Amboy Dukes, The
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1967-68)
- John Drake -- vocals
- Steve Farmer -- rhythm guitar, vocals
- Rick Lober -- keyboards
- Dave Palmer -- drums
- Ted Nugent -- lead guitar, vocals
- Bill White -- bass
line up 2 (1968-69)
NEW - Greg Arama (RIP) -- bass (replaced Bill White)
NEW - Rusty Day (RIP 1982) -- vocals (replaced John Drake)
- Dave Palmer -- drums
- Ted Nugent -- lead guitar, vocals
NEW - Andy Soloman -- keyboards, vocals, sax
(replaced Rick Lober)
line up 3 (1969-70)
NEW - Rob Grange -- bass (replaced Greg Arama)
NEW - K.J. Knight -- drums, vocals (replaced Dave Palmer)
- Ted Nugent -- lead guitar, vocals
- Andy Soloman -- keyboards, vocals, sax
- Cactus (Rusty Day)
- Rusty Day (solo efforts)
- K.J. Knight (solo efforts)
- Ted Nugent (solo efforts)
- Rockets (Gilbert)
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Journey To the Center of the Mind
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
Comments: minor water stain along bottom seam
GEMM catalog ID: 4
With it's classic period piece cover art (amazing that it wasn't banned - be sure to check out my list of banned/withdrawn album covers), 1968's "Journey To the Center of the Mind" was released in the wake of a series of personnel changes that saw original keyboardist Rick Lober and bassist Bill White respectively replaced by Andy Soloman and Greg Arama. In spite of the personnel turnover musically the album wasn't a major change in direction. With Steve Farmer and Ted Nugent again providing the majority of material (working apart and together), the album bounced between white-boy R&B ('Mississippi Murderer') and a distinctive psych sound ('Surrender To Your Kings', 'Flight of the Byrd' and ''Dr. Slingshot). Farmer seemed particularly drawn to psychedelia and side two numbers like 'Why Is A Carrot More Orange Than An Orange' and 'Missionary Mary' should appeal to psych fans. Among the odder efforts was the Nugent penned instrumental 'Scottish Tea' which stood as a precursor of his forthcoming solo career. Generally slammed by the critics, I'll readily agree that the album won't knock your socks off, but it's actually far better than you'd expect, especially for a set that was reportedly recorded in five days on an eight track recorder. The unsubtle title track's a hoot, made even funnier by the fact that co-writer Nugent remains steadfast in claiming ignorance of the theme ... in a couple of interviews he's been quoted as saying "I thought 'Journey to the Center of the Mind' meant look inside yourself, use your head, and move forward in life". Wonder what he thought the drug paraphernalia on the cover was about. 'Propelled by the top-20 title track, the parent album also sold well eventually hitting # 74.
"Journey To the Center of the Mind" track listing:
1.) Mississippi Murderer (Ted Nugent - Steve Farmer) -
2.) Surrender To Your Kings (Ted Nugent) -
3.) Flight Of The Byrd (Ted Nugent) -
4.) Scottish Tea (instrumental) (Ted Nugent) -
5.) Dr. Slingshot (Ted Nugent - Steve Farmer) -
2.) Ivory Castles (Steve Farmer) -
3.) Why Is A Carrot More Orange Than An Orange (Steve Farmer) -
4.) Missionary Mary (Steve Farmer) -
5.) Death Is Life (Steve Farmer) -
6.) Saint Phillips Friend (Steve Farmer) -
7.) I'll Prove I'm Right (Steve Farmer) -
8.) Conclusion (Ted Nugent - Steve Farmer) -
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Marriage On the Rocks/Rock Bottom
Catalog: 24 4012
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
GEMM catalog ID: 5743
It only took me thirty years to get around to hearing the fourth and final Amboy Dukes studio collection. Even with all that time to get ready, I still wasn't prepared for how genuinely weird 1970's "Marriage On the Rocks/Rock Bottom" was. Co-produced by the band and Ed Kramer, musically the album was billed as an Amboy Dukes effort, but for all intents and purposes was a Nugent solo effort. He wrote most of the material, handled all of the lead guitar, and some of the vocals. (For Nugent fanatics, there are actually two versions of the album cover - the first credited solely to The Amboy Dukes, the latter version credited to The Amboy Dukes, Featuring Ted Nugent.)
Polydor catalog number PD-1-6073
This is just idle speculation on my part, but perhaps because he knew the Dukes had run their creative course Nugent felt free to cut lose and explore some offbeat musical paths. It was far from the group's most consistent, enjoyable, or endearing release, but the fact it was so weird made it worth checking out. Where else would you hear Nugent daring to put out a Jethro Tull flavored slice of English folk-rock (the three part instrumental title track suite)?
