“A JOURNEY FROM PALATINE TO CENTER STAGE”
by BOB TONGE
THE DAILY HERALD
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS AUGUST 6, 1977
They call him the Tarzan of the guitar world, rock’s wildman. He gyrates across the stage, long hair flying, leaping, kicking, falling to his knees, this Messiah of high energy rock and roll.
Ted “Turn It Up” Nugent is onstage, exploding, electric.
Seventy thousand awaited him in a sun drenched Soldier Field. Backstage a crowd of the privileged — family, friends and press — congregated around his dressing room trailer. His vibes can be felt,as he and the Nugent band warm up with familiar tunes that filter through the metal walls..And then the hush. Soldier Field falls quiet, if just for an instant… The trailer door explodes and out flies the detonator. Ted Nugent and his band speed towards the stage. They hit the lights and Nugent dives into his first tune, in a frenzy. The crowd roars as Ted skates from side to side, as if on ice, playing riveting guitar leads.
The man is in constant motion, beads of sweat now forming on his brow and rolling down his bearded face. He ends his first song with a flick of his stringy black hair and an acrobatic leap. Without a minute’s breath, he jumps into the next number with more and more enthusiasm. The outrageous volume is inflicting pain upon the unprotected ear as the 150,000 watts of pure power pour it on. Ted boasts of having the largest P.A. system in captivity and the crowd is loving it.
Pounding it out with the predominantly teenage audience is Mrs. Nugent, mother of the 28-year-old star, Marion Nugent soaks up the beat, fists clenched, cheering on her son from in front of one of the huge speaker columns on stage. He may be the madman of rock to the groupies but the white clad, frenetic performer slamming into “Free For All” is her Ted, her boy, a son who calls his family from all points of the globe, spends Christmas at home, dotes on his children, loves his wife, farms his land.
Ted is the second and most notorious of the Nugents’ four offspring. Jeff, 29, is a business executive on the East Coast; John, 24, who formerly worked as Ted’s mixer and road manager, now sells advertising for a radio station in Michigan; Kathy, 18, lives with the Nugents in their split-level Palatine home having graduated this June from Fremd High School.
Idol worship has found Ted Nugent but his parents pointedly refer to him as their No. 2 son and with equal pride insert anecdotes into their conversation of Kathy’s music talent, Jeff’s intellectual abilities or John’s childhood. Ted is a star on stage but he is “the boy” at this comfortable suburban home.
Warren and Marlon Nugent handle Ted’s whirlwind career in the hard rock world in different fashions. Marion, warm and attractive, always smiting, is the cheerleader of the two, self-described as “the oldest groupie in fifty states.” She attends all of Ted’s in-town concerts, listens faithfully to his albums and carries a purse full of his pictures, promotional cards and buttons to hand out. At the Soldier Field concert, young fans held up signs welcoming “Ted’s Mom.” Nugent admirers seek her out at Hang it all Inc., the Long Grove shop where she works.
All her words for Ted are positive. His concert was “Super Fantastic.” Ted’s a “very good family boy,” a “very clean, neat person.” “He’s always nice “to everyone, groupies, everyone.” She’s animated and alive when, talking about Ted, his career and family and rails at unflattering stories written about him in the underground press or negative reviews, of his work. Her sister
sent her a copy of a column that appeared in a Florida newspaper that downgraded Ted’s concert there as nothing but noise. “I was so mad by the time I was done reading it I was eating the table. I was livid.
Just noise! He shouldn’t be reviewing music, He belongs in a rocking chair. I wrote him a letter right back and sent him one of Ted’s
buttons, ‘If it’s too loud, you’re too old. Then I had to ask Kathy how to spell sincerely because I never use it on letters —I always use, ‘love and kisses’ — and I just signed it, Ted’s Mom.”
Mention Ted’s hard core, vulgar language on stage or his raucous lyrics and Mrs. Nugent smiles her mother’s smile and says, “I understand that Ted is just getting his message across to his audience. He would never use that language with me or with the family.”
