His first edition of The Amboy Dukes played at The Cellar, a teen dance club outside of Chicago in Arlington Heights, Illinois, starting in late 1965, while Nugent was a student at St. Viator High School. The Cellar's "house band" at the time had been the Shadows of Knight, although the Amboy Dukes eventually became a staple until the club's closing.
The Amboy Dukes' second single was "Journey to the Center of the Mind," which featured lyrics written by the Dukes' second guitarist Steve Farmer. Nugent, an ardent anti-drug campaigner, claims to this day he did not realize this song was about drug use. The Amboy Dukes (1967), Journey to the Center of the Mind (1968) and Migration (1969) — all recorded on the Mainstream label — sold moderately well.
After settling down on a ranch in Michigan in 1973, Nugent signed a record deal with Frank Zappa's DiscReet Records label and recorded Call of the Wild. The following year, Tooth Fang & Claw (which contained the song "Great White Buffalo") established a fan base for Nugent and the other Amboy Dukes. Personnel changes nearly wrecked the band, which became known as Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes.
Ted Nugent reunited with the other members of the Amboy Dukes at the 2009 Detroit Music Awards, which took place April 17, 2009. The psychedelic band received a distinguished achievement honor at the event. The Dukes also played together at the ceremony, marking their first public performance in more than 30 years.
Nugent dropped the Amboy Dukes band name for good in 1975, and signed to Epic Records. Derek St. Holmes (guitar, vocals), Rob Grange (bass) and Clifford Davies (drums) were the primary additional band members for his classic 1970s multi-platinum albums: Ted Nugent (1975), Free-for-All (1976) and Cat Scratch Fever (1977). These albums produced the popular radio anthems "Hey Baby," "Stranglehold," "Dog Eat Dog" and "Cat Scratch Fever." This band lineup toured extensively, also releasing the multi-platinum live album Double Live Gonzo!, until its breakup in 1978 when St. Holmes and Grange departed. St. Holmes was replaced by Charlie Huhn and Grange by Dave Kiswiney. Davies finally left around 1982 after staying on to record Weekend Warriors (1978), State of Shock (1979), Scream Dream (1980) and Intensities in 10 Cities (1981).
On July 8, 1979, Ted was on the rock radio program King Biscuit Flower Hour. This was the original broadcast of Ted's performance of Live at Hammersmith '79 which had been recorded during the second set of a sold-out night at London's Hammersmith Odeon in 1979. An album of this program, however, was not released until 1997.
During this era, Nugent was notable for his frequent declarations that he did not drink alcoholic beverages or smoke tobacco or marijuana. In an interview for VH1's Behind The Music, Nugent said this was due to his father having sternly reprimanded him when he came home smelling of alcohol after a night of drinking. This was an unusual stance for a major rock performer of the 1970s, and Nugent has been cited as an important early influence on the straight edge movement, which disavows drinking and recreational drug use.
During the period of 1982-86, Nugent released a series of moderately successful solo albums. Near the end of the 1980s, he formed the supergroup Damn Yankees, with Jack Blades (bass/vocals, formerly of Night Ranger), Tommy Shaw (guitar/vocals, formerly of Styx) and Michael Cartellone (drums/vocals). Damn Yankees (1990) was a hit, selling 5 million albums, thanks in no small part to the smash-hit power ballad "High Enough." The video for this song featured Nugent in a priest's collar, and later in a zebra-striped cape during the guitar solo. It also saw the first appearance of his famous 'WhackMaster' hat.
Nugent starred in his own outdoors television show named after his popular song "Spirit of the Wild". The song was the theme music to the TV series in which Nugent took viewers on a variety of wild game hunts using his bow. In the series he teaches and advises hunters and "hands-on" conservationists around the world on the different aspects of hunting and politics, and informs the public on the importance of getting children away from the TV and video games and getting them out beyond the pavement in order to better their lives.
In 2003, he was host of the VH1 reality television program called Surviving Nugent in which city dwellers such as model Tila Tequila moved to Nugent's Michigan ranch in order to survive such "backwoods" activities as building an outhouse and skinning a boar. The success of the two-hour show spawned a four-part miniseries in 2004 entitled Surviving Nugent: The Ted Commandments. This time it was filmed on Nugent's ranch in China Spring, Texas. During filming, Nugent injured himself with a chainsaw, requiring 44 stitches and a leg brace.
In 2003, Nugent was a guest on the VH1 program Forever Wild, hosted by Sebastian Bach (former lead vocalist for the band Skid Row). They shot some firearms and walked around Nugent's cabin in the woods.
In 2005, Nugent was the host of a reality-type show entitled Wanted: Ted or Alive on OLN (now the sports channel 'Versus') where contestants competed for money as well as for opportunities to go hunting with "Uncle Ted." The contestants had to kill and clean their own food to survive.