- Nugent would certainly cringe at seeing this description, but there was no denying that the extended instrumental 'Marriage' had a distinctive UK progressive feel to it. The focus was clearly on Nugent's versatile acoustic and electric guitar (he's seldom turned in such a pretty performance), which effortlessly wound its way through the song's three extended segments - 'Man', 'Woman', and 'Marriage'. Surprisingly deft and occasionally almost classical in feel, the fact it was a Nugent original made it even funnier to hear. Totally atypical Nugent and one of the album standouts. rating: *** stars
- 'Breast-Fed Gator' found Nugent and company returning to a more typical rock sound and lyric. With one of the album's stronger melodies it would have made a decent FM single. rating: *** stars
- The keyboard propelled rocker 'Get Yer Guns' was actually an even better number with Nugent kicking in a stellar fuzz solo two thirds to the way in. The song then abruptly switched into an acoustic Flamenco segment, followed by a strange synthesizer blurb, before returning to the main melody. Weird, but kind of cool and lyrically an nice precursor to some of Nugent's solo career themes. rating: **** stars
- Showcasing more of Nugent personal philosophies and some of his lightening quick playing, 'Non-Conformist Wilderbeast Man' was at least mercifully brief. rating: ** stars
- 'Today's Lesson (Ladies and Gentlemen)' ended side one with what started out as a slice of conventional hard rock, followed by a strange psych-ish mid-section, a complete guitar freak out segment, and a brief return to the original melody. rating: ** stars
- The most conventional track on the album, the first half of 'Children Of The Woods' was also the standout performance. Interestingly, the initial emphasis wasn't Nugent's guitar, rather Andy Soloman's keyboards. Always laugh at the ''free the little children' chorus which got more and more intense as the song shifted gears and Nugent's guitar took over turning into a slice of guitar wanking and prototype Focus yelping. rating: *** stars
- 'Brain Games Of Yesteryear' was an okay rocker, but didn't have a great deal of memorable stuff going for it. rating: ** stars
- Penned by Soloman, the 10 minute 'he Inexhaustible Quest For The Cosmic Cabbage' was a plain strange aural collage that managed to incorporate everything from a snippet of Beach Boys-styled harmonies to Zappa-styled humor, and avant garde jazz moves. Hearing it once is probably more than enough for most folks. rating: ** stars
Clearly not my favorite Amboy Dukes effort, but worth tracking down since you can still find it on the cheap.
"Marriage On the Rocks/Rock Bottom" track listing:
(instrumental) - 9:03
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Survival of the Fittest - Live
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG
GEMM catalog ID: 4
"Survival of the Fittest - Live" track listing:
1.) Survival of the Fittest (Ted Nugent - Andy Soloman - Rob Ruzga - K.J. Knight) - 6:17
2.) Rattle My Snake (Ted Nugent) - 3:00
3.) Mr. Jones' Hanging Party (Ted Nugent) - 4:55
4.) Papa's Will (Ted Nugent) - 9:00
2.) Prodigal Man (Ted Nugent) - 21:20
Within a year the band was history with Nugent embarking on a lengthy and highly successful solo career.
After three albums on Mainstream Records and a Top 20 smash with "Journey to the Center of the Mind," Ted Nugent brought his new aggregation to Polydor(the late Lillian Roxon claimed there were 35 personnel changes prior to their first and only hit). This second album on that label (and before they would jump to Warner and eventually Epic), was recorded live at The Eastowne Theater in Detroit, MI, July 31 and August 1, 1970. A prime candidate for re-release with bonus tracks, the full hit is not here; the single disc contains six tracks, including the 21-minute-and-20-second epic "Prodigal Man," written by Nugent and sung by keyboardist Andy Solomon. Solomon handles the majority of the vocals on this album, with drummer K.J. Knight vocalizing on the bluesy "Mr.Jones Hanging Party" and songwriter/guitarist/focal point Nugent doing the chores on "Papa's Will." Solomon provides nice sax on "Mr. Jones' Hanging Party," showing the considerable talent he brought to the table. What's this live disc like? The riff to "Journey to the Center of the Mind" opens the album inside the instrumental collaboration written by the group, "Survival of the Fittest," and it is a big tease. Unlike the bad mutations of the Electric Prunes, H.P. Lovecraft, and the most blatant example, the Velvet Underground's pseudo-record, Squeeze, this is the leader of an original group as he goes through musical changes. "Rattle My Snake" is certainly more in the Pat Travers vein than the psychedelic intrigue of the original (on record anyway) Amboy Dukes, and though this recording is live and has that live excitement, it feels more like a new album, with none of the tracks appearing on previous discs. "Papa's Will" is Ted Nugent stretching out a riff that — if it were brought up in the mix — could inspire Black Sabbath. The collage of the four members on back is as bizarre as another Michigan product, Survival by Grand Funk Railroad. This album has that primal feel, though it is Ted Nugent with bows and arrows, in Native American garb, who is the solitary figure on the front cover. "Slidin' On" is a weak opening to side two, and the lengthy "Prodigal Man" contains obligatory drum solo and bass musings, but fails to kick in à la "In a Gadda da Vida" or Rare Earth's "Get Ready," which spread across entire sides of their respective discs. OK, so it is Ted Nugent doing Ten Years After without the flash of Alvin Lee, but "Prodigal Son" is one long jam with no climax, when you know 20 minutes of riffing on "Journey to the Center of the Mind" is really what the record-buying public wanted. Years later someone needs to tell these Amboy Dukes why Procul Harum had to put "A Whiter Shade of Pale" back in the set. Steve Farmer is long gone from here, and only Andy Solomon and Ted Nugent remain from the band who had the hit two years before this concert was recorded. This is really Ted Nugent moving away from the group concept and gearing up for his heavy metal fame in the '70s and '80s. It is mildly interesting.