Warren Nugent has more conservative blood in his veins when it comes to his son. He didn’t attend the Chicago concert or performances before that, preferring, to stay home with his dog, Shad, listening to Lawrence Welk’s music on television. “I admire the boy for his success and I’m 100 per cent supportive of him but as far as his high decibility, I have a problem,” said Nugent matter of factly. “I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the boy but my personal exposure at a concert of that type goes against my Grain. I’m old fashioned. Ted understands my feelings and we respect each other.”
At one point Nugent asked Ted to cut his long hair. “As a contemporary father I don’t like long hair. I told him to modify it, get it cut and he told” me it wasn’t part of the game. So I said, why not get it cut and wear a wig when ydu perform. But, he said if he got a wig it wouldn’t be the real him. He wants to be true to himself. There’s nothing artificial about Ted.
The Nugents lived in Detroit when Ted was born. “Ted walked very early, but he really didn’t walk, he ran. ‘He always ran,” said
Mrs. Nugent of her high-energy son who dazzles the crowd with his non-stop, intense shows.
Ted’s first exposure to music was when he was six and Marion’s sister gave the family an old guitar. “He took to it like a duck takes to water,” said his father. “He was like a child prodigy, but he was an unknown prodigy that flourished. His involvement with music was circumstance, a stroke of fate. When he was about eight the Royal School of Music in Redford (Michigan) was soliciting students. They caught me in a weak moment and I asked the kids if they wanted to take lessons. Jeff said he didn’t want to but Ted said he’d try something..
There was no way of knowing he would excel at it.” After six months of lessons Ted had learned about all his instructor could teach him.
By 14 he had formed a rock band, “The Lourds” and his career was under way.
Twelve years ago Nugent’s employers, H. K. Porter Co., transferred. him to the Chicago area and, despite Ted’s protests that he wouldn’t leave his band and the rock scene in Detroit, they moved to Hoffman Estates for two years and then to Palatine.
“Ted attended St. Viator High School and went to the Roselle School of Music for lessons. At the school he saw a $700 plus guitar that he wanted and came home to ask us,” said Mrs. Nugent. “His father said, absolutely not so Ted went to his music teacher and told him, ‘I’m going to make it and I’ll be a big star but I need a guitar. Will you give it to me and trust me to pay when I can?’ He did and Ted helped pay for It by giving lessons at the school.” Ted’s love for his music superseded all else. He wanted to drop out of high school but his father insisted he finish. He formed another group, the “Amboy Dukes” and played at The Cellar, a local bar, and other small clubs in his climb to the top.
“He really went through a drought there for a while and I asked him. ‘Ted, why don’t you quit.’ He said, ‘Dad, I play for the entertainment of my audience. I play because they want me.’ Whatever he does he gives it 100 per cent. Ted believed in what he was doing and he had sticktoitiveness. When he was in that lean period he had faith in himself.” “There were a lot of care packages in those days,” said Mrs. Nugent. “We helped him some and we had a ball. When the group was in town they would all stay at the house to save on expenses. One time we cooked up 93pounds of spaghetti. It was wonderful.”
Today Ted’s at the top with three platinum albums and one gold without the benefit of a Top 40 smash hit. Today he is known,
he is followed. He composes almost all of the Ted Nugent Tour recordings. He can come to Soldier Field, playing in the Super Bowl of Rock. Game Three, and draw one of the biggest crowds he has ever had.
On stage he is vibrant, loud, yelling to his audience in a rapid fire machine gun staccato. Off stage there is an entirely different Ted Nugent, He remains intense, on the go, but his gentle, soft side comes through … the side his parents talk about. When the music stops Ted heads to his 110-acre farm in Jackson, Mich. his wife of six years, Sandra, and his two children, Sasha, 3 and Toby, 9 months. Their life is rural and frugal because of desire rather than necessity. They grow their own food, Sandy clips coupons and watches pennies, Ted hunts game for meat with bow and arrow. What he kills they eat. Any excess is donated to the needy. Sitting off in a quiet section of the Soldier Field trailer Ted is asked where the nature lover fits with the public performer. He hides behind a potted plant peering through its leaves and whispers mysteriously, “That’s the other side of me.” The other side is “a beautiful boy,” says his mother. His father joins in; “Ted’s No. 1 relaxation is enjoying his children and his property. I’m so proud that he’s picked up the rural life.”
