By Amelia Waters
Rocker Ted Nugent, an outspoken fan of Gibson Byrdlands and the Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms), is about to get a lot more face time on national TV.
His new show, Ted Nugent's Gun Country, debuts on the Discovery Channel 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central) Wednesday, October 10.
"They just capture me doing what I do," said Nugent about the show. "I’m 63 years clean and sober. If you're clean and sober this long, this is how you are -– very alive, very passionate and very uppity. So [Discovery Channel] thought that would be entertaining. They wanted to document my fiery, flame-throwing passion for life and how I satiate the beast, gratify my dreams, satisfy my hope — and it usually includes guns."
Ted Nugent’s Gun Country won't be The Nuge’s first starring role on a national TV show. For more than two decades, he’s hosted Ted Nugent: Spirit of the Wild on the Outdoor Channel. According to Nugent, it's that network’s most popular show.
I recently sat down with Nugent to discuss Gun Country, his unique take on firearms and his beloved Gibson Byrdlands.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: Can you tell me about your new TV show?
I don’t ever ask for nothing. I am bombarded like Hiroshima on a sunny afternoon with offers to do stuff. The Discovery Channel is an example of where these guys had a great idea and said, “We’d like to do a show with Ted about his outdoor lifestyle and his attitude and his guns.” And I went, "Yeah, that sounds perfect, I’d watch that show." How can you not watch a show with Ted Nugent and guns and attitude?
So we have a new show about my attitude with guns. And it’s called Ted Nugent's Gun Country. Now I wanted to call it Ted Nugent: Loaded because I always am with spirit and bullets. It’s just a day where somebody comes in and we warn them, they have the camera going as they walked in because all the fun stuff I said, they documented it.
We’ve had Ted Nugent: Spirit of the Wild for 22 years now on Outdoor Channel. It's been voted No. 1 every year, and it’s just basically me and our family filming our hunts and our outdoor lifestyle. But the Discovery Channel is going to be specific with their production in mind.
As far as guns, last Black Friday the FBI recorded the highest number of pistol permits in North America. What do you think has changed about the attitude with guns in this country?
I read those reports, I'm a cop — I’ve been a cop for 36 years. I conduct federal raids with law enforcement in Texas and elsewhere. I take law and order pretty seriously. Law enforcement statistics are irrefutable, universal and powerfully conclusive. In every jurisdiction in the United States, and globally where people can access firearms, wherever there are more guns in belts, wherever there are citizens with loaded guns on their person, which is what "bear" means. Keep in mind bear doesn’t mean "in the safe." That’s not bearing, that’s storing … bear means you have them on you.
And in those jurisdictions, and again this is FBI Uniform Crime report, every major university that has done studies on crime and gun ownership and gun presence in our society, even the UN, they tried to hide a finding that concluded the same thing that all these studies conclude, wherever you have more citizens with more guns on them, you have a dramatic reduction in violent crime. Particularly crimes like rape, carjacking and personal assault. Because bad guys, by their very nature, are cowardly and that’s why there’s more crime in Chicago right now because bad guys know no one’s allowed to resist. It’s not rocket science; it’s simple mathematics. Chicago is a gun-free zone. Illinois is the only state without a Second Amendment.
They just figured that England, their violent crime rate has done nothing but accelerate every year since they banned private ownership of handguns and they went door-to-door and confiscated them. This is good for whom? It worked really good for the Jews in Germany, didn’t it? Why would you look at that evidence and go, "Let’s try this again"?
Here it is in a nutshell: I speak for free men everywhere. My life is a precious gift. Attempt to compromise that and I’ll shoot ya. That’s a good message. "I’m armed — don’t mess with me." Bear can only mean one thing: I got ’em, and they’re on me and they’re loaded. Can you believe there’s a debate on these things? I find that astonishing, offensive and, quite honestly, heartbreaking. Because where you implement the system by which there are more victims, there are going to be more victims. And if you support that system, you’re complacent with those dead bodies. Simple as that.
What did you think of the whole Occupy movement?
I‘ve always gotten a kick out of hippies. I think the whole movement was ridiculous. So you’re telling me you have the time and the energy to interfere with productive peoples’ lives instead of utilizing that time and energy to become productive yourself. No wonder they call it dope. It’s one of the grand failings of mankind. To attempt to find fault with success, to attempt to demonize and condemn productivity while refusing to be productive yourself.
You recently were voted the best guitarist to come out of Detroit, getting 51 percent of the votes on M!Live in Michigan. How do you feel about that honor?
I stand humbled on bended knee but, of course, the response to that would be "Duh!" And to be given that incredible honor means that I represent the piss and vinegar, the energy, the defiance, the musicality of the Funk Brothers and Motown and Mitch Ryder and Bob Seger, Brownsville Station and Grand Funk Railroad and Eminem and Jack White and Kid Rock — are you kidding me?