In 2006, he appeared on VH1's reality show SuperGroup, with Scott Ian (Anthrax, guitar), Evan Seinfeld (Biohazard, bass), Sebastian Bach (ex-Skid Row, vocals) and Jason Bonham (Bonham, UFO, Foreigner, drums). The name of the supergroup was originally FIST but later was changed to Damnocracy. Bach had lobbied for the name Savage Animal. Captured on film by VH1 was a rare Nugent duo with guitar phenom Joe Bonamassa at the Sand Dollar Blues Room for a 45 minute blues jam.
In 2008, Nugent appeared in a fourth season episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
He will star in another reality show for CMT in August 2009. The show, entitled Runnin' Wild ... From Ted Nugent, will feature Nugent instructing competitors in the art of survival; the competitors must use those skills in challenges in which they will be hunted down by Nugent.
In 2009 he played guitar at The Alamo for a Tax Day Tea Party hosted by Glenn Beck and the Fox Cable News Network. Most notable in his set was a version of the United States National Anthem in which he used alternate picking and whammy bar effects. The clip and sound bite of this is played extensively on Fox News as well as on The Glenn Beck Program.
Attracting attention for his outspoken statements on issues ranging from guns to biodiversity, Nugent has been a regular guest on such programs as Larry King Live, The Howard Stern Show, and Politically Incorrect.
In 1991 Ted guest starred on the PBS science show Newton's Apple in a short comedic feature called "Science of the Rich and Famous" in which he demonstrates and explains the phenomenon of electric guitar feedback.
On March 13, 2007, Nugent was interviewed on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live and performed the songs "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Rawdogs and Warhogs."
In 2007, Ted debated The Simpsons producer Sam Simon on the Howard Stern Show about the ethics of hunting animals. Coincidentally, he would later lend his voice to an over-the-phone appearance in the season 19 episode of The Simpsons, "I Don't Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", where, in a humorous jab at his political stance, inmate Dwight picks up his call for voting no to the fictional Proposition 87, which bans crossbows in public schools.
Also in 2008, Nugent appeared on the Memphis-based The Political Cesspool, a radio talk show known for its "pro-white" racist views.
Nugent was featured in MTV's "Cribs: Gods of Rock" episode.
On April 15, 2009, Nugent appeared onstage with his guitar in San Antonio, TX, as part of Glenn Beck's coverage of the Tax Day Tea Party protests on the Fox News Channel. He hosted the show with Glenn Beck, and played music for the protestors at the Alamo.
Nugent makes an appearance in Guitar Hero: World Tour As part of the solo guitar career, the player engages in a guitar duel with Nugent, after which the song "Stranglehold" is unlocked and Dirty Nuge becomes available as a playable character.
Ted Nugent was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan before moving to Palatine, Illinois, as a teenager. He attended Saint Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. . In 1978, Nugent began a now-infamous relationship with a seventeen year old Hawaii native named Pele Massa. Due to the age difference between him and Massa, Nugent could not marry the young woman; so he instead asked Pele's parents if he could be her legal guardian. Owing to Ted's unwillingness to stay faithful, their relationship ended less than a decade afterward. His first wife Sandra Jezowski, to whom he was married in 1970 and divorced in 1976, died in a car crash in 1982.
His second marriage was to Shemane Deziel, whom he met during one of his guest morning personality gigs on Detroit's WLLZ-FM, where she was a member of the news staff. They married on January 21, 1989 and remain married to the present day.
In 2005, Nugent was involved in a legal battle for not paying enough child support for a child he had out of wedlock in 1995. It was finally resolved when Nugent was ordered to pay $3,500 a month to the mother of the 10-year-old son named Christian Taylor whom Nugent has allegedly never met.
In the late 1990s, Nugent began writing for various magazines. He has written for more than 20 publications and is the author of New York Times Best Seller God, Guns and Rock 'n' Roll (July 2000), Kill It and Grill It (2002) (co-authored with his wife, Shemane), BloodTrails II: The Truth About Bowhunting (2004), and "Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto" (2008).
In 1996 Ted joined the WWBR-FM air staff. The Ted Nugent Morning Show on 102.7 FM in Detroit was an instant success. Ted and his co-host Steve Black (now host of the syndicated radio show Chop Shop and Chop Shop Classic) often shocked the Motor City with their opinions, and Ted's unique method of delivering his ideas.
In May 2005, Nugent said he was "getting real close to deciding to run" for governor of Michigan. On August 4, 2005, CNN reported that Nugent had withdrawn from the race for 2006 but was keeping his options open for 2010. Nugent also was rumored to be under consideration by the Illinois Republican Party as its candidate in that state's 2004 Senate race, given his Palatine roots. Ted and his family now live in Crawford, Texas, a small town west of Waco, Texas, which is also the location of former U.S. President George W. Bush's ranch. He is a weekly contributor to the local newspaper, the Waco Tribune-Herald. In July 2008, Nugent reiterated his desire, saying "I was serious when I threatened to run for office in the past if I cannot find a candidate who respects the U.S. Constitution and our sacred Bill of Rights." He has been a special deputy sheriff in Lake County, Michigan, since 1982 and he also has been a reserve deputy constable in McLennan County, Texas.
