Ted Nugent is one of my favorite guitarists in any music genre. He’s also one of my favorite personalities that has graced rock ‘n roll with his rather large presence. Nugent makes no bones about his affinity for the 2nd Amendment in our nation’s Bill of Rights, his love for America, his passion for hunting, and his love for rock ‘n roll. Actually, if he could hunt, piss off liberals, and play guitar at the same time, he probably would, but he can only do two of those simultaneously. Nugent has made quite a footprint in political activism, whether you consider that good or bad, but I don’t know of any fan of rock ‘n roll music that doesn’t see Ted Nugent’s influence on music as a negative.
Nugent’s personality and guitar playing have made a major impact on rock ‘n roll and even some in heavy metal. “Stranglehold”, “Cat Scratch Fever”, “Just What the Doctor Ordered”, “Snakeskin Cowboys”, and “Fred Bear” are a few of his hits over the years that showcase his musical genius and guitar skill that he still treats his fans to during the summer months. During the hunting offseason, Nugent still tours with bassist Greg Smith and drummer Jason Hartless, and can chop some wood with his axe. He still laces his live shows with enthusiastic profanity, so that’s always a fun accompaniment to rock ‘n roll. Even if you don’t particularly care for his music, you will always acquire entertainment from his live shows.
Ethan and I had the opportunity to see the Motor City Madman himself in a small venue of about 300 people with our balls to the wall in a jam packed, standing room. We had to wait a bit for the opener to come and go and allow the roadie crew to setup for Nugent, but we received a payoff. He opened with our National Anthem, and from there I was goose bumped and hooked for 2.5 hours of rock ‘n roll goodness. Not one time did I pick up my phone for photos or video taking; I took in every moment and enjoyed the concert as it was meant to be, without any adulteration. Safe to say, Ethan and I came away impressed, patriotic, and rather deaf. We learned our lesson to wear ear plugs in such a small setting!
Image via Ted Nugent
Even though Ted Nugent still has a presence in the rock ‘n roll scene, it’s not a secret that his band was bigger and better in the 70’s and early 80’s. Of course, he was a lot younger and still could screech with the best of them, but his music then was more experimental and better received than it is today. Unfortunately for Nugent, his creative juices have waned over the years, but that can be partly attributed to his many other interests that consume his time. Still though, he’s one of the last, great influential guitarists in rock ‘n roll that still tour, and that’s impressive. You may not agree, but I feel that Nugent’s guitar skills should be mentioned with those of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix.
I’m writing this piece for two reasons. One, is to give you my take of the “Motor City Madman” Ted Nugent – which I have done, but it’s also to do a quick write up on his band’s first and perhaps best studio album, Ted Nugent.
Image via last.fm
Release Date: September 1975
Artist: Ted Nugent
Producer: Tom Werman, Lew Futterman
Personnel: Ted Nugent (lead guitar, vocals), Dereck St. Holmes (rhythm guitar, vocals), Rob Grange (bass), Cliff Davies (drums)
After becoming frustrated with his former band the Amboy Dukes due to a lack of professionalism by some of the members, Ted Nugent decided it was time to rethink his career and clear his head by hunting in Colorado. Taking some time off was a rare thing for Nugent at this time, so he was at a bit of a crossroads.
Performing since 1958 and touring relentlessly since 1967, Ted Nugent decided to form a solo band and released his first album, Ted Nugent in 1975. Accompanying him on the vocals was Derek St. Holmes, who also played rhythm guitar, former Amboy Dukes bassist Rob Grange, and drummer Cliff Davies.
If you’ve heard any Ted Nugent songs before, chances are some of them can be found on Ted Nugent. The album contains fan favorites “Stormtroopin’”, “Just What the Doctor Ordered”, “Hey Baby”, “Snakeskin Cowboys”, and arguably the band’s best song, “Stranglehold.”
According to the Motor City Madman himself, “Stranglehold” is the number one guitar lick in the history of the world. Ted’s been known to make some outlandish claims in the past, but I don’t think he missed the mark by that much. The song’s intro is as iconic as they come, and Holmes’s clear, penetrating voice coupled with a heavy bass line still get the blood pumping and the foot on the pedal.
Despite rolling in over 8 minutes, I always make it a point to listen to “Stranglehold” in its entirety because the song still has an experimental feel to it even 43 years after its release. Reportedly, the guitar solo was recorded in one take. I can’t prove this with any sources, but I’ve also heard a rumor that Nugent gained inspiration for the song’s elongated solo from a guitarist he heard at a local dive. Not sure if this is true, but it’s a cool story anyway. It’s a ballsy move to include a mammoth, 8+ minute track as your first album’s opener, but 43 years later, it’s still one of the most distinguishable rock ‘n roll songs.
The Nuge on That ’70s Show via Fanpop
Thankfully, the music doesn’t stop here. “Stormtroopin” continues the fun with pluckier guitar play accompanied by high as a cat’s back vocals, solid drums, and a steady bass. It’s evident early on the album that the band was in a good place creatively as evidenced by the first couple of tracks.
Changing things up, “Hey Baby” slows the pace and relies on Holmes’ vocals and simple, but effective rhythm guitar riffs. The Nuge shows himself to be no slouch by providing blues-infused guitar licks that fill in the gaps of the track. For any fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Hey Baby” or “Where Have You Been All of My Life” will perhaps be your favorite track.
Yet another ample guitar solo resides on “Just What the Doctor Ordered.” This song is relatable to these guys as the end of the song’s chorus simply states: “…I got me an overdose of rock ‘n roll.” It is the opinion of this writer that they have a good doctor.
Ted Nugent contains a marvelous blend of experimentation, blues, and classic rock ‘n roll that yielded what I consider to be the band’s best effort. Their enthusiasm – especially Ted’s – cannot be ignored on the album, and I think the band hit a musical sweet spot in its song writing and execution.
Refreshingly, I have discovered over the years of listening to this album that it is far more than a one hit album. In my humble opinion, Ted Nugent is one of the better rock ‘n roll albums in existence. It doesn’t hurt to have one of the most iconic guitar intros in the industry to make your album stand out. This album served as a springboard for the band’s wild success in the ‘70s and as a sustainer to present day. I can’t imagine going to a Ted Nugent concert without hearing “Stranglehold” and “Just What the Doctor Ordered.” I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see Uncle Ted in concert again!
I’m going to give Ted Nugent a 95% and his freedom-dispensing, live show a 100%.