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Ted Nugent

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Ted Nugent


Detroit's Ted Nugent came to prominence as lead guitarist of the Amboy Dukes, the psychedelic outfit whose churning "Journey to the Center of the Mind" became a Top 20 hit in the summer of 1968. Resolutely drug-free, Nugent nonetheless supplied wailing lines to the acid manifesto. An extended version of the blues standard "Baby Please Don't Go," from the previous year's self-titled debut LP, landed on the influential 1972 Nugget collection, but by then personnel changes and frustration with their stalled career had the Dukes in a terminal state. In 1975, Nugent dropped the moniker and set out on a solo career that would quickly make him one of the decade's foremost hard-rock stadium attractions.

Ted Nugent, his Epic debut, was a typically over-amped affair, with a nod toward his Stones-fed blues roots -- the single "Hey Baby" was basically a rewrite of Jimmy McCracklin's 1950s dance tune "The Walk" -- amid a variety of other attitude-smeared rockers. Rising star Meat Loaf supplied vocals for half of 1976's Free For All, but it was Nugent's third LP that would guarantee his superstar status. Cat Scratch Fever's title track put sniggering sexual innuendo on AM radio alongside Barry Manilow and Andy Gibb, while other cuts sped along like the nascent punk rock that drew inspiration from garage rock musical compendium, 1986's Nuggets.

The coup de grace was Double Live Gonzo, another in the long line of '70s two-record concert sets. Nugent gave the format his own touch, however, delivering between-song raps as fast as his guitar playing; a '90s biker-rock band would take its name from the Motor City Madman's praise of "all that sweet Nashville pussy." Even the savage soul needs soothing occasionally, and high school parking lot debates broke out nationwide over the merits of Nugent's next single, the Beatles' pretty "I Want to Tell You" (Weekend Warriors, 1979). As if to prove that he hadn't been drained of adolescent fun, Nugent distilled his stage patter into something like an ultimate masterwork: "Wango Tango," which could well have been a garage rock hit 15 years earlier.

Nugent continues to tour and record, but gains as much or more attention these days for his uber-conservative views and a stance on firearms and the environment that is barely done justice by the phrase "pro-hunting." He was briefly mentioned as a potential Illinois senatorial candidate for the Republican Party in 2004. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be: a race between the Nuge vs. Barack Obama would've topped Double Live Gonzo for sheer spectacle.
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