For Darryl St. John of Green Bay, Wisconsin, “Day Tripper” changed everything. George Harrison’s meaty intro lead for the Beatles’ 1965 B-side is all it took for St. John to put tax return funds toward his own Gretsch Tennessean, a staple Harrison axe. “The wrath of the guitar is what caught my ear,” as St. John put it. With Ken Rentfliesh on bass, Jake Baenon on drums, Tom Koffler taking lead vocals, and St. John’s guitar, Junction came together as 20-year-olds in 1970. They scrapped one practice session to catch the wrathful Beatles onscreen in Let It Be. Independence Day of 1971 marked Junction’s first live set, an Upper Peninsula gig at Skinny’s Tap of Escanaba, Michigan, during which patrons and St. John’s own dad threw and absorbed punches. Later, Led Zeppelin’s occult tendencies—specifically Jimmy Page’s Aleister Crowley obsession—would bring the raucous Junction to their own “Sorcerer.”
The St. John original’s necromantic lyric and heavily Echoplex-ed vocal were taped in a lowly Green Bay basement on a pair of 2-tracks, one of them engineer Dave Pilz’s, the other brought in by Markus label head Mark McCall. A few hundred copies of the green-labeled 45 arrived from Phoenix’s Wakefield Manufacturing in 1973, with Junction’s cover of Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks” on the B-side, mostly a chops showcase. The “Sorcerer” side billed itself as “A Buffalo Production,” immortalizing St. John’s high school football nickname. But the titular black wizard’s “powers to hyp-mo-tize” paled in comparison to the horrific 1973 Easter eve car wreck in desolate Ashland, Wisconsin, that ultimately broke Junction. Between a show and home, the band’s ’73 Dodge Maxi Wagon was struck by a sleeping drunk driver’s swerving vehicle. Rentfliesh and Koffler were thrown from the van, unharmed; but St. John, trapped by the mangled steering wheel, was forced to watch as the other vehicle’s passengers, tossed onto the hood, burned alive. After months in the hospital, many lost teeth, a broken jaw, and a fractured skull, St. John returned to Junction and gigging in August. But his cohorts’ enthusiasm for partying had shrouded their will to rock. By late September, St. John had driven on to a new musical intersection.