By: Steve Wildsmith
Clarence Porter, a Blount County resident for almost two decades, said he was most looking forward to “Cat Scratch Fever,” Nugent’s biggest hit that was first released in 1977. Although he came for the rock, he wasn’t averse to a little political commentary either, he added.
“I like to hear Ted break out on a streamline solo only second to breaking out in a political rampage between songs,” he said with a chuckle. “I like his mannerisms. He’s not afraid to speak his mind.”
That he did, from the moment he stepped out on stage to the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.” As he peeled off the opening notes to the “Star Spangled Banner” on one of his Gibson guitars with the sort of thunder that would do Jimi Hendrix proud, he wasted no time in giving the crowd what they came to hear.
“We dedicate this show to the heroes of law enforcement! We dedicate this show to the members of our military and their families! We stand with the good guys …” he said, and then made a profane reference to President Barack Obama.
The audience roared in agreement, but before and during the show, the ugly atmosphere so pervasive in this year’s political climate was nowhere to be found. In fact, many show-goers expressed an affinity for the music more than the politics.
“I have to say, I don’t always agree with his political views — he’s a little far right for me; I’m more toward the middle,” said Lisa Pagel, who drove to The Shed from Columbia to attend her “fourth or fifth” Nugent concert with her husband, Bud. “I appreciate the fact he’s not a boozer or a drug addict, and I love the fact he’s a great outdoorsman and an all-around great guy.”
“I came for both, but if he didn’t talk politics, it’d be fine,” her husband added. “I knew he could play guitar before I knew he could run his mouth. He’s just a great American.”
Red, white and blue
There was no questioning Nugent’s patriotism — a massive American flag served as the backdrop behind the stage, and he played part of the show with a red, white and blue Gibson guitar. Despite his proclivity for political rants and his ongoing diatribes against liberal America, he kept the chatter to a minimum. If anything, he offered up what he does best — rock ’n’ roll — as a balm for all souls, troubled or not.
“It’s gonna be alright!” he yelled at one point. “Uncle Ted is back in town tonight! We’re going to play the best guitar licks in the world, nothing but the best guitar licks!”
And play guitar he did, just as he’s done for almost five decades now. And in the end, the rock ’n’ roll is what virtually all in attendance came to see — including Lucy Stolz of Gatlinburg, there with her husband, Eric, who pointed out that his wife is a vegan, a rare individual indeed at a concert of a man almost as famous for hunting animals as he is for classic rock.
“I tell people he does his thing, and I may not always agree with him, but I can respect the fact he stays true to what he believes,” she said. “He pretty much does what he’s going to do, and if he was on the ballot (in November), I’d vote for him.”