AV: Discuss the live Survival of the Fittest album. Why does the title track
begin with the intro to "Journey to the Center of the Mind"? Also
discuss the live rendition of "Prodigal Man" on that album.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Tooth, Fang & Claw
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG
Comments: neatly taped bottom seam
GEMM catalog ID: 4
While still credited to 'Ted Nugent's Amboy
Dukes', for all intents and purposes 1975's "Tooth,
Fang & Claw" was a Nugent solo effort. Beside
co-producing with Lew Futterman and Jon Child, Nugent was responsible for
writing eight of the nine tracks, as well as handling arranging
chores. The album also marked Nugent's move from psychedelia and
blues-rock to AOR and stadium guitar gawd. From here out subtlety
simply wasn't a part of the Nugent's new musical lexicon. Fast and
furious was now the man's mantra (be sure to check out the instrumentals
'Hibernation' and 'Free Flight'). Ironically that's not really meant
as a slam. No matter how you feel about his politics and social
outlooks, there's no denying that Nugent was one helluva guitarist and on
tracks like 'Living In the Woods' and 'The Great White Buffalo' you could
even overlook some of the dumbsh*t lyrics. Okay, okay, there was one
exception to the above comments. Apparently written for his daughter,
'Sasha' was an atypically pretty and highly personal ballad. Elsewhere
Nugent wasn't hurt by his first rate backing band - bassist Rob Grange and
drummer Vic Mastrianni.
"Tooth, Fang & Claw" track listing:
1.) Lady Luck (Ted Nugent) -
2.) Living In the Woods (Ted Nugent) -
3.) Hibernation (instrumental) (Ted Nugent) - 9:19
2.) Maybelline (Chuck Berry) -
3.) The Great White Buffalo (Ted Nugent) -
4.) Sasha (Ted Nugent) -
2.) No Holds Barred (Ted Nugent) -
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Long before Ted Nugent made his name as a mighty crossbow hunter, there was this heavy Detroit band in which he was content to play lead guitar, something he does very well and with much less threat to the Midwest's deer population. The Nuge shouldn't try to take all the credit for this band, because the other members such as vocalist John Drake and rhythm guitarist Steve Farmer contributed with great aplomb, the latter writing much of the material on the second side's ambitious suite as well as co-writing the title hit with Nugent. This is some hard-hitting, well-done psychedelic music, recorded with taste by a producer known much more for his work with mainstream jazz artists, Bob Shad. One thing that made the Amboy Dukes special was the amount of power and drive in their playing, something lacking in other psychedelic outfits that take a more airy-fairy approach. The Nuge's guitar sound is recorded as if this was a mainstream jazz album by Harold Land, and it helps.
Detroit's Amboy Dukes are best remembered for their 1968 acid-rock classic "Journey to the Center of the Mind," as well as introducing the world to "the Motor City Madman", guitarist Ted Nugent.
Nugent was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948 and started playing guitar at age nine. Early in 1960, he formed his first group, "the Royal High Boys", and by 1962 had moved on to "the Lourds". The Lourds won a Battle of the Bands contest, with fourteen year old Nugent doing a guitar solo on the judge's table. Soon, they were opening for the Supremes and The Beau Brummels.
Much to his regret, Nugent's family moved to Chicago in 1965 where young Ted formed a new band. He had heard of a Detroit group who had just broken up called "Amboy Dukes" and started using the name for his new Chicago band. "The Amboy Dukes" was actually the name of a novel about gang members and their lifestyle. In later interviews, Nugent said that although many people have given him a copy of the book, he has never actually read it.
