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241 R evenge can be a powerful motivator. And it’s certainly why the Amboy Dukes came into existence and took us on a “Journey to the Center of the Mind”—and beyond. The Dukes were the unintended result of an adolescent trauma for guitarist Ted Nugent, who in 1964 was a happy Detroit boy, soaking up the early Motown and British Invasion sounds and playing his guitar in a band called the Lords. Then, his world was upended; his father, a former army drill sergeant, was moving the family to Chicago after receiving a promotion from Uddeholm Steel, and Nugent learned the hard way that “my little hobby of rock ’n’ roll didn’t matter.” Not surprisingly, this did not sit well with the future Motor City Madman,who had been taught by his father to pursue what he wanted with unbridled passion. “I was going to pursue my musical dream with a vengeance, and God help anybody who got in my way,”he recalls.“I wasn’t going to let [moving away] compromise that at all.” Ultimately, however, the move may have been fortuitous. Almost as soon as he set foot in the Windy City, Nugent made his way to the Cellar, where the Shadows of Knight were kicking out their particular brand of jams. It was that night that Nugent met two fellow musicians—guitarist Gary Hicks, who was training horses by day, and Bob Leonard, who was singing on cruise ships— with whom he would form the Amboy Dukes, appropriating the name of a popular Detroit outfit that had featured highly regarded guitarists George Cole and John Finley. “By that fall we were kicking the Shadows of Knight’s ass,” Nugent says, reveling in the memory. “I brought every Detroit spirit,every Detroit attitude and just gave the middle finger to Chicago. They didn’t know what faster and louder meant; when those bands played cover songs, they played them just like the record. When we played cover songs we gutted them. People in Chicago didn’t know what the fuck kind of noise we were making. ‘What is he doing with that guitar?!’We were scaring people.” Conquering Chicago was not Nugent’s goal, however; as soon as he graduated from high school in June 1967, he brought the Dukes back to Detroit and plugged them into a rock ’n’ roll scene that was far more sophisticated than when he’d left three years before. Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels had already rolled through, and riding in their wake were the likes of the Bob Seger System, the Stooges, the MC5, the SRC, the Rationals, the Frost, and many others. “There was an intensification even I wasn’t preparedforwhenIreturned,”Nugentacknowledges. “When I got back and watched the MC5, I was not quite prepared for that.” But—big surprise—Nugent wasn’t intimidated by it, either. Recognizing that he needed to fortify the troops to do battle in his hometown, Nugent gradually replaced the Chicagoans, homesick and frustrated by the group’s meager earnings anyway, Amboy Duke Gary Graff 242 deTroıT rocks The ’60 s with take-no-prisoners Detroit boys. John Brake (who changed his stage name to Drake when it was misspelled on the Dukes’ first album) had sung in the Lords. Guitarist Steve Farmer was in a group called the Gang.Drummer Dave Palmer,bassist Bill White,and keyboardist Rick Lober rounded out the Dukes’ first Detroit lineup. Living in a house in the Detroit suburb of Livonia and playing “just enough shows to keep us in cereal and bread, keep the van running, and the speakers working with some degree,” according to Nugent, the young Dukes were always either doing shows or rehearsing in the basement.“We would do twelve-,fifteen-,sixteen-hour jam sessions,”Nugent remembers, “play at outrageous volumes, playing outrageous stuff. We were a bunch of young kids jamming on spontaneous music.” Drake recalls, “Our rehearsal schedule ran five days a week, eight hours a day—at least.That’s what held it together. The band just stayed tight all the time.” Attention came quickly,mostly due to the band’s high-octane delivery and Nugent’s inherent sense of showmanship; eschewing the tie-dyed conventions of the time, he would appear onstage in Native American headdresses and in loincloths, adding the image of the hunter-savage to the Dukes’ already potent and loud sonic concoction. And the Dukes’ peers approved. Notes the MC5’s Wayne Kramer...


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