Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(TED NUGENT, Steve Farmer)

Mainstream 684

No. 16   August 24, 1968




“I started playing guitar when I was about six or seven years old,” wrote Motor City Madman and  chief

Amboy Duke TED NUGENT in a self-penned piece for Hit Parad­er magazine.   “I got an acoustic guitar

from my aunt, and was high­ly influenced by Elvis, Ricky Nelson, and James Brown songs that I’d heard

on the radio.   I took about two years of guitar lessons in Detroit at the Royal School of Music. Learned

the basics and got into boogie-woogie and honky-tonk.   I did my first professional performance when

I was 10, at the Detroit State Fair Grounds for the Polish Arts Festival. And I was a sensation.”


Detroit-born Nugent (b. Dec. 13, 1948) also formed his first band at age 10, The Royal High Boys. “It was

just me and a drummer named Tom Noe,” Nugent told DISCoveries’ Allan Vorda. “The band’s name came

from this shirt that all greasers wore.   We wore it, too, ’cause we were cool.   Winded up getting a bass

player and that became the nucleus of the Lourds.”   The Lourds quickly attracted a local following, and even

opened a sold-out show in Detroit with the Supremes and the Beau Brummels.   (The band’s only recorded

tracks, three in number, are currently available on a compilation LP called either Long Hot Summer or

Friday at the Cafe A Go Go.)   But all that ended when Ted’s father accepted a phone-company job in

Chicago; the family moved there in 1965.


Once in Chicago, Nugent (lead guitar) formed a group with Greg Arama (bass), Steve Farmer (rhythm

guitar), Dave Palmer (drums), and Andy Soloman (keyboards).   As Ted explained to Vorda, the “Amboy

Dukes” name came from a Detroit R & B band that had recently broken up.   “I thought it was a cool name

and when l moved to Chicago, I decided to use the name.


Obviously, I learned much later there was a street gang in the ’50s from Perth Amboy, New Jersey. And

there was this famous novel about the gang called The Amboy Dukes, but I’ve never read it…. That’s how

the original Detroit group got the name.”


With graduation behind him, Ted moved his group to Detroit.   There, they competed with a budding bunch

of local talent like Bob Seger & The Last Heard, Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons, The Rationals, and The Wanted

for a recording contract.   Mainstream Records, wowed by Nugent’s Hendrix-like guitar pyrotechnics, signed

the guys and issued their self-titled debut album in 1968. The LP largely eluded public attention, but their

quick­ly-pressed second outing, Journey to the Center of the Mind (1968)–plus the 45 of the title cut–were

suc­cessful enough to launch Ted’s rock’n’roll career.


“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 and playing rock’n’roll.   I didn’t know anything

about this cosmic inner probe.   I thought ‘Jo urney to the Center of the Mind’ meant lookin’ inside yourself,

use your head, and move forward in life.”


How could the obviously drug-related connotations have escaped him?   “I have never smoked a joint.   I

have never done a drug in my life.   I’ve never had a cigarette in my mouth.   I don’t drink. … 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 seen my fellow musicians die.”


Nugent’s indignant anti-drug stance shaped the short careers of his Dukes.   John Drake, a later member,

was fired partly due to his inability to meet rehearsal schedules.   Also removed was Steve Farmer, whom

Nugent described as a brilliant and creative thinker but who was “so high and so irresponsible you couldn’t

get from point A to point B with him.”   As for Greg Arama, “heroin took over and I had to get rid of him”

(Greg is report­edly deceased).   And Drake’s replacement, Rusty Day?   “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.


“There never really was a break-up of the Amboy Dukes.   It just got to be such a revolving door mentally

with the musicians.   I also took a break in 1973.   I was so upset internally.  I felt like a baby-sitter!  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.”


By album number four–Survival of the Fittest–Live (1971)–the band was billed as “Ted Nugent & The

Amboy Dukes.”   The following year, the artist credit for their Call of the Wild album read simply “Ted

Nugent.”   The Amboy Dukes officially disbanded in 1975, at which time Nugent signed a contract as a solo

artist with Epic Records.


According to Ted, John Drake is now a car salesman.   Steve Farmer is a conservationist plant­ing trees in

Oregon.   Robbie LaGrange is a realtor in San Diego, and Andy Soloman is “doing commercials in



In 1989, Nugent formed the Damn Yankees with Styx’s TOMMY SHAW, Night Rangers’ Jack Blade, and

Michael Cartellone.   The act has been quite successful with the Top 10 self-titled album and several singles;

notably “High Enough” (#3, 1990), “Where You Goin’ Now” (#20, 1992), and “Silence Is Golden” (#62, 1993)

from the Jean-Claude van Damme flick Nowhere to Run (1993).