One evening, 20 years ago, I walked into a San Francisco bookstore and innocently asked, “Do you have a copy of Ted Nugent’s World Bowhunters magazine?”
The clerk laughed his ass off. Back then, the Nuge was still best known nationwide as the Motor City Madman, the loincloth-wearing guitarist who shredded his way through “Stranglehold” and “Cat Scratch Fever.”
But even then, in what has turned out to be a wise career move, Nugent was already changing his image from rock star to hunter/gun enthusiast/survivalist/libertarian/right-wing fanatic. His bowhunting magazine -- featuring its namesake's "Teditorials" -- didn’t make it in San Francisco boutiques, but it was on sale at gas stations all over Michigan.
He even had a World Bownhunters Headquarters, selling accoutrements of the outdoor life. Uncle Ted anticipated the migration of his audience from MTV to Fox News and went there first. His most recent books – God, Guns and Rock and Roll and Ted, White and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto – sold better than his most recent albums.
If Nugent hadn’t transformed himself into a culture warrior, he would now be dragging himself through the same skanky bar/county fair circuit as Molly Hatchet and Foghat. His only solo Top 40 hit was “Cat Scratch Fever.” (The Damn Yankees’ “High Enough” went to number three, but Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades sang on the record, so Ted can’t dine out on that one.)
Instead, Nugent will be attending Tuesday night’s State of the Union address as a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Tex., who shares his enthusiasm for the Second Amendment. (Nugent, who once threatened to run for governor of Michigan, now lives in Texas, where he can be closer to his conservative fan base.) Normally, the president is the rock star of the State of the Union, but tonight, Barack Obama will have to compete for attention with a real rock star. One who recently vowed he would be “dead or in jail” during an Obama second term.
Nugent, a National Rifle Association board member, told The New York Times he won’t bring any guns to the event (like the Secret Service would allow that), and “will be there with a deep, abiding respect for the office of the presidency. I’m not here to represent any specific cause other than freedom and independence and ‘we the people.'"
As well as the cause of 64-year-old one-hit wonders keeping their careers alive.