Ted joined the Amboy Dukes in 1965 when he was still enrolled at St. Viator High School in Illinois. They quickly became a local favorite and started writing music and recording albums. The group put out seven albums between 1967 and 1974 through Mainstream Records that all enjoyed modest success. The group toured constantly around the country, averaging around 300 concert dates every year. Although their lineup changed several times, Ted was the one constant member of the band. Towards the end of the band’s career, they were known as Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes. The Amboy Dukes dissolved in 1975 as Nugent embarked on a career as a solo artist.
Nugent started working with bassist Rob Grange, drummer Clifford Davies and singer Derek St. Holmes after signing a record deal with Epic Records. The quartet went on to release Ted’s self-titled debut record in September 1975, Free-for-All in October 1976 and Cat Scratch Fever in May 1977. These albums and the tours that followed began to establish Ted’s popularity in the rock and roll scene. The group recorded a live album, Double Live Gonzo, that was released in January 1978. It reached multi-platinum status and is widely considered one of the best live rock concert albums of all time.
St. Holmes and Grange left Nugent’s band in 1978, and Davies left four years later. Ted retreated from the public spotlight for a while following those departures, but still continued to write music, release albums and tour. In 1989, Ted joined the supergroup Damn Yankees. The group consisted of Nugent, drummer Michael Cartellone, Styx guitarist/singer Tommy Shaw and Night Ranger bassist/singer Jack Blades. Damn Yankees released two albums (their self-titled debut in February 1990 and Don’t Tread in August 1992) and toured with Poison, Jackyl, Bad Company and other contemporary rock artists before Nugent left the group in 1994. He did return to the Damn Yankees in 2010 for a one-off performance at the annual NAMM convention in Anaheim, California.
Ted returned to his solo gig in 1995, and Derek St. Holmes also returned to his band. He has continued to record albums and tour when his busy schedule allows. In 2006, Nugent joined Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, Biohazard bassist/singer Evan Seinfeld, former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach and veteran drummer Jason Bonham to form the supergroup Damnocracy. The group formed under the leadership of legendary rock & roll manager Doc McGhee for a reality show on VH1. They wrote material and performed together, but did not release any albums before disbanding in 2010.
His original band, the Amboy Dukes, had a reunion of their original members in 2009, a year after being inducted into the Michigan Rock & Roll Legends Hall of Fame. They came together to perform at The Fillmore for the Detroit Music awards. Ted has also appeared as a guest artist on several albums by some of his friends in the rock industry.
Here are ten of Ted Nugent’s best songs from throughout his entire career:
# 10 – Motor City Madhouse
Ted Nugent wrote this song from his first solo album as a tribute to his beloved hometown. He praises Detroit throughout the tune, admiring the blue-collar work ethic of its citizens and their determined personalities. Even his solos are well-deserved compliments to Michigan’s largest city.
# 9 – Stormtroopin’
An intense song from Ted’s 1975 solo debut that most fans know well. Nugent often began his sets with this song. The heavy guitars and high-octane vocals quickly get fans riled up in anticipation of more great music.
# 8 – Fred Bear
Ted wrote this song from his 1995 Spirit of the Wild album as a tribute to his friend and well-known bowhunting pioneer. The song contains a few spoken parts by Fred interspersed between Ted’s lyrics and clever guitar work. It has also served as a loving tribute to his fans’ fellow hunting enthusiasts who have since passed on.
# 7 – Great White Buffalo
Listeners can almost picture themselves riding out in the wilderness on a hunt with Nugent in this song. It was released on the Amboy Dukes’ seventh and final studio album, Tooth Fang & Claw, in September 1974. In the tune, Ted pleads for Native Americans to only hunt and take what they need. He also chastises greedy American businessmen for over-use of our limited natural resources. An eco-friendly song whose message still matters today.
# 6 – Free For All
The looping guitars and repetitive lyrics helped make Ted Nugent a household name in the 70’s. The title track to Ted’s 1976 album has a rather simple song structure, but it’s one that works. It epitomizes Ted’s fun-loving nature and remains a heavily requested song at his shows.
# 5 – Journey To The Center of the Mind
The title track of the Amboy Dukes’ 1968 album was also their biggest hit. Ted wrote the melody for this song, and also re-recorded it for his 2007 album Love Grenade. Ted swears the song is not about drug or alcohol abuse, although some have interpreted it that way. A Pink Floyd-esque tune that many faithful fans still remember fondly.
# 4 – Wango Tango
This song from 1980’s Scream Dream features some very inventive lyrics. There are plenty of interesting metaphors to figure out, as well as some very entertaining guitar riffs. A fun tongue-in-cheek song that’s easy enough to sing along with in the car on a long road trip, whether you know the lyrics by heart or not.
# 3 – Wang Dang Sweet Potang
Ted Nugent’s “Wang Dang Sweet Potang,” was released on his mega selling album Cat Scratch Fever. It was placed as the second grack on the album following the album’s opening cut “Cat Scratch Fever.” You either loved the title of this song or hated it. Ted fans went crazy over it. Nonetheless, it was the perfect song to follow that album’s opener.
# 2 – Stranglehold
This was the first song that introduced most fans to Ted’s music. It’s also the first song on his self-titled debut record from 1975. This eight minute masterpiece was penned by Nugent, St. Holmes and Grange. The guitar solo was written in a single take, and is one of the signature pieces of Ted’s long and storied career.
# 1 – Cat Scratch Fever
The title track from Nugent’s 1979 solo album begins with one of the most recognized and most loved guitar riffs in rock history. The song was a top 30 hit in the US and Canada when it was first released. It has since been covered by Pantera, Motorhead and several other contemporary rock and country artists. It has also been played on TV shows, movies and at sports arenas for decades. A classic song that is constantly being reintroduced to new fans of rock music.
Ted Nugent has been busy writing songs and performing live in concert for over five decades. He has no plans to stop anytime soon. He has recorded over two dozen albums between his work in bands and as a solo artist. Ted is currently on tour in support of his 2018 album The Music Made Me Do It. Be sure to attend his show if he’s playing in a tour near you. You’ll get to hear some new songs, some rock radio classics and get to witness one of the most talented electric guitarists this world has ever known.