Nugent returned to southeastern Michigan in 1967, and assembled a new Dukes line-up including vocalist John Drake, a former bandmate in the Lourds, as well as rhythm guitarist Steve Farmer, bassist Bill White, keyboardist Rick Lober and drummer Dave Palmer. The group quickly emerged as one of the hottest attractions in the Detroit.
After a series of line-up shifts which saw White and Lober exit in favor of bassist Greg Arama and keyboardist Andy Solomon, in 1968 the Dukes released their album "Journey to the Center of the Mind" on the local "Mainstream" label. The title track, which Nugent wrote the music for Steve Farmer's lyrics, was released as a single and climbed the U.S. pop chart to number 16. Despite its apparent drug related theme, Nugent himself claims to have "never smoke a joint...never done a drug in my life. I thought 'Journey to the Center of the Mind' meant look inside yourself, use your head, and move forward in life".
By the time the Amboy Dukes recorded their follow-up L.P. in 1969, vocalist Rusty Day had replaced John Drake. "Migrations", failed to equal the success of its predecessor and a third effort, "Marriage on the Rocks" was issued later that same year. It was also a disappointment, and after 1971's "Survival of the Fittest", Nugent dismissed Day and Solomon as Dave Palmer left the group to accept an engineering job at Electric Lady Studios.
Nugent would later explain, "There never really was a break-up of the Amboy Dukes. It just got to be such a revolving door mentality with the musicians. I was so upset internally with the amount of effort I was putting out with the constant human battering I was doing with the musicians. I was bailing them out of jail for breaking into a Coke machine or because they got caught with a joint. I felt like I was a babysitter. I also acted as a road manager. I used to book the band. I used to maintain all the equipment. I used to change the oil in the cars. I used to drive the truck and set it up. I handled all the hotels. I kept all the ledger books. I did everything. So for the first time in my life I took a year off. It was too loony".
As it turned out, Nugent took only three months off, but it changed his life. He went to Colorado to go deer hunting and found it to be of incredible therapeutic value.
Nugent's magnificent self-titled 1975 solo album set the stage for a spectacular career of hell raising guitar mayhem. A master guitarist, accomplished songwriter and wild showman, it was no surprise that the success of Ted Nugent led to a rapid fire succession of multi-platinum albums including "Free For All" (featuring budding musical star Meat Loaf on several cuts), "Cat Scratch Fever", "Double Live Gonzo", "Weekend Warriors" and "State Of Shock".
On a sad note, Nugent's old friend from his Amboy Duke days, bassist Greg Arama was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 18th, 1979, at the age of 29.
By the time the Eighties arrived, Ted Nugent's commercial fortunes took a nosedive. But the ever resilient guitarist carried on, recording a string of new studio albums ("Scream Dream", "Intensities In 10 Cities", "Nugent", "Penetrator", "If You Can't Lick 'Em, Lick 'Em") and logging millions of miles on the rock and roll highway.
The Nineties were kinder to Ted, with a major renaissance in the shape of a new supergroup, "Damn Yankees", a band whose recruits included former Styx guitarist, Tommy Shaw, ex-Night Ranger bassist, Jack Blades and drummer Michael Cartellone. The group's self-titled 1990 debut was an instant success and included the # 3 smash, "High Enough". Enjoying his newfound commercial success, Nugent was able to balance a blockbuster career with Damn Yankees and as a solo artist, while allowing ample time for his other great love, hunting, and what he celebrates as "The Great Spirit Of The Wild".
Into the 21st Century, after five decades of hard rockin', Ted Nugent remains a distinctive and uncompromising musician whose thirst for rock and roll is unequalled. A world renowned hunter, NRA board member, New York Times best selling author, magazine publisher (Ted Nugent's Adventure Outdoors), award-winning writer for over forty publications, radio personality, and business entrepreneur, Ted Nugent still lives and dies for the raucous scream that is his sacred rock and roll. A live 2001 album called "Full Bluntal Nugity" was supported by a 28 date tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Deep Purple.
In January, 2004, Ted hopped on the reality TV bandwagon, hosting "Surviving Ted: The Ted Commandments" for VH1, where contestants attempt to live in survival mode on one of his ranches. Ted almost didn't survive himself, having an unfortunate accident with a chainsaw during the making of the show. He required 40 stitches to close the wound.
The Amboy Dukes was started in Chicago in 1966 by Ted Nugent while he was still quite young. His parents shortly moved back to Detroit, so Ted took his band with him. But he found it wasn't working out the way he wanted it, so he started replacing the band members from Chicago, with ones from Detroit.
