Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BACKSTAGE BRIEFS (Pt. III): TED NUGENT

Me and Ted Nugent – 2002
This is Part III of a week-long
series in which I will share
various behind-the-scenes
short stories from my dubious
rock and roll past. Some of
these tales will be excerpts
from my books or my previous magazine articles, while others
will be never-before-published accounts. Over the years, many
of my backstage-type experi-
ences have been crazy, funny
or unexpected. And some even
have been heartbreaking. But
I hope that you will find them
all compelling. Today's install-
ment is a tribute to The Nuge!
___________________________

In 1978, rock superstar Ted Nugent epitomized "cool." His music, his look, his outrageous persona — even his name sounded cool. He also had his own cool and unique lingo. In fact, by 1979 Nugent had made terms like “gonzo” and “wango” part of many rockers' day-to-day vernacular. However, my mother was considerably less impressed by the self-proclaimed “Motor City Madman.” Actually, she outright hated him. My mom's disdain for “The Nuge” arose from a late '70s visit to the Musicland record store in Orlando, Florida. As I was browsing through bin after bin of vinyl records, the clerk was giving Nugent’s new Double Live Gonzo album a little in-store airplay. Unfortunately for me (and Nugent), my mother and 12-year-old brother, Greg, came walking into the store looking for me just as Nugent’s infamous monologue regarding his female Nashville fans began blasting from the in-store sound system.
 
“Good heavens,” my mother declared with a look of stern disapproval on her face. “Who is this vulgar man we’re listening to?”
 
“I don’t know, mom,” I replied as I tried to quickly get her out of the store.
 
“It’s Ted Nugent, mom!” exclaimed my little brother who was all too happy to chime in.
 
That was all my mother needed to hear. Nugent’s fate now was officially and forever sealed at the Long house. From that moment, until the day she died in 1999, the name Ted Nugent was burned into the back of my mother’s brain like a cerebral cattle brand. And I quickly learned to avoid the “N” word (Nugent) in her presence — at ALL costs.
 
I always had been a fairly obedient kid, but I had to draw the line when it came to my mom’s strict, “No-Nugent” policy. I was a staunch Nugent disciple and I realized that in order to out-fox my mom I’d have to step up my game and start thinking outside the box. I began smuggling Nugent records in and out of our house inside of my Boston and Styx album covers. And I soon became even more brazen in my efforts to heighten my Nugent experience while keeping one up on my mom.
 
The first time I saw Nugent in concert he was performing with Aerosmith and Cheap Trick at Orlando’s Tangerine Bowl in March 1979 — I was 16 years old. I convinced my mom not only to buy the tickets for me and my girlfriend, Denise, but also to drive us to the concert. Cleverly, I only mentioned to my mom that Cheap Trick was performing at the event — which was certainly true. I just conveniently “forgot” to mention that Nugent also was on the bill. And I almost got away with the ruse. But unbeknownst to me, my mom stopped for breakfast with some friends in downtown Orlando that morning after dropping me and Denise off at the all-day extravaganza. As my mom was leaving the restaurant, she noticed a huge poster hanging near the exit promoting that day’s Florida World Music Festival, starring: TED NUGENT!
 
“Did I just take you to a Ted Nugent concert?” my mom asked during the inevitable post-concert interrogation. I sheepishly confessed that Nugent may have been one the acts as I quickly attempted to shift the dialogue focus from Nugent to how flippin' awesome Cheap Trick was. But despite my valiant effort, my mom definitely wasn’t “buying” it. In her defense, however, I must say that she didn’t really freak out to the extent that I expected. However, she clearly didn’t appreciate being deceived.
 
Many years later, in 2002, I was greeted at the airport in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri by my childhood friend Joe Deskin while I was on one of my cross-country  excursions.  "Dude, Nugent is at Waldenbooks at the mall in an hour," he announced immediately. "We gotta get there, fast!" It was true. Ted Nugent was to be signing copies of his Kill It & Grill It cookbook at a bookstore in the local mall in a matter of minutes. I  was completely dumbfounded by Joe's revelation, as the last thing I expected when I woke up that morning was that I'd be meeting The Nuge that afternoon.
 
But my heart sank when we arrived at the store and I noticed hundreds (and hundreds) of people already lined up from one end of The Battlefield Mall to the other with books and memorabilia in-hand waiting their turn to meet "Terrible Ted." And at one point, it appeared that Nugent's time would expire before we got to him. However, patience is a virtue — the store's staff managed to pick up the pace and finally I made it to the front of the line and found myself face to face with The Nuge.
 
Always one of rock's most controversial and outspoken figures, Nugent was surrounded by a sea of local police officers and sheriff's deputies — the type of security force that is often associated with protecting the President. But despite the police presence, Nugent maintained his typical cool, cocky and confident demeanor. As I reached out to shake Nugent's hand, I thanked him for all of the many years of great music. He then paused for a moment, and stroking his chin, he reflected on my comment as if it was the first time he'd ever been offered such a sentiment.
 
“Hmm, it really IS great music, isn’t it?” he replied. I think my mom would have begged to differ with both of us on that point.
 
-Christopher Long
(September 2012)
 

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