Gebhardt was born and educated in Cincinnati. His parents were both painters trained at the Art Academy and
later in Paris. Steve studied Architecture and his thesis project was sited in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
He then received a Masters degree in Community Planning with a major in Environmental Design. While he was in college an interest in film became a passion and he began making 16mm experimental films. He also founded the U.C. Film Society in 1961, which later developed the Spring Arts Festival and brought dozens of film artists to Cincinnati, sponsored films and workshops but brought music and dance programs as well. This occurred in the 60's when there was a major renaissance going on in the world creatively. It was no surprise then that Gebhardt as architectural designer might then bridge into another area of expression. After completing his studies at the University of Cincinnati he taught film in the U.C. Graduate School and Antioch College and made films commercially here until he moved to New York City to manage the newly created Anthology Film Archives at The Public Theater and to pursue a career in filmmaking.
Within weeks of moving to New York City he was asked to make a film of the recording sessions for a jazz opera,
Escalator Over the Hill by composer Carla Bley and poet Paul Haines. The cast of this work included Ms Bley,
Don Cherry, Jack Bruce, Viva, John McLaughlin, Sheila Jordan and Gato Barbieri. He began immediately after with a
3-year relationship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono where he made their films and ran their attendant company, Joko Films.
During that time he was commissioned by ABC Network to direct the One to One Concert at Madison Square Garden,
which was to become John Lennon's last public live performance. This film was shown on the ABC Network nationally
in December, 1972. He did 17 other films of varying lengths for the Lennons as well as participated in creating their
film and art archive. Much effort was spent on behalf of Ms Ono in bringing her own visual arts to fruition.
This involved working with other artists in a variety of media.
A friendship with Philip Glass led to his first 3 recordings being made at Gebhardt and partner Bob Fries' Butterfly Studios in Greenwich Village. Gebhardt also shot a film for artist Richard Serra and a music video for the New York Dolls during that period.
Gebhardt was commissioned by The Rolling Stones to make their concert film Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones during their 1972, Exile On Main Street tour in the United States. Gebhardt parted with Lennon/Ono in 1973 shortly before their own separation. The Rolling Stones film was released theatrically in 1974 to specially prepared theaters in quadraphonic concert volume sound that took Gebhardt around the country on behalf of the film.
Gebhardt began developing The Hudson Tigers documentary film in late 1974. During that year and the next he developed a student/mentor relationship with musicologist, artist, animator Harry Smith. The main thrust of that experience came during the making of Smith's film Mahogonny which used the Weill recordings as the track and Smith's photography of disparate subject matter for the visuals when Harry would lead me through a broad range of musical experiences from the far corners of the globe. This broadening of Gebhardt's musical palette would later cause him to make a film on Bluegrass music originator, Bill Monroe, nearly 20 years later.
In the summer of 1975 Gebhardt began a film which has evolved into a work spanning a generation in time dealing with a small town in southern Michigan whose high school football team broke the national record for consecutive wins one week, then lost for the first time in eight years the next. The subjects of this film then went on about their lives, took jobs, married and some of them produced sons who last year played for that team. The record they had held with pride since November, 1975 was bested by a high school near San Francisco. All of this dramatic American story was filmed, over 22 years, by Steve Gebhardt and is in final post-production now.
Another of the films made for Joko Films was titled Ten for Two and documented the John Sinclair Freedom Rally held at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor in December, 1971 before 15,000 people. The film of this event featured John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Allen Ginsberg, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale. This film had a brief theatrical release in Great Britain but upon the U.S. government's attempt to deport Lennon the film was withdrawn from domestic release.
In 1991 Gebhardt began a biographical film on John Sinclair, the subject of Ten for Two. This film was titled Twenty to Life which was ironically the sentence received by Sinclair for giving an undercover police officer two marijuana joints that had led to his imprisonment for 29 months. This was in fact political repression. Sinclair was a political organizer of the Detroit Artist Workshop and the White Panther Party, manager of the MC5 rock & roll band, writer on music and poet. The focus of Twenty to Life is Sinclair's poetry and his interest in jazz and blues music as well as his philosophy for social change in America. This is contrapuntally set to the remembrances of many of those people who were a part of Sinclair's past and present. This film is a cultural view of the 60's American counterculture set in the American rust belt. Music is Sinclair's passion and plays under the entire film and is related to the action on the screen by style and time period.
In 1990 Gebhardt was awarded major funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to film Bill Monroe; Father of Bluegrass Music. This film was produced during the next three years of Monroe at home and performing with his band, The Bluegrass Boys, as well as Emmylou Harris, John Hartford, Jerry Garcia, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury and a host of other artists. What resulted was a feature length portrait of this legendary artist and his work. The film was shown originally on TNN network and on PBS as well as in festivals in the U.S. and Europe. Gebhardt began work in 1997 on the pilot for a proposed television series, Ars Nova, which will explore the cultural conditions and the artistic works created during the Italian Renaissance as experienced by contemporary American and Italian architects, artists and musicians.