TED NUGENT (1948–PRESENT; PERFORMING 1967–PRESENT). Ted Nugent is a quintessentially American guitar hero, one part gunslinger, one part carnival barker, always courting controversy and enjoying turning up his nose at convention (including having eschewed drugs and alcohol), even if he has in recent years gotten more attention for his politically conservative views. After starting his career with the psychedelic outfit the Amboy Dukes, Nugent hit the road as a solo act in 1975 where he found his greatest fame and fortune. Nugent signed a deal with Columbia and released his first solo album later that same year.
Featuring a crack band of Derek St. Holmes on second guitar and vocals, Rob Grange on bass, and Cliff Davies on drums, the album was successful, largely due to the over-the-top stage show put on by the Nuge and company, which often featured Nugent jumping down off of the top of his amp stacks and wildly wielding his huge hollow-body Gibson guitar (usually associated with jazz players) and performing guitar duels with guesting guitarists.
Two more studio albums helped establish his position as a preeminent rock star of the seventies, 1976’s Free for All and 1977’s Cat Scratch Fever, which featured the title track hit single and the cut “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” The album established Nugent as a household name, and the band was a regular feature at concerts, festivals, and late-night rock shows like The Midnight Special, with the Nuge often going into “battle” wearing little more than a buckskin loincloth and swinging from a rope onto the stage to start his concerts.
Double Live Gonzo in 1978 capped Nugent’s golden era, though, as his tightfisted leadership style began to grow old with band members and they began jumping ship, with the greatest loss being co-vocalist/guitarist St. Holmes, who would go on to briefly front the Whitford/St. Holmes band with Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. As a result many of Nugent’s albums through the next decade were a mixed bag and lacked the verve of his earlier work.
Nugent joined with ex-Night Ranger bassist/vocalist Jack Blades and ex-Styx singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw to play lead guitar for the super group Damn Yankees in 1990. Their first self-titled album was a hit due to the single “High Enough,” and was followed by Don’t Tread in 1992, after which the band split up.
With something of a return to form with Spirit of the Wild in 1995, Nugent resumed his solo career, touring and releasing albums somewhat more sporadically, along with issued hits collections and archival material. He also became a rightwing radio host, extending his outspoken entertaining persona to the realm of politics. In addition, Nugent has built on his lifelong love of hunting and the outdoors, running a hunting supply store, releasing outdoor instruction videos, and serving on the board of the NRA. In 2001 he published his autobiography, God, Guns, and Rock n’ Roll.
Discography: Ted Nugent (Epic, 1975); Free-for-All (Epic, 1976); Cat Scratch Fever (Epic, 1977); Double Live Gonzo! (Epic, 1978); Weekend Warriors (Epic, 1978); State of Shock (Epic, 1979); Scream Dream (Epic, 1980); Intensities in 10 Cities [live] (Epic, 1981); Nugent (Atlantic, 1982); Penetrator (Atlantic, 1984); Little Miss Dangerous (Atlantic, 1986); If You Can’t Lick ’Em … Lick ’Em (Atlantic, 1988); Spirit of the Wild (Atlantic, 1995); Live at Hammersmith ’79 (Sony, 1997); Full Bluntal Nugity [live] (Spitfire, 2001); Craveman (Spitfire, 2002); Love Grenade (Eagle/Red, 2007); Out of Control (Epic/Legacy, 1993); On the Edge (Synergie, 1996); Over the Top (Thunderbolt, 1996); Ted Nugent’s Greatest (Platinum Disc, 2003); Original Album Classics (Sony/BMG, 2008).