Ted Nugent at a USO Concert, 2004. Photo by Lenny Francioni, U.S. Navy. Found on www.wikimediacommons.org
Ted Nugent has been dubbed “the Motor City Madman.” He is a renowned rock musician, hunter and political activist. His views and his music are often controversial. Love him or hate him, however, he is certainly a Michigan original.
Nugent was born in Detroit on December 13, 1948. He began playing guitar at an early age. By 1960 – when he was eleven – he formed a band, the Royal High-Boys. After some membership changes, this group became the Lourds. In his book “Grit, Noise and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock and Roll, David A. Carson quotes Nugent as saying that the Lourds were inspired by black musicians such as James Brown, Bo Diddly and Chuck Berry. The Lourds became popular in Detroit, and at one point, they opened for the Beau Brummels and the Supremes at Cobo Hall. Ted Nugent was about fourteen at that time.
Then, in 1965, the Nugent family moved to Chicago. Sixteen year old Ted had to leave the Detroit rock scene behind…at least for the moment.
The Amboy Dukes
In Chicago, Nugent quickly formed a new band. He called it the Amboy Dukes, after a Detroit band that was no longer active (He was apparently unaware that this Detroit band took their name from a street gang in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.). When Nugent graduated high school in 1967, he quickly moved his band to Detroit.
In Detroit, the band changed its lineup, opened for the Who at Southfield High School and netted a contract with Mainstream records. In 1968, they had a hit with “Journey to the Center of the Mind.” Nugent wrote the music to this song, while bandmate Steve Farmer wrote the lyrics. Later, the anti-drug Nugent would claim ignorance of those lyrics’ pro-drug message.
Solo Career and Damn Yankees
In 1976, Nugent signed with Epic Records as a solo performer. He recorded his first hit solo album, Free for All. Then, in 1977, his album Cat Scratch Fever went double platinum. It was followed by hit albums Double Live Gonzo, Weekend Warriors and State of Shock. He toured widely and, according to The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll (Third Edition, 2001), was the top grossing tour act of 1977, 1978 and 1979.
He continued to tour and record in the 1980s. In 1989, he and Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw formed the band Damn Yankees. Damn Yankees recorded two albums, Damn Yankees (1990) and Don’t Tread (1992). The first album included the ballad “High Enough,” which became their biggest hit.
Twenty-first Century Ted
Nugent continues to tour and record. He has served as a deputy sheriff and has been affiliated with several organizations, including the National Rifle Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Drug Abuse Resistance Education. He has written books and advocated for numerous anti-drug, pro-hunting and politically conservative causes. Now at the age of sixty-three, the Motor City Madman shows no sign of slowing down!