1997 Performer – 7th annual LA Music Awards
Nick St. Nicholas (born Klaus Karl Kassbaum September 28, 1943) is a bassist, and is best known for his membership in Steppenwolf from 1968 to 1970, and then again from 1976 to 1980.
Nick was born in Plön, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. After World War II, his family moved to Toronto and became Canadian citizens. His sister Maren joined the Canadian Ballet Company & Conservatory of Music as pianist. He also has a younger brother, Gary who went into the Merchant Marine.
Nick spent a brief period as bassist with the Epics, then Shirley Matthews and the Big Town Boys before joining a set of musicians who eventually coalesced as the Mynah Birds, featuring singers Rick James and Jimmy Livingston. In 1965, he replaced Bruce Palmer as bassist with Jack London and the Sparrows, and played on most of the tracks on their only LP, which was released in 1965. In the space of the next year or so, the group lost Jack London and became the Sparrows. Nick then added new German-born frontman John Kay and became The Sparrow, and moved south to New York, then Nick drove them non-stop to California.
In 1967, The Sparrow folded and St. Nicholas joined a Los Angeles-based group called The Hardtimes, who soon renamed themselves T.I.M.E., which supposedly stood for Trust in Men Everywhere. After two albums, St. Nicholas left T.I.M.E. and rejoined his former Sparrow bandmates (vocalist/guitarist John Kay, drummer Jerry Edmonton and organist Goldy McJohn), by replacing original bassist Rushton Moreve in Steppenwolf at the height of the band’s popularity.
St. Nicholas has several Gold and Platinum records to his credit playing and contributing on four Steppenwolf albums: At Your Birthday Party, Early Steppenwolf, Monster, and Steppenwolf Live. He performed on many television shows as a member of Steppenwolf, including appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers, American Bandstand, Playboy After Dark, Beat Club, Della, Upbeat, and The Steve Allen Show. St. Nicholas was fired from Steppenwolf in 1970 and was replaced by new bassist George Biondo.
John Kay’s autobiography, Magic Carpet Ride largely attributes St. Nicholas’s firing to sneaking on stage in nothing but bunny ears and a jockstrap at a show at the Fillmore East on Easter weekend 1970, and Kay writes that this was St. Nicholas’ final show with the band. Subsequently, many articles and documentaries have propagated the myth that the Fillmore “bunny ears” gig was Nick’s last. In truth, the Fillmore gig where St. Nicholas appeared with the bunny ears occurred Easter weekend of 1969 and Nick was in the band for a full year after that incident. St. Nicholas found out about his firing in mid-1970 when he discovered the band rehearsing with their new bassist, George Biondo, while Nick was still with the group.
According to Steppenwolf keyboardist Goldy McJohn, St. Nicholas was dismissed for a number of reasons:
The fuehrer (Kay) fired him [for] wearing dresses in Steppenwolf with that bleached blonde hair, being out of tune at gigs … lots of reasons. I liked the bunny ears, but John made such a stink about it at the Fillmore East, you’d think he was in charge. Everyone else was on acid in the audience and this great big guy got up and told Kay to let Nick tune up and everybody cheered. Stealing John Kay’s limelight has and always will be his modus operandi, in other words.
During St. Nicholas’s hiatus from Steppenwolf, he replaced Dickie Peterson in Blue Cheer alongside Ruben De Fuentes on guitar and Terry Rae on drums. The band both toured and recorded during this time, but the songs weren’t released until Live & Unreleased ’68/’74 was released in 1996.
After Kay and Edmonton’s version of Steppenwolf disbanded in 1976, St. Nicholas reformed the group with McJohn and guitarist Kent Henry, who had recorded the guitar tracks on the For Ladies Only album in 1971. There were several versions of this band touring at the same time for which St. Nicholas was not responsible. During this turn, St. Nicholas’s Steppenwolf included drummers such as Steve Riley and Frankie Banali. St. Nicholas stopped touring with Steppenwolf when his lease on the band’s name expired in 1980.
After St. Nicholas’s second tour with Steppenwolf ended, he formed a band called “Starwolf” in 1980 with keyboardist Steve Stewart. Stewart left in the late 1980s to be replaced by Randy Carr about the same time guitarist Dave Olsen joined the band. At this point, “Starwolf” became “Lone Wolf”. In 1988, Kurt Griffey was added as a second guitarist and Chris Sweeney joined as the band’s drummer. After “Lone Wolf” became “The Wolf”, Sweeney was replaced by Ronnie Carson and Olsen was fired, leading to the band’s dissolution in 1989. In the early 1990s, St. Nicholas formed a new “Lone Wolf” with Griffey, singer Richard Ward, and drummer Daryl Johnson, which played bike rallies and clubs. In 1997, the band split as St. Nicholas launched the supergroup World Classic Rockers, bringing Griffey with him into the new venture along with former Steppenwolf bandmate Michael Monarch. St. Nicholas has two sons, Jesse and Devin.
World Classic Rockers
World Classic Rockers (website) is a supergroup formed in 1997. Members include former members of Steppenwolf, Santana, Toto, Journey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boston and others.
St. Nicholas is the infamous “Ooh Ohh Man” mentioned in “I’m in Love With the Ooh-Ooh Man”, by The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). on their Frank Zappa-produced album Permanent Damage.