Ted Nugent on sports, leaving the Super Bowl early & new LP “The Music Made Me Do It”
Few musicians are on a level comparable to Ted Nugent. That not only has to with Nugent’s long-term commercial success -- his first six albums sold at least gold in the U.S. -- and his prowess as an influential lead guitarist but also his skills as an interview subject. Simply put, when you are on the phone with The Nuge, you never have to worry about whether you are going to get some spectacular quotes out of the Michigan native.
The latest album from Ted Nugent is The Music Made Me Do It. Coming out on November 9th via Round Hill Records, the album features Greg Smith (Billy Joel, Alice Cooper, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow) on bass, Jason Hartless (Joe Lynn Turner, Mitch Ryder) on drums, and Nugent himself on lead guitar and vocals. Accompanying the CD version of the album is a bonus DVD, Live At Freedom Hill, as recording at Michigan's Freedom Hill Amphitheatre. The collection's first single is its title track, which Nugent has claimed to be his "battlecry for more than 60 years to pursue this incredible soundtrack to my happiness, craving for creative adventure, the ultimate guitar tone and overall quality of life!”
During my chat with the man who many warmly call “Uncle Ted,” I threw in a question about his history with sports. Famously Nugent is a skilled hunter, and he has been known to jump off of amplifiers and shoot a bow-and-arrow as part of his live performances. Yet what he thinks about professional sports, past or present, isn’t such common knowledge. The answer I received from the Motor City Madman was, of course, epic.
30 minutes from my chat with Ted Nugent will appear later this year on an upcoming episode of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz, a podcast produced in partnership with PureGrainAudio. In the meantime, more on Nugent – including tour dates and information about The Music Made Me Do It – can be found online at www.tednugent.com.
Aside from hunting, were you yourself ever a competitive athlete? Or especially a fan of the Detroit sports teams?
Ted Nugent: That’s a great question. I was asked that on public television last week and I’ve got to tell you that I admire and revere that athleticism. The warrior, the man in the arena, and boy there are some super-humans out there. My sons and daughters can tell you their names, but I can’t.
LeBron James comes to mind, Michael Jordan comes to mind, my great friend and blood-brother Kirk Gibson comes to mind, but you know what? I have never been a spectator. (laughs) I went to one baseball game in my life. It was Bridge Stadium in Detroit, 1958. I think Al Kaline and Stormin’ Norman [Cash] were playing… Athletic heroes back then, but [I was] bored to death.
Governor [Rick] Perry invited me and [wife] Shemane [Nugent] to the Super Bowl, the night that Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction. We left before that happened – THANK GOD. We were just bored to death. I’ll go on record, I just don’t understand violence and the concussions and the damage and the mental health conditions that are the result of such violent sports like that.
I’ve watched the Pistons when they win everything, and the Red Wings when they win everything, and I’ve been to Lions games where they didn’t win. (laughs) I don’t think I’ve ever seen them win. But my sons and daughters are such huge fans of those sports, that I indulge them. Especially when our Detroit teams are winning everything, and I’m very fortunate to be in the owners’ suite and get the bird’s eye view of these phenomenal athletes and introduce them to my children. I appreciate that. But I can’t wait to get the hell out of there and be back in the woods. (laughs)
I was a killer baseball player when I was 10, 11, 12. I’d run and jump and catch and throw. I was really good on the basketball court the dozen times I went on it. I was a pretty good hockey guy when the Rouge River froze in January back in Detroit for a half-dozen games.
But I was intrigued about getting close to wildlife and understanding my natural role in nature. It was so consuming to me, the mystical flight of the arrow becoming one with the path of your life, and the marksmanship discipline being trained by the snipers in the U.S. Marine Corps, Special Ops and all these Green Berets and Army Rangers, my god, how lucky am I?
Now I did off-race professionally, off-road racing, with [Rufus] Parnelli Jones and Mickey Thompson for about 12 years back in the 70s. I won some races, and I crashed a bunch. (laughs) But I really learned the athleticism that is ultimately demanded of one in the off-road racing torture test. And that was exciting. But I had such a team that I didn’t have to apply extended days and weeks and months of the year to do it. I could just show up and drive because I had a natural ability. I think it was because of the rush hour traffic training in Detroit, which I always won by the way. (laughs)
I still love that higher level of awareness that is athleticism, especially in horse-power management. But the simple answer to your question… No, I never really got into those sports. I admire those that do.
But that’s interesting, is that kind of fascinating? Was I athletic leaping off of those damn amps, hence the new knees, but yeah, I was a maniac. The highest energy, the most athletic son of a bitch EVER onstage. I think I can say that legitimately. But it was applied to my guitar inspiration, the band with Cliff [Davies] and Rob [Grange] and Derek [St. Holmes] and Jack [Blades] and Michael [Cartellone] and Tommy [Shaw] and all these incredible musicians I was surrounded with. So that was athleticism, because like the title of this record – The Music Made Me Do It – how do you stand still playing “Motor City Madhouse?” (laughs) Of course you don’t.