I’m the guy, man. I reek of that high energy but never losing the soulful Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, James Brown blackness of it all, while still being the Motor City Mad Man but with an inescapable groove. Right now I know I’m delivering, revering and promulgating the essence of humanness through music. And that’s really what Detroit has always been about. The legacy of the Funk Brothers -- are you fucking kidding me? That I got voted above the Funk Brothers' guitar players? I got voted ahead of Steve Hunter and Wah Wah Watson? I got more votes than Dick Wagner or Wayne Kramer?
This is quite an honor, and I think I deserve it because all those names I just named, as incredible as they are, none of them have got a "Stranglehold." And I don’t mean that in a pompous way. I’m just saying it as a proud father that my son just won the gold medal and "Stranglehold" is the gold medal. My last couple of albums — Love Grenade, "Crave" on Craveman and "I Won’t Go Away" and "Still Raising Hell" on Love Grenade and the groove of "Love Grenade" and the song "Fred Bear." I’m so ridiculously proud of my music that I know it does embody that spirit that allowed me to get those votes. So I feel honored but also duty-bound to deliver those goods, cause that’s quite a responsibility because Detroit is where it all started and where it all ends up. I really believe that.
So that’s why the Gibson Byrdland has such a sound to it. You can’t even play “Stranglehold” or any of my killer guitar openings on any other guitar and have it sound quite like mine because of the force field of the Gibson Byrdland — because it’s such a resonate, lyrical, timber-rich piece of American craftsmanship — pretty special.
My band is indescribable. They all share my passion and love for it, so when you have that kind of dedication, it’s limitless in the delivery.
You play the Gibson mostly …
I play a lot of things. I play the Gibson Byrdland 90 percent; I have some Les Pauls and some masterful PRS’s that are unique to specific song creativity. But the Gibson Byrdland is my baby. I have singlehandedly kept that model alive for probably at least 40 years.
When did you first pick it up?
It was the summer of ’66 from Lyle Gillman at the Roselle School of Music in Roselle, Illinois. My precious blonde Byrdland was on the rack for a thousand dollars, which might as well been a million dollars back then, and I was turned on to the Gibson Byrdland by the incredible Jimmy McCarty. I’ve told this story a million times, but it's never been given the spotlight it deserves, because Jimmy McCarty this year just won the Detroit Music Awards' Blues Album of the Year. So he, still — after all these years — is a force to be reckoned with.
And it went from Billy Lee & The Rivieras. When I first played with him, I was the opening act in a band called Lourdes and Jimmy was playing a Gibson Byrdland with a Fender Twin amp. This is around 1961, 1962, and I was so spellbound by the tonal landscape that he delivered. I had never heard or seen anything like it in my life. When I saw Jimmy, I knew someday I should have a Byrdland, but it was way out of my reach pricewise. Lyle Gillman lovingly allowed me to trade in my 1965 Epiphone Casino guitar as a down payment with another hundred dollars or so and allowed me to pay a hundred bucks a month until I paid it off — and that started my Byrdland reign, and I haven’t looked back.
I’ve sold 40 million records, and not only do I attribute that a lot to my band and the production team and the spirit of our overall musical vision, but the Gibson Byrdland. There’s just nothing like it on the planet.
Can you tell me a little about your Les Pauls?
Well the Les Pauls are all killer — even the brand new ones from Gibson are just killers. But I got a couple of '59s that are wroth a fortune that Billy Gibbons turned me onto. I really didn’t understand the craze that Joe Walsh and Billy Gibson were creating in the '70s, even though I revered both of their tones. The Les Paul does make you play different, and on some songs I whip out the Les Pauls and I play for adventure, experimentation and so musical Lewis & Clark-ing. But they're classic, magic instruments. They’re examples of supreme craftsmanship.
And what Les Paul, God rest his soul, created and Gibson perfected over the years is eternal. I just don’t think you can improve upon it. That being said, Paul Reed Smith is also a master in many ways to many artists and guitar aficionados. Paul Reed Smith has improved upon it in varying forms, but it’s so subjective, it’s like a gun or a woman or a huntin’ dog, something indescribable has to connect you to it, you can’t say it for this reason or that reason.
Gibson has always perfected that and the only people that come along and who can compete and in their own way can surpass that based on that subjectivity is Paul Reed Smith. I’ve got a couple of Taylors that are awesome, so I have to salute them. The "Fred Bear" song came to life on a Paul Reed Smith experimental guitar. The song is so emotional about a great man that I loved and he died.
I think the Paul Reed Smith, like all good instruments, in your hands at that moment, optimize that delivery of that personal statement. "Fred Bear," it is a phenomenon, it’s a song about a hunting hero of mine that has been the No. 1 requested song every year in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for 26 years.
The hunting guys and the young kids that really like defiance and rule breaking for the right reasons, to discard the pompousness and the predictability of status quo bullshit, "Fred Bear" lights people on fire. It has been played at more funerals, graduations, confirmations, baptisms, bar mitzvahs and welcome homes for the troops. You should see the incredibly tear-jerking emotional letters I’ve gotten all these years about how "Fred Bear" reunited feuding families, got people off of drugs and alcohol – phenomenal.
Photo: James & Maryln Brown (tednugent.com)