In honor of Ted Nugent‘s appearance this Saturday at DTE Music Theatre (Pine Knob as it is stilled called), I thought I would tell the story as to how I met “Terrible Ted” and why he is not so terrible if you were to ask me.
Back in the late sixties guitar players were gods and everybody had hitched their wagons to one “god” or another. Of course there were those that were into Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Green, Townsend, Sheldon Kay and more, and though I liked them all, I focused on one local player who at the time had the greatest band in the city…Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes! Ted absolutely destroyed everybody that grew up in the George Harrison style of rock and roll guitar. His was a sonic blast that in many ways, as you know, put him in a lot of the conversations about American guitar players. And the best reason for making Ted my personal guitar hero was that I could see him frequently…very frequently in fact…almost on a monthly basis.
In addition to the event I am about to describe, I had two previous encounters with the “Nuge” and a third opportunity, that came later. The third was having the thrill of actually being on his first live record, “Survival of the Fittest–Rock Bottom”! I made a significant contribution to the record which was recorded at the now closed Easttown Theatre.
Now back to my story. Ted was playing a concert in Windsor, Ontario at the Windsor Ice Arena sometime in the spring or fall of 1970. My best friend at the time Marcus Dawson, who also happened to be the bass player in my band Merlin, and I went to the show. We went to so many of the Amboy Duke concerts that we were starting to get recognized by some of his people, which shouldn’t have been too surprising as we were usually the only black people there.
During the concert we were allowed to go backstage and hang out. There were a lot of people there…mostly girls of course…and they had the “we have all been here before” look about them. Since this was our first time being backstage, we tried desparately to look like we belonged there too…it wasn’t easy, but we managed to get by.
Those of you who are reading this and have been to some of Ted’s earliest concerts know that at the end of his show, Ted had a little ritual he would perform before doing his encore. He would go offstage, change into a loincloth and comeback out with a bow and arrow to shoot at some prop. He would also have his backup Byrdland guitar amped and with both guitars howling with feedback…he would scream, “AND NOW WE ARE ONE”!
So when Ted went offstage to change and get his other guitar, he looked around…holding the one guitar, he needed a place to put it while he prepped the other. 30 maybe 40 pairs of hands reached out for the guitar…”I’ll hold for you Ted…”Please let me”…were the chants/cries from the crowd. I turned and walked away, believing that there was absolutely no way that I, “Little Arthur David” (this was before I added “Brother” to the mix) would be chosen to hold his guitar. I walked a good 50 ft from the crowd plus another 5 ft from where Ted was standing. Feeling somewhat dejected, I turned to see Ted step through the crush of people and stride purposefully toward me and say, “Hey man…will you hold my guitar”? He gave me, Arthur David Littsey, his guitar to hold! ME! OH WOW! I couldn’t believe it. My first inclination was to run, but seriously how far would I get! My eyes danced over it…the gold plated tuning gears and bridgework…the super low action…the knobs…it was soooooooooo pretty! My fingers floated over the strings as I suddenly fantasized about being on stage with Ted dueling it out on “Good Natured Emma” or “Migration” or “Baby, Please Don’t Go“! All of this took place in about 60 seconds as thats about how long it took for Ted to pick up his other guitar and head back on stage to finish his set.
Yes, for nearly 60 seconds I had held Ted Nugents’s Byrdland guitar. Dear Diary…I’m in heaven…HEAVEN!
We went back out in front to catch the end of the show. We heard that there was a party somewhere afterward, but being the good boys we were and because we had promised our parents we would come right home after the concert, we didn’t go. Plus, this was a Sunday night and we had classes first thing Monday morning. I was floating regardless…my head was in the clouds and my feet were way up and off the floor!
I went out not long after that night and bought that guitar and I would bet my friend Howard Kalish will remember the times in which when I owned it. I had to have it. The one I bought was a 1968 Gibson Byrdland. Ted used the ’66 and ’67 models. He mostly used blond Byrdlands on stage but he also had a tobacco sunburst model as well as a black lacquered one. It was supposed to cost me $600, I put $200 down and walked out of Gus Zoppi Music Store with it. That $200 went a long way because I used that to get my 1957 Les Paul Deluxe. How that happened is another story by itself.
So that was and will always be one of the most significant musical highlights of my life. Having that moment…sharing it with a friend…was huge! It affected me in some ways that will be forever positive.