The Amboy Dukes performed psychedelic rock, which is kind of funny, as Ted Nugent is very anti-drug. Between Teds' guitar prowess and stage performance, the band started making a name for themselves. However, since it was Teds' band, he continued to replace members (for various reasons including drug abuse). While Ted Nugent has gone on to greater fame and fortune under his own name, I liked the sound of the early band (and the vocalists).
The Amboy Dukes first record label was Mainstream. Their first album The Amboy Dukes peaked at #183 on the music charts. It was available in stereo as catalog number S/6104 and in mono as catalog number 56104. Psalms Of Aftermath has a dropout on the mono version on the stereo version there is no drop out.
Their second album, Journey To The Center Of The Mind did even better, reaching # 74 on the music charts. It too, was available in stereo as S/6104 and in a promo only version of mono as 56112. It was also released on the Capitol label (as a record club selection of the month). Its' catalog number was Capitol ST 91489 (the front says S/6112). On the import and promo copies, Dr. Slingshot is missing the John Drake vocals, Mississippi Murderer has a thinner sound (might be the same) and Surrender To Your Kings and Flight Of The Byrd are the same. On the CD version Journey To The Center Of the Mind starts with "tap tap".
Their third album Migration was available as stereo S/6118 and mono (in the UK only) on London HAT 8392. The import album has the butchered Prodigal Man man we are used to it, and Loaded For Bear has no high school stuff at the end.
There are a few differences between the vinyl and CD releases. The CD has a shorter version of Prodigal Man than the original LP. The track transitions have been changed as well. In particular, the CD has removed the deliberate scratchy vinyl sound at the beginning of "I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent".
As always, you need to be aware that not all reissues contain the bonus tracks.
While Amboy Dukes did release a few more albums after that before breaking up, the only original member was Ted Nugent. And thus the sound was different enough that I decided not to cover that version on my page. However, I was recently visited by a knowledgable fan with some info on them, so I will mention it here as well.
Marriage On The Rocks/Rock Bottom, included a lyric sheet with the original release of the album, but not with the reissues.
Survial Of The Fittest reached # 129 on the music charts.
In the where are they now department:
There is a new Steve Farmer and The Amboy Dukes CD. Rick Lober assists. Steve Farmer is also in Babylonian Tiles.
Bill White is currently in a band called the Diamond Dukes out of Flat Rock Michigan (they have a CD out), and are in the studio and working on their next CD.
John Drake car salesman Detroit area.
Dave Palmer, is now a Grammy and Emmy award winning recording engineer.
Musicians he has worked with include: Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, Elton John, Kiki Dee, Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Humble Pie, Bay City Rollers, Chet Atkins, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Jaco Pastorius, Al DiMeola, Chick Corea, Art Farmer, Grover Washington Jr., Patti Austin, Lena Horne, Eddie Palmieri, Cactus, Return To Forever, Faces, Mandrill, ...
Soundtracks he has worked on include: Popeye, A Perfect Couple, Health, Xena Warrior Princess, Hercules - The Legendary Journies, ABC After School Specials, ABC Wide World Of Entertainment, ...
Andy Solomon does TV jingles in the Pittsburgh area.
Ted Nugent did very well as a solo performer and with Darned Yankees.
Greg Arama died in a motorcycle accident.
Rusty Day is dead.
Robert De La Grange (Rob Grange) LA realtor.
Comments and corrections would be appreciated.
And of course, any audio-video-print additions to my collection would be appreciated.
I am also interested in getting wider exposure for this site. So links from your site to mine would be appreciated. And if you know of any sites that allow/encourage submission, I would also appreciate knowing about them as well.
Do you have any articles, books, albums, tapes, CDs, ... on this band that you would like reviewed and / or integrated into this page?
Do you have any other band that you would like to see a page for on this site?
released 1968) You Talk Sunshine, I Breathe Fire
|This is about hallucinogenic drugs, which were big at the time. It described the feeling of an acid trip.|
|Ted Nugent was the group's guitarist. Nugent takes pride that he never did drugs, and claims he had no idea this was a drug song. He thought it was about looking inside yourself. It was written by the group's other guitarist, Steve Farmer.|
|This was the only hit for The Amboy Dukes. in 1970, Nugent brought in new members and changed the name to Ted Nugent And The Amboy Dukes. The group broke up and Nugent went solo in 1975.|
The Amboy Dukes were formed in Chicago by guitar prodigy Ted Nugent, a native of Detroit and already the former leader of two bands, the first begun when he was only twelve. The band rode the psychedelic wave, but it stood out for the maniacal riffs of the leader's guitar. Their historic anthem, a version of Baby Please Don' t Go, from The Amboy Dukes (1967), is a passionate blues screamed against a wall of unrelenting rhythm and guitar dissonance, played at supersonic speed. Feedback, distortion and electronic sound effects are also the main ingredients of Journey To The Center Of The Mind and Dr. Slingshot, on the second album, Journey To The Center Of The Mind (1968). In the earlier albums, including Migration (1970), Nugent's destructive emphasis is restrained by Steve Farmer's composing talent, managing to release its full fury on very few occasions, namely in the instrumental Migration and in Prodigal Man.