Ted has an aversion to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. His message to the young is: If you mess up your life with drugs or alcohol you lose part of it so don’t mess it up, His message to his band is: You turn on with my music or you don’t turn on with me. He’s practiced what he preaches. He once fired one of his singers who came on stage under the influence. Back stage, where food and beverage are abundant, Ted will only drink Vernor’s Ginger Ale, which he has flown in from Detroit to wherever he is performing.
His parents insist success has not spoiled Ted Nugent. His fame has not inflated his ego or changed the relationship he has with his family. His career also hasn’t had a major impact on his family. Rather than being harassed by Ted’s public the Nugents receive only occasional phone calls or visitors seeking out their son.
“This only thing that has happened to us because of Ted is that we’ve met a lot of beautiful people through him. The rest really hasn’t affected us. I think the reason is because Ted is the way he is and we’re the way we are. We’re a close family; “said Mrs. Nugent. “He flies home to his family every time he can, And he always calls us. Last year when he came back from Europe he called. ‘Free For All’ was going wild here and his other records were, selling like crazy. I got on the phone and I was all excited telling him about it and he said, ‘Mom, I just came back from six weeks of being Ted Nugent Music. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. How’s the family?’ ”
When Ted is performing the audience is drawn to his flamboyant magnetism. During one of his final tunes at Soldier Field the crowd began tossing plastic milk bottles into the air. Ted urged them to throw more and the massive stadium turned into a giant popcorn popper as the white jugs danced in the air. The heavy metal king teased the thousands by telling them to try and hit him. Like a barrage of bullets they came flying at the stage. “It was great, I loved it,” he-rejoiced while warming up for his encore by doing sit ups. He is always in motion, always fast. “It’s gotta be Detroit, it’s gotta be fast,” he said. Back for a “crowd pleasing two encores and it was over. Waving the oxygen that awaits him backstage he rushed to his trailer where he unwinds with electronic games and pinball machines. The aftershock of the Ted Nugent earthquake can be felt as he suddenly states, “We’re the most intense high energy rock band on earth.” “Can you name a band that has as much energy as we have?” asks rhythm guitarist Dereck St. Holmes caught up in the natural high that permeates the air. “Aerosmith? Sorry. Led Zeppelin? Sorry,” St. Holmes goes on. “I’ve been around. I’ve heard them all. They’re good bands, but they don’t have the energy we have.” “Now that’s good clean fun,” Ted exclaims of his performance. Yes, good clean fun, experiencing the explosion of T.N.T. (Ted Nugent Tour)…
TED NUGENT DISCOGRAPHY:
1967 Amboy Dukes
1968 Journey to the Center of your Mind
1970 Marriage on the Rocks/ Rock Bottom
1971 Survival of the Fittest (Live)
1973 Call of the Wild
1974 Tooth Fang and Claw
1975 Ted Nugent
1976 Free for All
1977 Cat Scratch Fever
1978 Double Live Gonzo
1978 Weekend Warriors
1979 State of Shock
1980 Scream Dream
1981 Intensities in Ten Cities
1986 Little Miss Dangerous
1988 If you can’t Lick ’em, Lick ’em…
1995 Spirit of the Wild
1997 Live at Hammersmith 1979
2001 Full Bluntal Nugity
2007 Love Grenade
2008 Sweden Rocks
2014 Shut Up and Jam!
CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO SEE TED NUGENT PHOTOS & ARTWORK:
ARTWORK BY BEN UPHAM III