Ted’s Excellent Adventure ; As One of Rock’s Top Guitar Gods for Several Decades, Ted Nugent is Also One of the Most Outspoken
By Jeff Miers
Ted Nugent is a study in contradictions.
One of the finest American rock guitarists to emerge from the ’60s, Nugent disavowed the partying ways of his peers in favor of a clean and sober lifestyle, one he says he’s maintained his entire life.
A manic performer, Nugent, who plays at America’s Fair this evening in Hamburg, is known for expletive-laced between-song raps and a fondness for skull-crushing volume. He is fully aligned with the political right, is a serving member on the board of the NRA, and routinely claims to be a voice for “traditional American values.”
Though he shared the dizzying heights of ’70s American arena- rock stardom with Aerosmith — a band with which he also shared management companies — Nugent’s character stood in stark contrast to the one espoused by the Boston bad boys. While Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Co. were drinking and drugging their way across the country, Nugent was filling his off-stage hours by hunting, killing and eating his own food, letting nothing stronger than a particularly spicy bit of fresh-killed meat pass his lips.
Rock ‘n’ roll has traditionally been a more liberal-leaning social and political microcosm, but Nugent just doesn’t fit the mold. Love him or hate him, he’s his own man.
In fact, disagreeing with the nearly endless stream of verbiage flowing from the Nugent mouth need not preclude one from bowing before his masterful guitar playing, nor noting his consistent ability to conjure R&B-based riffs that shake the hips and rattle the brain. Most of Nugent’s songs are about sex, after all, the remainder concerning just how awesome it is to be Ted Nugent, and a mere fraction — the recent “I Am the NRA” offering a vibrant example — delineating strict right-wing philosophies.
At 60 years old, Nugent shows no sign of slowing down — or shutting up, for that matter. Last year, he released a new studio album, “Love Grenade.” Last week, the sizzling new live album “Sweden Rocks” hit the streets. The new Toby Keith comedy “Beer For My Horses” opened in Buffalo on Friday, and it features a rather hilarious supporting performance from Nugent (“A wonderful experience… I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” he says). July 4th marked the 6,000th performance of the guitarist’s career with a sold- out show in Detroit; and finally, a new sociopolitical manifesto, “Ted White & Blue,” is due out later this month.
As the “Rolling Thunder Tour ’08″ made its way toward the Fair this week, Nugent took some time to field a few questions by e- mail:
“Sweden Rocks” is notable for the continued development of your ferocious guitar sound, which is still sweet, fat and visceral. What’s the secret?
Touch. It’s all about a quality amp, like my Peaveys, and a soulful touch to milk the spirit-blood from the beast.
When you came out of Detroit in the late ’60s, you were unusual in a lot of ways. Besides the fact that you weren’t snacking on tabs of acid and wearing flowers in your hair, you were playing a big Gibson Byrdland hollowbody guitar, an instrument common in jazz, but not rock. The guitar’s tone, and the way you manipulated feedback, set you instantly apart. How’d you end up with the Byrdland?
My life was changed when my Detroit band, the Lourds, opened up for Billy Lee and the Rivieras at the Walled Lake Casino in Michigan, back in 1962. They would later change their name to Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Master guitarist Jimmy McCarty played a Gibson Byrdland through a Fender Twin Reverb, and the sound blew me away.
I knew I had to have it, and worked my ass off to purchase this very expensive, unique guitar in 1965, then commenced to make sonic history. The beauty of it is that I continue to discover more and more outrageous sounds from this magical instrument to this day. Indescribable musical adventure.
While so many of your peers from the ’70s are either burned-out has-beens, or playing the oldies circuit exclusively, your latest studio album, “Love Grenade,” is packed with strong, vibrant — dare I say youthful! — Nugent riffs. How have you managed to retain an edge?
I have been clean and sober my entire 60 years, so the creative juices, energy, attitude and primal scream of musical cravings continues unabated. And this is all driven to the hilt by the world’s greatest musicians — like (current bandmembers) Greg Smith on bass and Mick Brown on drums — to this very day.
It is beyond the dream.
When “Ted, White and Blue” comes out, what can I expect?
This book clearly outlines how even the Motor City Madman can live the ultimate American Dream nonstop, by simply putting my heart and soul into being the very best that I can be, every day of my life.
Logic is still common and sensible to the vast majority of Americans out here, and with zero considerations for anyone’s feelings, I spell out how quality of life is directly attributable to conscientious, quality conduct.
It’s so simple it’s stupid.
I’ve never hunted, killed and eaten my own kill. What am I missing?
“Non-hunters are missing out on the spiritual exclamation point to their truly individual, autonomous independence. To face total, honest cause and effect is to stand up as strong as our spirit can soar, by performing this basic, inescapable, and to some, discomforting self-sufficiency truth.
Not all humans are cut out to be warriors or self sufficient, but once faced and experienced, one’s ultimate understanding of where life comes from fortifies all positive energy within, and personal choices become more rewarding and dynamic. That’s all.
I’m a 40-year-old white liberal from Massachusetts. Yet I grew up in the ’70s learning the entirety of “Double Live Gonzo,”"Weekend Warriors,”"State of Shock” and “Scream Dream” note for note. Does this redeem me?
No redemption necessary. But you are clearly better tuned-in to your spiritual bad self than non-Nugent celebrants. Be proud!
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: The Buffalo.com Grandstand at America’s Fair, Hamburg
Tickets: $45 and $30 at all Tickets.com locations, at www.tickets.com or by phone at 1-888-223-6000.
Originally published by NEWS POP MUSIC CRITIC.
(c) 2008 Buffalo News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.