With Marriage Of The Rocks (1970) Nugent prevails as the absolute boss of the group, directing the production towards the eclectic suite, such as The Inexhaustible Quest For The Cosmic Cabbage, a surf parody + Bartok's second quartet + atonal jazz + heavy strumming by Nugent, in accordance with a progressive rock that is is rowdy, long winded, exhibitionist and violently stirred. In 1971 they recorded a twenty minute pyrotechnical live version of Prodigal Man on Survival Of The Fittest, perhaps their masterpiece.
A new lineup produced the album Call Of The Wild (1974), featuring wild hard rock instrumentals, notably Renegade.
In the 1975 Nugent began a prolific solo career. The monster guitarist archetype, the champion of Hendrix's orphaned style, situated at the crossroad between psychedelic rock and heavy metal, Nugent continued the excesses of the Amboy Dukes' last albums, in the same epic but much too rambling style. Stranglehold (1975), remains perhaps his best effort, followed by Turn It Up (1976) and Cat Scratch Fever (1977). Fame reached him through his excessive histrionics, that led him to boast about his wild hunger for sex and violence, and compelled him to engage in stage duels with colleagues of the caliber of Wayne Kramer and Frank Marino, as documented in Double Live Gonzo (1978).
Allan Vorda (AV) Ted Nugent (TN)
AV: I have some questions which should jar a few brain cells.
TN: I know my whole history!
AV: K.J. Knight was later a member of the Amboy Dukes and recorded a single called "Mo-Jo" for the Sound Patterns label. Were you involved with this single?
TN: Boy, it's interesting you're even aware of that! No, I wasn't. I think K.J. did that before he was a member of the Amboy Dukes and the Nightriders. I'm not familiar with what he may have done, but it may have been in a demo form.
AV: Rusty Day was later a member of the Amboy Dukes and in 1966 recorded a single called "I Gotta Move #1." Were you involved with this single?
TN: No, but I was involved with firing him because he insisted on doing LSD together as a band. After I fired him he was machine-gunned to death because of a bad drug deal. Fuck you, Rusty! How's that! Rusty, his son, and a neighbor's boy were all killed in Orlando. Damn shame.
AV: How did the Royal High Boys form and where did you get the name?
TN: It was a band I put together around 1959-60 when I was eleven or twelve years old. It was just me and a drummer named Tom Noel. The band was named after a shirt! There was a shirt back then called a High Boy that all the greasers wore. We wore them because they were cool and so we called ourselves the Royal High Boys. Then we ended up getting a bass player which because the nucleus of a band called the Lourds.
AV: What led to the formation of the Lourds, who was in the group, and how did you get the name?
TN: The group consisted of Tom Noel on drums, Pete Primm on bass, John Finley on rhythm guitar, John Drake on vocals, and myself on lead guitar. I was the youngest being around thirteen and everyone else about eighteen or so. We started the band around 1962 or 1963. The name was just a variation of Lords.
AV: Is it true you were only fourteen when the Lourds opened for the Supremes and the Beau Brummels at Cobo Hall in 1962?
TN: We won the Battle of the Bands from sixty other groups. We did "High Heel Sneakers" and "Shake a Tail Feather" and I helped win it by doing a guitar solo on the judge's table!
AV: The Lourds have three tracks on the compilation album Long Hot Summer (also known as Friday at the Cage A Go Go): covers of "Shake a Tail Feather," "Out of Sight," and "Good Lovin'." Discuss these tracks and how they came to be part of the album.
TN: My dad was transferred to Chicago in 1965. After the Lourds went to the
moving van company and destroyed all the vans trying to keep me from moving
that summer, my dad took me to the barber shop and made me get a G.I.
haircut. He threatened to get rid of my guitars, but he knew it was hard on
me and let it slide.
The very day I arrived in Chicago I began a regimen of practicing guitar and rehearsing for a band. We passed up the Shadows of Knight in Chicago and became the hottest act in the Illinois area.
AV: Is it true the name Amboy Dukes came in part from Amboy Street in Dearborn Heights, Michigan? Members of the group attended high school in Garden City less than a mile away.
TN: The only origin I know of came from a group in Detroit called the Amboy Dukes who had just broken up. I think they were a R&B band. I thought it was a cool name and when I moved to Chicago I decided to use that name. Obviously, I learned much later there was a street gang in the 50s from Perth Amboy, New Jersey. There was a famous novel about the gang called The Amboy Dukes, but I've never read it even though many people have given me copies. It was a controversial novel of the time because it talked about gang rape. That's where the original Detroit Amboy Dukes got their name, but when I got it I thought it just another made-up name.
