With all of his hunting concerns, political involvements, reality TV shows and publishing maneuvers, it can be easy to forget that Ted Nugent's first claim to fame was playing very loud and unbridled rock 'n' roll.
The Motor City Madman recognizes this, and he's taken steps in recent years to remind the world that he had it in a musical stranglehold well before these other endeavors entered his crosshairs.
"The music is more visible? I hope so," says the Detroit-born Nugent, 58, who came to fame with the Amboy Dukes in mid-'60s before launching his solo career with 1975's "Ted Nugent." "It was about a year ago I wrangled my team and said, 'We've got all this hunting and fishing and NRA and political stuff and charity work on the web site. Where's the...rock 'n' roll?! That's the beast that fuels the beast. Will you please try to bring that to its proper visibility.'
" 'Cause it really is the engine of my American dream and it always has been and always will be. Even when I'm doing my five, six months of guided hunting activities around the world...people say it's the guitar around the campfire and the original attraction of the music that they love. That's the lead dog on my sled team, and it always will be."
To that end, Nugent has been pointedly more musical in recent years -- beyond just touring with his trio, which this year includes bassist Barry Sparks and drummer Mick Brown. He released a live album, "Full Bluntal Nugity," in 2001 and a studio set, "Craveman," in 2002. The "Full Bluntal Nugity Live" DVD appeared in 2003.
And, Nugent says, we're not very far from the next album of all new Nugent material, which will include tracks such as "Girl Scout Cookies," "Raisin' Hell," "Funk You" and "Bridge Over Trouble Daughters."
"I'm just in love with the new music," says Nugent, who's playing some of he new songs on his current Unleash the Beast tour. "It defies logic that this energy level is achieved at this over the hill age of 58. It's adorable!
"I'm dedicated right now to recording at least a dozen of my best songs that are driving me wild. I hope to hell we can go in the studio next February and have the record ready to listen to by March and that it's out by the spring of '07. Then I can tour like an idiot."
That dedication, of course, puts some of Nugent's other musical concerns on the back burner. Damn Yankees, his band with Styx's Tommy Shaw and Night Ranger's Jack Blades, is still in hiatus 14 years after its last album. And Nugent doesn't expect to do much more -- at least not in the near future -- with Damnocracy, his 12-day collaboration with ex-Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, Antrhax's Scott Ian, Biohazard's Even Seinfeld and Jason Bonham for the VH1 "Supergroup" series that aired earlier this summer.
"I would like to (do more with Damnocracy)," Nugent says. "The musical element is very alluring. But I doubt it. I've got so much cool (stuff) going on. It's about the cool meter; like a TSA wand-er, I run my cool wand over everything, and only stuff that pegs the meter do i do.
"Even as good as the Damn Yankees are...We got killer offers to record but, Jesus, when do you do that?"
It's not like Nugent's plate isn't full of non-musical activities, either. In addition to his hunting trips, he also churns out a "Spirit of the Wild" hunting show and the "Wanted Ted or Alive" competitive reality series. He's in his fourth term on the National Rifle Association's Board of Directors and was recently appointed an ambassador for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Pass It On! Outdoor Mentors Program. His writing appears in more than 40 publications, including his own Ted Nugent Adventure Outdoors magazine.
Nugent is also active with the USO and organizations such as injuredsoldiers.net, regularly donating tickets and holding backstage sessions with military personnel and police officers.
"I have a standing invitation to all the cops' families and soldiers' families of people killed in the line of duties," Nugent says. "I talk to these guys with their faces, legs and arms blown off, which is probably the most intense thing in my life.
"Just hanging with these men and women and seeing what a wimp I am compared to them, it just toughens me up and it makes me appreciate my health and my mobility and my American life so much. It inspires me every night to just go out on stage and go nuts."
Nugent's life may bring him back to Michigan in the near future as well. He and his family have been living in Crawford, Texas (President George W. Bush country) since their compound in Jackson was closed in 2003 due to black mold. "It's impossible I won't (move back)," says Nugent, who reports that he's preparing to knock down the home and remove the contaminated soil. He hopes to start building in 2007, though the family's return might wait until his youngest son, 16-year-old Rocco, finishes high school in Texas.
"I still have Michigan residency; I can't even vote in Texas," says Nugent, who has four grandchildren by his son Toby and daughter Sasha. "I think even when we moved down here, I knew I'd return. I support the people down here, but I'm still a Michigan resident -- and I've got the tax bills to prove it, son!"
Ted Nugent may reside in Texas right now, but his heart is still in Michigan. Here are his thoughts on some of the goings-on back in his home state:
On the Tigers: "I am the Motor City Madman, after all, so I get updates on everything Detroit every day. My sons Toby and Rocco watch that stuff and they both update me. They're pretty excited about the Tigers doing better. Maybe I better call my buddy Kirk (Gibson and say thanks for getting out of their way..."
On Kid Rock's marriage(s) to Pamela Anderson: "Isn't that funny? I'll hold back my deepest comments about it. I wish them nothing but extreme happiness and sexual exploratory maneuvering."
On Bob Seger's upcoming album: "I love Bob immensely. I always play tribute to Bob because he carries on the funk brother thing. I expect great things out of Bob...But it drives me nuts that every time I see him he's chain-smoking! It drives me nuts when I see any singers smoking.
On Republican senatorial candidate Michael Bouchard, who Nugent is publicly supporting: "There's a definite and clearly articulated upgrade there. The things that he represents I believe truly and accurately and genuinely represent the agenda of people in the productive column of Michigan."
Ted Nugent performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (August 17th) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township, and at 8 p.m. Friday (August 18th) at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochest
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