Ted Nugent: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Ted Nugent Interview

Feature Photo by Brown Photography

Known as “The Motor City Madman,” Ted Nugent, who was born Theodore Anthony Nugent on December 13, 1948, has impacted rock ‘n’ roll across genres and generations with The Amboy Dukes, Damn Yankees, and as a solo artist.

The first few Amboy Dukes, by Nugent’s admission, are essential, as are his Damn Yankees efforts, which also feature Styx’s Tommy Shaw, Night Ranger’s Jack Blades and longtime Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Michael Cartellone, are, too. But to really catch Nugent’s musical vibe—which he throws down via howling vocals, high-energy stage presence, and with the help of his trusty Gibson Byrdland, you’ll want to revisit classic solo recordings, like Ted Nugent (1975), Free-for-All (1976), and Cat Scratch Fever (1977), to name a few.

With hosts of platinum records to his name and a penchant for speaking his mind like no other, few do rock music via six-strings in the same way Ted Nugent does. He’s impacted millions—there’s no denying it. And while he’s not done yet, Nugent announced his Adios Mogo tour in April of 2023, which reportedly will be his last. So, if you’ve missed out to date and want to catch Ted Nugent in all his glory, the time is now.

During a break in the action, Ted Nugent beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into the dynamics of Damn Yankees, touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd, his approach to guitar live and in the studio, plus a few extra bits and bobs.

Everyone loved Damn Yankees. Was it challenging to be a member of a supergroup with so much talent? With such strong personalities, did a band leader emerge among the four of you, or was it all equal say in what songs got recorded, performed, or any other band decisions?

All musical endeavors represent a wonderful and intriguing challenge to me when approached with an open mind and a spirit of musical adventure. Having been surrounded by the world’s greatest musicians all my life going all the way back to the Lourds in 1960 in Detroit, those Damn Yankees being a perfect example, I approach every musical day like a Martial Art of unlimited musical idea sharing.

With amazing, gifted, and dedicated guys like Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, and Michael Cartellone, it’s always one for all and all for one, respecting each individual and pursuing a united power greater than the sum of the parts.

You’ve worked with a lot of great artists in your career, but is there anyone you’d still love to collaborate or record with? 

Again, the list of musical forces I’ve had the honor to collaborate with for more than 60 years is humbling and inspiring beyond words—each and every one of ’em! I would love to write and record with Mark Farner, who may very well be the best overall singer/vocalist/songwriter ever if I do say so myself! Look at the list of my drummers and bass players, and I thank God every day!

When you audition someone to play in your band, how much of a role does personality play versus talent?

Certainly, musical talent, integrity, and, of course, that intangible spirit of each musician is paramount. But work ethic and musical passion are equally critical to truly enjoy the collaboration. All my guys forever have rated ten on all considerations!

Do you take a different approach to soloing in the studio than playing in front of a live audience?

No. My greatest gift is my ability to be out of body when I begin to play. It matters not the time, place, atmosphere, conditions, or any outside influence. The incredible caliber of musicians at my side drives me absolutely crazy to unleash my Gibson Byrdland guitar statement, so it always has a life of its own. There are no words to adequately describe my craving for passion and fire to express myself with no limits every time.

For the younger audience just getting into rock music, what would be the first Ted Nugent album you’d want them to check out?

They really couldn’t go wrong with any of them, but I always recommend the first few Amboy Dukes records for sheer uninhibited, no holds barred youthful garage band musical outrage and adventure.

In the ’70s, you went on tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd’ what was that like? Of course, we would ask them the same question of what it was like touring with you.

I’ve been blessed to tour with the greatest bands ever, and it is always doubly fascinating as a maniacal musical fan and fellow musician. The Lynyrd Skynyrd guys were 100% the real McCoy on every level. Killer soulful music, killer tight band, killer individual talent, and killer old-school R&B-inspired real rock’ n’ roll. Because I never drank alcohol or smoked any dope, there was negligible interaction beyond gig time, so we all got along just fine, but not any real hanging out.

Having toured around the world, are there any certain places you love to play the most because of the surrounding areas, venue, people, or food?

Dear God, how I love it all! The food in Europe was delectable. Getting to see and experience the world and all its fascinating, diverse cultures has been a prime joy. Meeting with hunters all over the world and getting to experience their hunting lifestyle has been thrilling. Meeting fellow music lovers globally has united a powerful bond of musical brotherhood no matter how different the history or culture.

Because I so thoroughly immerse myself in the music at every concert, it really doesn’t matter where, when, or for whom. My bandmates and I dedicate our complete heart and soul to every song, every night, and every concert that eclipses any other consideration. By doing so, as maniac music lovers ourselves, we know that we always deliver the absolute best performance for every audience every time.

Ted Nugent: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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