Ted or Alive

How a foulmouthed* rock star became the country's most high-profile advocate for hunting, personal liberty, and the right to bear extremely large arms.
Ted or Alive
Nugent with his Smith & Wesson 500 revolver.
Photograph by Dan Winters

*And we do mean foulmouthed. If you are offended by obscene language, proceed with caution.

It is almost five p.m. on a Sunday in December and I’m sitting with Ted Nugent in the back of one of Jerry Jones’s jets. The plane has just left Kerrville for Dallas, where the Nuge—one of the terms with which Ted refers to himself when he deems first-person pronouns and his given name to be insufficient—will perform his trademark solo-electric-guitar rendition of the National Anthem before a pivotal Cowboys game with the Giants. Though he knows he’s an obvious choice for the job, he being one part guitar hero, one part fabled outdoorsman, one part pillar of the political right, and in every part an American patriot—“I’m a defiant motherfucker from the very origins of the Concord bridge!”—he has yet to put a finger on how he got the gig.

It will be interesting to find out why Jerry wanted me to do this,” he says. “I think Governor Perry convinced him, because Rick has told me on numerous occasions that I play the most passionate, earth-moving ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ ever. And I do.”

He goes on. “I’m a little more true to the melody than Hendrix. But it’s also fiery and pyrotechnic, with some bloodcurdling emotion hanging on feedback notes. And I hope you convey this in your story, because I don’t think Jimi was given credit. I think he performed it with the same dedicated, sincere patriotism that I do. He knew that his career was a direct result of a black man really being free before a lot of the so-called black leaders admitted they were. The whole Afro and hippie regalia thing, if that’s not defiance … Even Mr. Tough Guy here”—he points at himself—“went, ‘Whoa! I’m going to have to go practice some more.’ He made me practice more. Eddie Van Halen made me practice more. Jimmy McCarty in 1964 with Mitch Ryder made me practice more. If I’m tuned in to anything, it’s inspiration.”

The little bit of nostalgia feels particularly poignant. Just yesterday, Ted turned sixty, and the plane picked him up in Kerrville because that’s where he’d been celebrating, with a five-day hunt at the Y. O. Ranch. He’s still dressed, in fact, in deer blind attire: a camouflage field coat, tan brushpopper jeans—“So the Texas pricks don’t penetrate. I’m talking about prickly pear, of course”—and a camouflage cowboy hat bent like a taco shell. His age is finally showing, in a white shark-fin soul patch that juts from his chin and a ponytail that contains as much gray as brown. But his eyes still blaze with that lunatic glow familiar from album covers of his late-seventies heyday.

The flight to Love Field will take barely

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...