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Ted Nugent reveals the albums that changed his life

Whether you love him for his guitar licks or hate him for his politics, the Motor City Madman leaves a lasting impression. So, what music has impressed him?

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By Martin Popoff

Whether you love him for his guitar licks or hate him for his politics, Ted Nugent manages to make a lasting impression upon those he encounters. So what, exactly, impressed the one-time boy wonder of the Amboy Dukes to pursue music as a career, as opposed to oh, say, being an insurance salesman, a neurosurgeon, a flight attendant or a hairdresser?

We can't speak to every single reason Uncle Teddy might have had when he chose music (or music chose him, depending upon your perspective), but we can shine a little light on the man behind the music with the 10 Albums That Changed Ted Nugent's Life. 

Here are his picks, and the reasons why. (For the record, we were quite impressed by Mr. Nugent's dedication related to the James Brown album.)

Ted Nugent Sweden Rock

Ted Nugent performs at the Sweden Rock Festival. 



Duane Eddy, $1,000,000 Worth of Twang

This was the opening volley of Les Paul’s new creation. There was a bunch of what I call opening-day enthusiasts for the electric guitar. You can’t fail to mention Duane Eddy, $1,000,000 Worth of Twang. Just listen to the richness of these tones. Here was a guy who took a brand-new invention, figured it out immediately and took the adventure. Lonnie Mack, Duane Eddy, certainly Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley: Those guys were the Lewis and Clark of guitar tone.



The Ventures, Walk Don’t Run

All these albums certainly projected tone for this guitar freak. I mean, I was a guitar freak the minute I heard “Walk Don’t Run,” and “Perfidia.”




Chuck Berry
Greatest Hits

I still live that garage-band dream, trying to play Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley stuff with the spirit that those originators provided us. And I played bass for Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry for a couple of gigs, so I’ve been in the belly of the beast. I’ve ridden that angry stallion onto the mountaintop. A very happy, angry stallion. (laughs)



James Brown, Live at the Apollo

Every one of these records that I listed — I think I listed 11 or 12 — every one of them, I’d say the same thing about. What James Brown’s band, The Famous Flames, did, they really forced me to practice nonstop. I leaned over, putting the needle on the record, over and over, learning every note, trying to find the notes on the guitar neck, and I had a permanent welt on my chest from leaning over the guitar to listen to the little turntable, to learn all these licks.



The Rolling Stones, England's Newest Hitmakers 

I would think because Les Paul had just electrified the guitar... a lot of those guys played nonelectric instruments in the beginning. Howlin’ Wolf, just had a little acoustic guitar, you know, beating on it. And what The Stones brought to it was the same thing that I was bringing to it back home in Detroit, listening to the turntable, putting the needle on and learning those licks. But I heard Howlin’ Wolf from The Stones before I heard it from Howlin’ Wolf. It was they that woke me up to the black American influence.



The Kinks, You Really Got Me

The British guys figured it out before the American guys did. The black creators, the black founding fathers — that’s who The Yardbirds and The Kinks and The Who emulated. And so I got it, immediately upon hearing it. As a guitar player, I just sat down with my little Fender Duosonic, and I would put the needle on this little, you know, sh*tty, S.S. Kresge turntable — you know, that little girls had for sock hops. (laughs)



Rolling Stones, 12x5

They were addicted to Howlin’, Muddy, Lightnin’, Mose, Robert Johnson, Chuck and Bo, Motown and James Brown. They were all obsessed with the black influence. And they did it in such a way ... those Stones albums, they did cover songs of all those heroes. And (Jeff) Beck, too, and certainly, whether it was Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton, they were all obsessed with playing those black guitar licks, and so they brought that to us via the British invasion. Eric Clapton, kind of Caucasian-ized it, even though he never lost the soulfulness. But it was more in tune. Even old Keith Richards and Brian Jones, in their occasional semi-stupor ... somebody, you know, Andrew Loog Oldham, was demanding that they at least tune their damn instrument, because Howlin’ and Muddy and Lightnin’ did not. (laughs)



Lonnie Mack, Memphis Wham!

Certainly “Wham!” and “Suzie-Q” by Lonnie Mack. Holy God in heaven!




Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels... Any album!

My band, The Lourdes, won the battle of the bands in Detroit in 1963, against unbelievably killer rock ’n’ roll bands with the kind of musical authority that ended up creating Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, The MC5, Bob Seger and Kid Rock. The original creators of this incredible music, the black gods, were already the most influential in Detroit because of Mitch Ryder ... The competition to play tight, authoritative, powerful, soulful and really in the pocket was already established in Detroit before The Rolling Stones were even aware of it. And Jimmy McCarty: What a genius!



Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced

Jimi, obviously, was an explosion of unprecedented creativity, the next outrageous, defiance of the electric guitar via Les Paul. The bending of the strings, and the noises and the feedback, the experiment with sound, distortion pedals: He was what I would call the frontman for Lewis and Clark. He was days ahead of the expedition. (laughs) He was the first guy to see an antelope. He’s the first guy to see this black and white, prong-horned antelope and was taking notes on the newly discovered species. And in the world of Jimi Hendrix, the newly discovered species was dissonant overtone, sonic bombast and feedback. Even though I was doing it before Hendrix, Hendrix was doing it in a more outrageous way. Plus, the song craftsmanship of “Foxey Lady,” “Fire,” “Purple Haze” — are you kidding me? ... He did to the guitar what James Brown did to rhythm and blues, and what Little Richard did to honky-tonk ... Thank God in heaven for those guys.