos showcasing Goldy’s talents:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4dulf5MYzs