AV: Were you aware there was a group in England called the Amboy Dukes that
in late 1967 recorded a cover of John Fred and the Playboy Band's "Judy
in Disguise" on a compilation album for the British Polydor label?
TN: I had never heard their music, but I knew there was a black R&B band
from England. I didn't think it was of any consequence.
AV: What involvement did the Amboy Dukes have with other bands on the Detroit scene such as the Unrelated Segments, Scot Richard Case, Tim Tam and the Turn-Ons, the Shy Guys, the Human Beinz, Bob Seger and the Last Herd (also known as Doug Brown's Omens), the Wanted, the Tidal Waves, the Southbound Freeway, the Pleasure Seekers, the Underdogs, etc?
TN: The Rationals and many others. All of us were part of the major musical force in Michigan. The Amboy Dukes were the first, because of my insanity on stage, to get a recording contract. I literally brought the Amboy Dukes to Detroit the summer of 1967 and by the fall we were the hottest ticket. We had no inhibitions, we let it rip, and we played with an unprecedented energy of R&B enthusiasm! And we still do.These are fascinating questions! Let's do one more and then go eat.
AV: How did the Amboy Dukes come to sign with the Mainstream label?
TN: A lot of young bands ask me what the trick is to success. There is no trick. If you've got the best seasoned firewood in an area where people need heat you're firewood is going to sell.
AV: That's a great metaphor!
TN: If you kick major quantities of ass on stage, play with uninhibited enthusiasm, practice,and believe in what you're doing --- not because you're competing --- but because you can't wait to practice, then you're going to succeed.
Everybody else in the rock and roll community was getting stoned and trying drugs. My drummer and I would stay up for four or five days straight. Ginger ale, young girls, and electricity! We would find music coming out of our instruments. I was only seventeen and had just gotten out of high school. That attitude prevailed and that's why Mainstream heard about the insane motherfuckers with this guitar player and they signed us.
Let's go eat!
(An hour and half later the troupe boards the bus to go eat at a sushi restaurant. Ted and I take a seat at a little dinner table and start the tape again.)
AV: Discuss the following tracks from the Amboy Dukes debut album: the cover of Them's "Baby Please Don't Go," "Down Philips Escalator," and "Good Natured Emma."
TN: The cover of "Baby Please Don't Go" was inspired by Them with Van Morrison and Paul Revere and the Raiders. It was just a classic rhythm and blues song. It has been my showpiece song since 1965. I say showpiece because that's the song that I just left town on the guitar. This was before there was feedback. I used to play a Birdland hollow-body guitar and this is where I won all these musical extravaganzas with the feedback and doom-and-destruction guitar sounds.
"Down Philips Escalator" was a dope-inspired song by my rhythm guitar player Steve Farmer. I don't know what the fuck he was talking about.
"Good Natured Emma" was a song named after my grandmother, Emma Nugent, which later became my daughter's middle name as Sasha Emma. It's just a wonderful woman's name I have always loved.
It was about a woman who lived in the woods and who was so beautiful that she didn't know the power of her sexuality. It goes like this: "Good natured Emma/Ieave your cracker barrels behind/Good natured Emma/there's more to the apple than the rind/I don't know how you can keep up your thing/The way that you do when it's not ours mine and yours/Sweet little Emma." The lyrics are kind of abstract, but I was only seventeen when I wrote it. It was about a girl who lived away from society but who was so beautiful that I needed to discover her. Kind of like Denise sitting over there. Denise embodies why I'm here. My music revolves around beautiful women and my idea of a beautiful woman is a dark-haired and dark-eyed exotic woman. That's my weakness.
AV: Explain "Why a Carrot is more Orange than an Orange?"
TN: That was another cosmic escapade by Steve Farmer. He did a lot of drugs, he was always dealing with the cosmic, and I don't know what he was talking about.
Do you want to know the most amazing thing in the world? When we put out Journey to the Center of the Mind in 1968 it had that pipe collection on the front cover and I didn't have the faintest idea what those pipes were all about! Everybody else was getting stoned and trying every drug known to mankind. I was meeting women, playing rock and roll, and meeting girls. I didn't have the faintest idea about dope. I didn't know anything about this cosmic inner probe. I thought "Journey to the Center of the Mind" meant look inside yourself, use your head, and move forward in life.
AV: But you co-wrote the song.
TN: I wrote the music. He wrote all the lyrics.
AV: To set the record straight, for the umpteenth time, you don't do drugs, do you?
