’98′s Best: Ted Nugent Pursues Wild Life On Safari And Tour

Gonzo guitarist, back from African big-game hunt, is taking aim at U.S. audiences.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at
1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Thursday, Aug. 13.]

Ted Nugent has some things on his mind.

Not his current tour, or the next solo album he’ll be recording this winter, or the Damn
Yankees album he plans to start work on next spring. Not his radio show or his newly
licensed dried-meat product, Ted Nugent Gonzo Meat Biltong.

Right now, as he’s seated on a couch in the dressing room of the Konocti Harbor Resort
in Kelseyville, Calif., he’s thinking about hunting.

Fresh off a two-week African safari, the thought of the kill is still close. He can almost
smell it.

“I was running with the natives. I was hunting with a sharp stick in the bowels of our
origins,” says singer/guitarist Nugent, 49, his bare chest covered only by a camouflage
snakeskin vest, his arms making chopping motions. “The soul of man was on the tip of
my spirit every day. I hunt all the wildlife — lion, leopard, baboons, gemsbok, nyala,
wildebeest, warthog, bush pig — all indigenous species.”

As he begins an annual North American tour that will take him to 15 cities and last
through Aug. 29, Nugent is in the unusual position of being as well-known for his
extracurricular activities — such as hunting and right-wing political punditry — as he is for
his rock career. And the rock work has been as high-profile as you can get. His solo
albums have yielded such hits as HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Nugent,_Ted/Cat_Scratch_Fever.ram">“Cat
Scratch Fever”
(RealAudio excerpt) and “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” and his
stint with ’80s supergroup Damn Yankees produced “High Enough,” the highest-charting
track of Nugent’s rock guitar-god run.

With 23 albums and numerous projects under his belt, the 6-foot-3-inch rocker has again
taken to the road to play some of his classic and lesser-known material. Whether it’s out
in the jungle or onstage, these days Nugent seems most comfortable in a live setting. His
most recent release was a live album, last year’s Live At Hammersmith 1979.

Drinking a cup of tea with lemon and honey to soothe his voice, Nugent, his flowing
brown hair gathered in a ponytail, speaks animatedly as he discusses his summer tour.
As he talks about the outing, which includes frequent pit stops at the House Of Blues
nightclub chain across the country, he displays the defiant attitude that’s defined his
character since his ’60s tenure with the heavy blues-rock outfit the Amboy Dukes.

“I invented and perfected sonic bombast for the masses,” Nugent says. “My music is
basically a bulbous middle finger — dirty fingernails, extra hair on the knuckles —
swinging in the wind on your behalf.”

With that in mind, it’s little surprise that Nugent would sit down and pen a new tune such
as “Garlic and Butter.” “As I watch the mystical flight of the arrow traverse 60 yards of
African scrub and penetrate the chest cavity of a wildebeest,” Nugent says as he taps out
the rhythm of the tune on the top of the tape recorder, “and I watch him kick and fart and
snort and run off, before tipping over deader than a toenail, and knowing I’ll feed 100
people for a couple days, at that point I wrote a song called ‘Garlic and Butter.’ ”

The same take-no-prisoners attitude applies to his morning radio show for Detroit’s
WWBR (102.7 FM), which he hosts from the comfort of his own barn, according to the
program’s producer, Linda Peterson.

“It’s intense, sitting across a microphone from Ted at six in the morning — you tell me
[what it's like],” Peterson said. “There’s never a dull moment, and never a blunt
instrument.”

For his part, Nugent said his show — which runs from 6-10 a.m., Monday through Friday,
and most recently featured bluesman Buddy Guy, Michigan governor John Engler and
schoolkids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance — is just an extension of his unique vision.

“The great thing about Ted Nugent is that if you offer me a format, I will offer you a
grenade to fix it, because formats are for saps,” Nugent said. “Formulas are for saps and
trails are for sheep.

“We not only walk them and explore the roads less traveled, we hammer out the ones
where people told you we couldn’t get through that mountain. We get out our
jackhammers — which we’ve renamed Tedhammers — and we just carve out our own
trails.”