Lest we forget: Ted Nugent’s three-chord opening to “Cat Scratch Fever” was schoolin’ for a generation of adolescent guitarists during the late 1970s. You didn’t even have to know how to play the rest of the song, just that opening riff. It was instant cool back then. As we learned, cat-scratch fever is the name of a real disease, but in song it defined the Nuge as a writer with enough skill to turn pretty much anything into a double entendre: “The first time I got it/ I was just ten years old/ I got it from some kitty next door.”
It was nearly a decade earlier that Ted Nugent first gained national attention with the Amboy Dukes and "Journey to the Center of the Mind." The Dukes gig established three important things about Nugent: his undying affection for big, fat, screeching Gibson Byrdland guitars; his sound, a mingling of Mitch Ryder, Chuck Berry, and Vanilla Fudge; and that he could play longer solos than anybody else at the time.
Ted Nugent turns 63 in December. The author of the cookbook Kill It and Grill It and Guns, God, and Rock ’n’ Roll (a New York Times bestseller), Nugent has finally grown into his pro-gun far-right meat-eating persona. Back in the day, he was just another skinny, long-haired freak like the rest of us, and hardly anyone believed that his mania wasn’t the product of dope. It wasn’t, but he did earn a place on Spin’s 2000 entry “100 Sleaziest Moments in Rock” (where Ted Nugent became the legal guardian of his under-age girlfriend). Likewise, I thought “Girl Scout Cookies” from 2007’s Love Grenade was a regrettable reach into the same abyss that spawned other Nugent no-brainers such as If You Can’t Lick ’Em…Lick ’Em. But then, one doesn’t go to the Nuge for brains. You go for fuse-blowing brawn like “Cat Scratch Fever.”
TED NUGENT: House of Blues, Wednesday, June 29, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $37.50, $57.50.