TN: I have never smoked a joint. I have never done a drug in my life. I'm the only human being who can make that statement. I've never had a cigarette in my mouth. I don't drink. I had beers when I was fourteen or fifteen. I `ve never done a drug!
AV: Why not? If you're at an age when most teenagers are impressionable I
can see you trying drugs and saying you don't like them, but why didn't you
even try drugs?
TN: There were a lot of reasons, but the decision was very easy by the time I was in the Amboy Dukes. I watched incredible musicians fumble, drool, and not be able to tune their instruments. It was easier to say no than to say, "Hey, gosh, that's for me." I've also seen my fellow musicians die. It was so obvious. The same reason you don't run across certain highways during peak rush hours. I was first offered drugs by a beatnik in 1958 and he was slobbering. I just made a very simple conclusion early on. The man with a marijuana cigarette comes off as asshole next. Not me. I was therefore able to plunge into the depths of total irresponsibility with my music. Music over drugs was an easy choice for me.
AV: Discuss the Journey to the Center of the Mind album and how did you and Steve Farmer come to do the bulk of the writing?
TN: A lot of it was actual collaboration. A lot of it was Steve's attempt to become another Lennon-McCartney. Songs which we didn't even write together we put each of our names on. On the concept second side, with the exception of the title track, he took credit and did in fact write most of the lyrics. On "Journey to the Center of the Mind" he wrote the lyrics and arranged the vocal melody with Andy Solomon while I wrote the music.
I was an absolute maniac! I pIayed constantly on my guitar. I just couldn't say enough on my guitar so I was always coming up with new passages and licks. Steve would work with me on some of the vocals but a lot of the songs such as "Good Natured Emma" were by me. A lot of songs have Steve's name on them, but I wrote them completely. "Dr. Slingshot," "Flight of the Bird," and "Surrender to Your Kings" were all by me. Then again, a lot of the songs Steve wrote he listed me as co-writer when there was no need. He was a real creative whiz of a musician, but he got so high it was like the Special Olympics of Communication.
AV: The Amboy Dukes' Migration album contains a flawlessly identical cover of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers' "I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent" with lead vocals by Andy Solomon. What prompted the band to include such an inspiring piece amongst an album full of guerilla rock?
TN: Andy Solomon was a big Frankie Lymon fan. I thought it was great, especially the way it went into "Good Natured Emma," and the way Greg Arama sang the jazzy bass lines and playing little games at the end. I think it shows how creative the Amboy Dukes were. There were a lot of great ideas in that band with incredible musicians. Greg Arama, for example, listen to his bass part on "Journey to the Center of the Mind." Unbelievable! Then heroin took over and I had to get rid of him. He ended up driving off a cliff in California.
AV: Discuss the single "For His Namesake" and why the song was abridged from the album version for single release?
TN: Steve and I wrote the song. I arranged a lot of the music, but it was mostly his song. He even wrote out, interestingly enough for the first time, my guitar leads. I had just gotten a Les Paul and Steve came up with some of these guitar licks. I was against it at first, but after playing it I stuck with them because they were so natural. The song was another showcase for Steve's creativity.
It was made shorter for the single because that was the way it was in those days. Songs were edited to get playing time.
AV: Discuss the track "Loaded for Bear" from Migration and why all the Detroit-area high schools are mentioned in the fade.
TN: "Loaded for Bear" was a typical Ted Nugent private life meets rock and roll life since I do love to hunt. I've drawn a lot of analogies between my hunting life and my rock and roll maneuvers because there are a lot of parallels there.
At the end of the song we were just dicking around because nothing is sacred. We had an idea so we just called off all of our high school names a la American Bandstand. I said why not and so we did it.
AV: Discuss the Migration album in general.
TN: That album was a joy for me and the song "Migration" to this day is one of my favorites even though it is an instrumental. A big part of our show at that time was my instrumental work because I was a real creative son-of-a-bitch on guitar. The album remains my favorite Amboy Dukes' album by far. There was some great stuff on it, it was a lot of fun recording, and we were progressing as a band. That album was probably indicative of where the band could have gone from the Journey LP to the Migration LP. The progress of the band was short- stopped by drugs.
AV: The next Amboy Dukes LP was Marriage On The Rocks --- Rock Bottom. The album included "The Inexhaustible Quest for the Cosmic Cabbage" which comes off as a tribute of sorts to surf rock.
TN: That song was Andy Solomon's creative little baby. He was deep into jazz and historical rock and roll. I loved my fellow musicians and when they had an idea I was always for it --- to a degree. I think sometimes if Andy had had his way the album would have been filled with these jazzy cosmic cabbage or quasi-Mother of Invention-type songs. Andy was real creative as you can see in all the different types of passages. It was also interesting to learn and play it.