His attitude may be cocksure and devil-may-care, but Ted Nugent does not take for granted that he’s been able to do the “Wango Tango,” or put audiences in a “Stranglehold,” nearly 6,000 times.
“I get on bended knee thanking God every day,” says Nugent, who will hit the 6,000 mark on Friday (July 4) with a Fourth of July homecoming performance at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.
“I’m gonna be 60 this year, y’know? I constantly reminisce and contemplate in a very reverential and cherishing dynamic that I’m still this healthy and athletic and energized and, most importantly, that I still love music this much.”
The Detroit-born Nugent, who’s been residing in Texas after black mold was found in his home near Jackson, was crazy about music even before that first show — playing Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” with guitar teacher Joe Pedorsik in the summer of 1958 at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. He wasn’t quite the Motor City Madman then, but Pedorsik recalls that Nugent’s appetite and acumen for his chosen instrument was apparent.
“Ted was a very creative student. He wanted to get more out of the instrument than tradition demanded,” says Pedorsik, 64, who’s still actively playing in Detroit and around the Midwest, as well as operating a janitorial and maintenance supply company in Detroit. He’ll join Nugent on stage Friday to play “Honky Tonk” one more time.
“I didn’t turn Ted into a rock star. You get that from your head and your heart and your fingers. He certainly had the head and the heart and the soul for it. I just taught him how to bring it out of the instrument, and he took it from there.”
That he did. Since putting himself on the national map with the Amboy Dukes and their hit, “Journey to the Center of the Mind” in 1968, Nugent has sold more than 35 million albums and riddled rock radio with the grinding guitar grooves of “Cat Scratch Fever,” “Stranglehold,” “Free For All” and “Paralyzed.” He released the studio album “Love Grenade” in 2007 and this year put out, “Sweden Rocks,” a live CD and DVD. The fifth-term National Rifle Association board member has also posted a new song, “I Am the NRA,” at his Web site.
Nugent exercises his almost equal passion for hunting via books, articles and TV shows. His latest tome, “Ted, White & Blue: The Nugent Manifesto,” indulges in his typically outspoken social commentary, and he’s shown a knack for making news by issuing periodic essays, such as a message to this year’s graduates (suffice to say it’s not exactly “wear sunscreen”) and a scathing reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on firearms possession rights, calling the four dissenting justices “soulless.”
Meanwhile, an acting resume that includes the reality shows “Surviving Nugent” and “SuperGroup” recently expanded to feature films with his role in the big-screen adaptation of country star Toby Keith’s “Beer For My Horses.”
“This is my work load. I work really hard,” explains Nugent, who has five children and four grandchildren from his two marriages and another relationship. “I throttle regardless of the environment. I just let it rip every night. I create the environment; I’m not a participant in the environment.
“And I get away from the music so I can’t wait to get back to the music.”
Nevertheless, he’s proud of those extra-musical endeavors. “Ted, White & Blue,” Nugent notes, “celebrates that even the author of ‘Wango Tango’ can perfectly manage his home and his property. All we’re asking is why can’t other Americans perform those simple tasks? Why can’t the government? I’m writing about how every ailment in America is self-inflicted. It drives me batty.”
“Beer For My Horses,” a comedy modeled after the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies that opens Aug. 8, was a lighter experience — “absolutely adorable,” in Nugent’s words.
“Toby and I obviously bonded in those trenches in Afghanistan and Iraq when we’d go to play for the troops,” Nugent says. “He wrote a character around me — long-haired, rock ’n’ roll, likes to shoot drug runners out of Mexico in the ass with a flaming arrow ...
“It’s funnier than hell. You’re gonna have to watch it a couple times ’cause you laugh yourself through it.”
Amid this flurry of activity, however, Nugent is making plans for a comparatively sedate year after he celebrates his 60th birthday on Dec. 13 — in Texas with his annual hunting party and a concert with many of his musical friends. “You’re unlikely to see much of me in ’09,” Nugent notes, saying that he’s “turned down an awful lot of stuff already for next year” and plans to limit himself to about 30 concerts.
But he has promised each of his children a week of one-on-one private time in locations of their choosing.
“I’m a realist,” Nugent says. “There will come a time when I won’t be able to do all the whacked-out, gonzo things that are part of my life now, just out of sheer, scientific aging. But so far that hasn’t happened yet, and that’s ... a beautiful thing. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.”
Ted Nugent and We Are the Fury perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday (July 4) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.Tickets are $39.50 pavilion, $15 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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