That Metal Gear: Ted Nugent Talks About His First Guitars + Guitar Heroes!

by (@BHSmithNYC)
The Byrdland was his main guitar on his career making albums from the 1970s.

The Gibson Byrdland was Ted Nugent’s main guitar on his career making albums from the 1970s.

What was the first song you mastered on guitar?

Chuck Berry was the driving force in my first combo that only lasted a year or so in Detroit. I was so enamored and possessed and driven by his stuff because of his upbeat positive energy. I was overwhelmed with the “Maybellene” licks and the “School Days” and certainly “Johnny B. Goode.” Especially once it was catapulted into an even more important dynamic by the fact that The Beatles covered those songs. And The Stones. I wasn’t real good. I fumbled a lot but because of that I Nugent-ized them. To this day I don’t know if I play “Johnny B. Goode” right but I really play it cool. I would say I mastered them in my own way. The closest I got to mastering those originators was my solo on The Rolling Stones version of “Carol.” By ‘63-’64 that was one of our standout songs with both the Lourds and with the Amboy Dukes. To this day I still perform that song.

What guitars are you playing these days when out go out on the road?

I’ve still got my arsenal of Gibson Byrdlands. I think I have 22 or 23 of them. They are all phenomenal. They’re all uniquely inspiring and fascinating, and challenging because they have such a low threshold for feedback. They can eat your face if you don’t know what you’re doing. But I also have an arsenal of Les Pauls. A whole bunch of reissues and an original ‘58 and a ‘59. And I’ve got a whole arsenal of Paul Reed Smiths that are just world-class, right up there with any guitar ever made anywhere. I really got some cool Taylor electrics that I have a lot of fun with. I play them all but mostly it’s the Byrdland, especially on those classics that demand that tone. You really can’t play some of those songs properly with anything else.

What’s your favorite song to play live and why?

You know, I’m capable of almost anything, but I am not capable of identifying my favorite song to play because that’s like saying “What’s my favorite gun?” or “Who’s my favorite kid?,” for God sake, or “What’s my favorite dog?” I mean, they’re all my favorite. There’s only one “Stranglehold”. There’s only one “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”. There’s only one “Wango Tango”. I have a song called “Crave” on the “Craveman” album that is just a sonic boner to play every night just because of the licks. It’s all the best of the Muddy Waters and Bo and Chuck and Lonnie and Duane and Eric and Yardbirds and Cream all rolled into one. Then I have a song called “Fred Bear” that is about a great hero of mine by that name and it came out of me unstoppable upon his death in 1988. That song to this day has been the #1 requested song in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania for the last 25 years. Then there are outrageous departures like “Little Miss Dangerous.” They’re all phenomenally gratifying and satisfying and stimulating and mesmerizing. Tommy Clufetos (currently on tour with Black Sabbath) is one of the greatest drummers that ever walked the earth, who I baptized into the industry back in ’93 and has gone on to become one of the most respected drummers anywhere ever, he said to me once “Every song of yours is the greatest opening song or the greatest encore.” I think he had a point there.