Nugent also suffers from hearing loss. A November 2005 Rolling Stone article noted Nugent, among others, has publicly acknowledged hearing problems.
Since the early 1990s Nugent has become both popular and criticized for his conservative beliefs and his anti-drug and anti-alcohol stances. He is a national spokesman for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, advocating the "natural highs" to be found in an outdoor lifestyle.
He has hosted the Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids, which combines a curriculum of hands-on hunting, conservation, archery and a strong anti-drug message aimed mainly at underprivileged inner-city children. Nugent also is a spokesman for the National Field Archery Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
An advocate of hunting and gun-ownership rights, Nugent currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Ted Nugent created a summer camping program for teens (and younger) called Ted Nugent's Kamp For Kids. This summer non profit program has had in excess of 1,000 kids attend over the last decade where respect for nature, preservation, stewardship and basic archery are taught. Each session is attended by parents as well.
Nugent once said in an interview, “I’m stymied to come up with anything funnier than people who think animals have rights. Just stick an arrow through their lungs.” As a result of his actions toward animals and his public comments, Nugent and the animal rights movement have long had an adversarial relationship. In 2000, Bhaskar Sinha was jailed briefly following an incident with Nugent outside a department store in San Francisco in which he allegedly threatened and physically assaulted Nugent, who in turn took Sinha into custody until San Francisco Police arrived and arrested the protester. However, protesters claim that Nugent started the altercation by spitting in one of the protester's faces when he was offered an anti-fur flyer.
Nugent has reported receiving death threats against him and his family from animal rights activists. On the Penn & Teller's Bullshit! episode about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Nugent claimed, "We've got reports and files with law enforcement across America where left-wing animal rights extremists are on record threatening to kill my children on the way to school because we eat pheasant." In 2006 he stated in an interview that "anyone who thinks hunting is terrible can kiss my ass."
In a 1992 radio interview, Nugent referred to Heidi Prescott of the Fund for Animals as a "worthless whore" and a "shallow slut," asking "who needs to club a seal, when you can club Heidi?" and was ordered by a court to pay $75,000.
Nugent owns a hunting ranch near Jackson, Michigan, called Sunrize Acres. Anti-hunters claim this fenced facility offers "canned" hunts. Nugent has said, "I understand the criticism from those who say canned hunting violates the ethic of fair chase," though he still operates the facility and euphemizes canned hunting as "high fence hunting". Nugent was recently interviewed by Field & Stream magazine regarding "canned" hunts. At Sunrize Acres he personally guides customers on a hunt for trophy bull bison ($5,000), Russian boar, or white-tailed deer ($1,000 each).
Nugent's views translate to his politics. During a concert in 2007, while Barack Obama was campaigning for president, Nugent said to the audience "Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun." In the same interview, he said regarding Hillary Clinton ,"I was in NY and I said hey Hillary---you might want to ride one of these into the sunset you worthless bitch." In an interview with Royal Flush Magazine, Nugent was asked about his views of U.S. President Barack Obama, and he responded: "I think that Barack Hussein Obama should be put in jail. It is clear that Barack Hussein Obama is a communist. Mao Tse Tung lives and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. This country should be ashamed. I wanna throw up."
According to an interview in The Independent he "considers homosexuality morally wrong" and is an outspoken supporter of the Republican Party and the United States military. As a reward for entertaining U.S. troops in Iraq in 2004, he visited Saddam Hussein's war room. "It was a glorious moment. It looked like something out of Star Wars. I saw his gold toilet. I shit in his bidet." Nugent also said: "Our failure has been not to Nagasaki them."
At an Anaheim, California concert on August 21, 2007, Nugent's description of trips to New York and Chicago, and the conversations he purported to have with the senators are in keeping with his trademark views, as Nugent went on to describe similar incidents and invitations to "suck on his machine gun" with other prominent Democrats, such as Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
Despite giving previous support for Republican candidates, he thought John McCain "to be catering to a growing segment of soulless Americans who care less what they can do for their country, but whine louder and louder about what their country must do for them. That is both un-American and pathetic."
An interviewer from the British newspaper The Independent questioned Nugent about a 1977 interview in High Times magazine in which Nugent allegedly detailed elaborate steps taken to avoid the Vietnam draft.
"I got 30 days' notice of the physical," Nugent told them. "I ceased cleansing my body. Two weeks before the test I stopped eating food with nutritional value. A week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants. My pants got crusted up."
Nugent dismissed the veracity of these statements, saying "You've got to realize that these interviewers would arrive with glazed eyes and I would make stories up." He explained that he did not go to Vietnam because he had a one-year student deferment. When questioned, he admitted that he had "not wanted to get his ass blown off in Vietnam," but made note of a tour he made with the USO in 2004 to Fallujah and Afghanistan as support of his assertion that "I am not a coward." He also said that "Because I failed to serve in Vietnam, I feel an obligation now, to do everything I can to support those defending our freedom. Do I feel guilt and embarrassment? Yes."