Ted Nugent makes his way to Coliseum
By Dan Craft
Recommended preparations for interviewing Ted Nugent: Guzzle, in rapid succession, three Starbucks quadruple-shot lattes, two Red Bulls, and one (you knew this was coming) Rockstar Energy Drink.
Instructions for interviewing Ted Nugent: Press "start" ... forget "pause" ... run 'til the circuits blow.
Consequences of interviewing Ted Nugent: Slight dizziness ... blurred vision ... vertigo ... sharp jump in blood pressure.
Reasons for interviewing Ted Nugent: He's coming to our town to actually perform a concert, at 7 p.m. Sunday at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
"Actually" is a reference to the fact that The Nuge (as everyone, even his publicist calls him) has most frequently come to McLean County and environs in recent years to hunt, not play.
Well, "play" in the performance sense.
The last time he did that, with ax in hand, not bow and arrow, was for a Peoria Civic Center date 12 years ago, opening for Bad Company ("I'll rip their heads off," he warned the headliners in a typically amok Pantagraph interview, which was sent into hyper-drive by his then recent non-P.C. comments on the then-recent terrorist bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building).
A dozen hunting seasons later, standing on the brink of the big 6-0 (he hits that jackpot a year from this December), the Motor City motor-mouth, we're happy to report, hasn't stripped any gears in the interim.
"I see guys like Eddie Van Halen, who can't even form a sentence, and who are just disasters because they couldn't use the 'n' word like Nugent did," he begins in a caveat that will take on most famously hedonistic rock stars, alive and dead (his judgment on Kurt Cobain's fate even has The Nuge suggesting, "maybe you shouldn't print that"; wish granted).
So, "Clean-and-sober at 59" is the subject for today's rant from "Tedquarters."
Though some may question other aspects of his notoriously outspoken lifestyle, there can be little doubt that The Nuge neither drinks nor smokes nor dopes nor swears.
OK, we're just kidding about that last one: He swears like the son of a military man he is -- profusely, repeatedly, with no prisoners taken, especially those on the left-leaning side of his fence.
"The fire and energy and intensity I have at 59 is just ... (bleepin') stupid!," he practically hollers. "I shouldn't be dancing like that every night and I shouldn't be having this much ferocious fun every night. Even at this age, I feel like Ted at age 9 with his first electric guitar."
The lecture continues: "If you take good care of yourself, you can be this kind of thing at 59, and not drooling and incoherent. I tried to have a conversation with Eddie the other day, and I could have wept. I've stepped over so many carcasses."
And he doesn't mean the four-legged ones with the protruding arrows.
If it hadn't been for the child-rearing ethic of "Ma & Pa Nuge" (his pet names), "I would have been a heroin addict and dead at age 12."
And the world would never have known the pleasures of contracting "Cat Scratch Fever."
The prevention of that unthinkable scenario can be chalked up to the infamous Ma Nuge.
"She was a ball of fire," he says of the woman he calls "the Dear Abby of rock 'n' roll" (an allusion to the advice column she wrote for the Illinois Entertainer back in the day). "She is the source of my joy factor and my humor factor, and funnier than hell. Always so very alive."
Then there was Pa Nugent's yin to Ma Nugent's yang.
"My dad balanced Ma Nugent out with that natural, military discipline he performed," he says. "He was truly the ultimate in parenting."
On the basis of the full-grown evidence, some might feel that Ma Nugent won the battle for her son's soul.
As a rebel teen, "I hated him, and I used the dreaded word, because his discipline was so over the top, and I was so driven to be prim and proper."
If you can believe it, says Nugent, he was the good kid among his neighborhood gang, the "voice of reason" pleading with his pals to stop the vandalizing -- "because I knew my dad would rip my head clean off."
As for rock 'n' roll's influence ... paging Satan.
"He saw the outrage of Elvis on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' but, God bless him, he didn't force me to stop playing it."
Per Pa Nuge's take on disciplinary action, "He figured that he wasn't going to stop me from playing it but he could make me practice hard at it. What a great legacy! That's the kinda guy he was."
So young Ted practiced away under his father's iron hand, and it paid off: He was performing professionally by age 10, was fronting his own famous rock band (The Amboy Dukes) by age 20, was a solo star with a Top 10 hit ("Cat Scratch Fever") by age 30, was part of the "super group" Damn Yankees (with Night Ranger's Jack Blades and Styx's Tommy Shaw) at age 40, and was one of the most controversial rock 'n' roll conservatives on the planet by age 50.
Now, facing down 60 with a bow, an arrow, a rifle and a wild grin, Ma & Pa Nugent's boy claims he's having the last laugh.
"I'm a scary combination of my dad and my mom: I'm funnier than ma, because I go places she never would -- she never would have written 'Wang Dang Sweet Poon Tang,' for sure; and from dad, I get my discipline, being the over-the-top and humble individual that I am."
On stage, "There's a giddy factor that defies even God's creation."
With bow in hand, "It's the sacred season."
And at home, "Mrs. Nugent (second wife Shemane Deziel) owns me."
He goes on to describe a new experimental "nuclear homing device" that Mrs. Nugent has acquired and attached to an area of her mate that need not be explored here.
Suffice it to say, as a hunter famed for bagging his prey, The Nuge says he knows, and understands, his captor's logic.
"And it's quite effective," he adds.At a glanceWhat:
Ted Nugent, with Alex WinstonWhen:
7 p.m. SundayWhere:
U.S. Cellular Coliseum, 101 S. Madison St., Bloomington
$20 to $35Box office number: