Born December 13, 1949, in Redford Township, Mich.; married Sandra Jezowski, April, 1970 (deceased); married Shemane Deziel (a radio traffic reporter), December, 1988; children: Sasha Emma, Theodore Tobias. Addresses: Record company-- Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10023. Other-- 3101 East Eisenhower #3, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.
Ted Nugent was born just outside of Detroit, Michigan, in 1949. He received his first musical instrument at the age of nine after his aunt, an airline stewardess, sent him an acoustic guitar that had been left on a flight unclaimed. He took formal lessons for a few years to learn theory and proper technique and by the time he was just thirteen years old his first band, the Lourds, had opened for the Supremes and the Beau Brummels at Cobo Hall. "The Lourds played unbefore-heard-of kick-ass rock and roll," Nugent told Tom Vickers of Rolling Stone. "If you weren't into it it might send you to nausea city."
Unfortunately the band lasted only until Nugent's family moved to Chicago when he was sixteen. With a former Army staff sargeant for a father, Nugent was raised in a very strict family structure and wasted little time in forming his next group (The Amboy Dukes, in 1965) and hitting the road after high school. "I went after my success with a vengeance," he told Rolling Stone. In 1967 Nugent moved the group back to Detroit, where they recorded a minor midwest hit, "Baby Please Don't Go."
That same year they broke the national charts with their psychedelic onslaught, "Journey to the Center of the Mind," which reached number 8. Amazingly, Nugent received no money from the song and the group spent their entire ten years bouncing between labels (Polydor, Discreet, and Mainstream) and dealing with poor management. They released nearly a dozen albums of pioneering heavy metal: "Listening to Amboy Dukes' albums was like going into hand-to-hand combat with your speakers," wrote Billy Altman in Rolling Stone. SL The group was fueled by Nugent's high-powered licks that spewed forth from his Gibson Byrdland guitar. Normally used as a jazz instrument, Nugent cranked the hollowbody to maximum volume, which caused a tremendous amount of feedback. Although he uses other guitars today (Les Pauls and Paul Reed Smith solidbodies), he first discovered the Byrdland's potential when he heard Jim McCarty using one with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels in 1964. "[McCarty] was so sensational that I was bent on playing it," Nugent told Steve Rosen in Guitar Player. "I was also bent on playing loud. To do that you either have to elimate the feedback characteristics--by buying a different guitar--or learn to control it. I started putting the feedback to good use."
Initially influenced by Wayne Cochran, Duane Eddy, Lonnie Mack, Keith Richards, and Jimi Hendrix, he was soon creating his own unique voice on the guitar by manipulating the toggle switch and volume knobs for effects, playing with his teeth, bending the strings behind the bridge to create vibrato and playing with more speed and volume (he's 85% deaf in his left ear) than anyone before him. "[Nugent's] as fast, raunchy, and unrelentless as any heavy metallic glitterite around," stated Don Menn in Guitar Player. "Some of his bluesrock riffs could have melted a bazooka."
Nugent not only pushed his guitar playing, but his onstage antics as well, to the limit. His outrageous wardrobe and attitude soon earned him the title of "Motor City Madman." An avid hunter (he's a staunch member of the NRA) and outdoorsman, his stage apparel consists of a loincloth, deerskin, feathers, necklasses made out of animal teeth, headbands, and fringe boots. With his wild hair looking like a lion's mane, Nugent has been known to jump off huge stacks of amplifiers with bow and arrow in hand, daring anyone to challenge his presence. Another theatric featured excrutiatingly high volumes aimed at breaking glass balls; it sometimes failed and the balls had to be shot out by a roadie with a BB gun.
Nugent labels this entire persona "gonzo," and it embodies just about every aspect of his life. "My philosophy is two eyes for an eye," he declared to Charles M. Young in Rolling Stone. He has abhored drugs ever since he saw what happened to the late Jimi Hendrix (the two used to jam together) and he has even fired band members for drug use. Nugent's ego has also earned him noteriety in the past for statements like "Sometimes I ask myself--have I the right to be this good?," to Guitar Player 's Tom Wheeler. His obsessions with himself, hunting, and sex have pretty much dominated his song themes and clever titles.
