A loin cloth wearin’, bow-and-arrow-armed crazed rock and roll caveman, impassioned hunting advocate and contentious right-wing political provocateur, there’s one thing for damn certain: Ted Nugent doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind.
Love him or hate him, he must be doing something right, as the sixty-five-year-old rocker has had a “stranglehold” on the music business for over four decades. After garnering national attention as leader of The Amboy Duke, the “Motor City Madman” forged a massively successful solo career; his albums, Ted Nugent, Free for All, Cat Scratch Fever and Double Live Gonzo are deemed hard rock classics.
After a downturn in the early ‘80s, Nugent rebounded in a big way near the end of the decade with the supergroup Damn Yankees. Joining forces with Tommy Shaw of Styx and Jack Blades of Night Ranger, the trio scored a smash # 3 hit with the power ballad High Enough. Never one to limp off silently into the deep dark night, Nugent’s latest 2-CD/DVD, Ultralive Ballisticrock is a ferocious saber tooth slab of gonzo intensity, decisive proof to his fans that they’ll never have to fear that this elder statesman of rock will ever get mellow.
Enjoy our spirited new chat with the Nuge below:
Rock Cellar Magazine: When did you first realize you made it as a solo artist?
Ted Nugent: I’m not Bon Jovi. I didn’t get into music to meet girls. I got into it because the music owns me. And I own the music. Music owned me long before I had the capabilities of owning it. My realization of 100% musical success has absolutely noting to do with numbers–albums sold, gross income, concerts performed. I’m well aware of all those numbers and they’re wonderful.
But my musical dreams were attained in 1963 when my band The Lourds won the Michigan “Battle of the Bands”. I understood even at that young age—I must have been thirteen or fourteen-years old—I realized that I was doing damn good job of playing Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley licks. I’d also learned from Duane Eddy, Lonnie Mack, Dick Dale and The Deltones, The Ventures and even The Beach Boys and certainly James Brown with Elvis.
Certainly beyond the guitar, what Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard were doing with their authoritative musical delivery helped teach me as well. I could see it in the eyes of the judges when I did the guitar solo in High Heeled Sneakers and I flung across the table where the judges were sitting—this was way before Van Halen’s video for Hot for Teacher (laughs) I was gratified as a garage band kid to realize, “Damn, I’m making music!”
Of course, the real solidification of that belief came from my band mates in The Lourds—John Drake on vocals, John Finley on rhythm guitar, Pete Primm on bass and Tom Noel on drums. We were making music, man! The prize for winning that “Battle of the Bands” was opening for The Supremes and The Beau Brummels at the then brand new Cobo Hall in Detroit. Even though my little teenage brain was incapable of grasping much of that, I grasped the most important part—the music.
And here’s the point if you’ve got the balls to print this. We’re testing out our instruments—there was no term called ‘soundcheck’ in 1963 (laughs).
We were testing our amps and we had exactly one minute to do it. We were doing it onstage right next to the Motown orchestra! Are you kidding me?! The mighty “Funk Brothers” were only fifty feet away from us! Oh my God!
One of the biggest, blackest Funk Brothers—I don’t even know which one it was—we were just testing our amps; I had a little Fender Duo Sonic, and a white guitar and a little Fender Bassman amplifier. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw one of them coming my way. I’m going, “Guys, one of the Funk Brothers is coming over here!” He came over and put his hands on my shoulder and went, “Damn boy, you keep playing guitar like that you’re gonna be a n—a when you grow up!”
That was the ultimate compliment, current politically correct denial notwithstanding, we all knew what that meant. It means the most talented God of soul believed that we had real black soul in our music at that young age.
There is no more important moment in my life than that.
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