Just prior to the Dukes' break-up Nugent began staging guitar duels with veteran metalheads like Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush, Wayne Kramer from the MC5, and Mike Pinera of Iron Butterfly and Blues Image. These six-string wars helped further Nugent's macho image as he usually outplayed or outstaged those who tried to steal the spotlight from him. In 1975 he decided to go solo, signing with Epic and releasing his self-titled debut. Ted Nugent hit its listeners with hard-driving selections, including "Motor City Madhouse," "Just What the Doctor Ordered," and "Stranglehold." Nugent's live shows were just as merciless, leaving audiences with a serious case of shell shock "roughly akin to pressing a stethoscope to the roaring engine of a trail bike," reported Young in Rolling Stone. SL Nugent's next two albums, Free For All and Cat Scratch Fever (note Jeff Beck's influence on the bolero "Homebound"), featured more of the same obnoxious lyrics and blazing fretwork. An in-concert performance was captured on 1977's Double Live Gonzo and by the next year Nugent fronted the top-grossing band in North America. In March of 1978 he headlined the California Jam II gig at the Ontario Motor Speedway in front of 250,000 screaming fans. With the addition of Weekend Warriors, Nugent's first five Epic LPs had gone platinum. His formula was simple, according to Wheeler in Guitar Player: "Less chord changes than Alice Cooper; more chord changes than Black Sabbath; sounds best loud."
For the next six years though, Nugent's popularity began to dwindle. He continued to release four more albums, but the generation that had grown up on his style had done just that; grown up. And the younger crowd was now into a sound, introduced by Eddie Van Halen, that utilized fingerboard tapping and extreme wang-bar tactics to create dive-bombing crashes. But Nugent explained his slump to Steve Gett in Guitar For The Practicing Musician: "Because I've got a big mouth; because I'm so exuberant and so easy-going, and I'm having so much fun that it intimidates them."
By 1984, however, Nugent had gotten the hint (and a new label) and joined the club with Penetrator and 1986's Little Miss Dangerous, which showed he could compete with his contemporaries. He had previously employed singers to cover the vocals while occassionally belting out a song or two himself. But on his 1988 release, If You Can't Lick 'Em ... Lick 'Em, Nugent handled all the lead vocals. Although he has not regained his former position in the heavy metal hierarchy, he is still indeed a dedicated guitarist to be reckoned with. "All I can say is that if I didn't have the ulterior diversions, with my hunting, my outdoor activities and my family, I would stay on the road 360 days a year," he told Gett. I've never felt anything less than outrageous enthusiasm for my music."
by Calen D. Stone
Ted Nugent's Career
Formed first band, the Lourds, at age 13; formed the Amboy Dukes in Chicago, Ill., 1965, group moved base of operations to Detroit, 1967, released first record, "Baby Please Don't Go," 1967, first album, The Amboy Dukes, 1968, group dissolved, 1975; solo career, 1975--; actor, including featured guest role in TV series "Miami Vice"; has made instructional video on bow hunting.
- Solo LPs
- Ted Nugent Epic, 1975.
- Free For All Epic, 1976.
- Cat Scratch Fever Epic, 1977.
- Double Live Gonzo Epic, 1977.
- Weekend Warriors Epic, 1978.
- State of Shock Epic, 1979 Scream Dream Epic, 1980.
- Great Gonzos/The Best of Ted Nugent Epic, 1981.
- Intensities in Ten Cities 1981, CBS.
- Penetrator Atlantic, 1984.
- Little Miss Dangerous Atlantic, 1986.
- If You Can't Lick 'Em ... Lick 'Em Atlantic, 1988.
- With the Amboy Dukes
- Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes Mainstream, 1968.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind Mainstream, 1968.
- Marriage on the Rocks--Rock Bottom Polydor, 1970.
- Survival of the Fittest Polydor, 1974.
- Call of the Wild Discreet, 1974.
- Tooth, Fang, and Claw Discreet, 1975.
- Journeys and Migrations (double reissue), Mainstream, 1975.
- Dr. Slingshot (compilation), Mainstream, 1975.
- Christgau, Robert, Christgau's Record Guide, Ticknor & Fields, 1981.
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, Harmony, 1977.
- The Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh and John Swenson, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979.
- Guitar for the Practicing Musician, January, 1986.
- Guitar Player, December, 1975; November, 1976; March, 1977; December, 1977; August, 1979; September, 1980; May, 1984; June, 1988.
- Guitar World, March, 1987; July, 1988.
- Rolling Stone, April 8, 1976; November 18, 1976; July 28, 1977; August 25, 1977; March 23, 1978; January 11, 1979; March 8, 1979; March 19, 1981.