Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes
The Amboy Dukes were a Detroit progressive rock band that launched the career of rock legend Ted Nugent. The band actually started in the early 60’s in Detroit with little success. They relocated to Chicago in 1964 where Nugent joinied the band while still in high school. After Nugent graduated from high school in 1968 he moved the band back to Detroit and signed a recording contract with Mainstream Records. The band recorded four albums under the name of The Amboy Dukes, “The Amboy Dukes”, “Journey to the Center of the Mind”, “Migration” & “Marriage on the Rocks/Rock Bottom.” The bands only Billboard Hot 100 hit was the 1968 psychedelic rock song, “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” which peaked at #17. In 2009 the original band was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and played three songs together at the Detroit Fillmore while receiving a Distinguished Achievement Award. The band broke up in 1975 and Ted Nugent moved on to his solo career.
The band’s formation
The Amboy Dukes were an American rock band formed in Detroit, Michigan. The nucleus of the group was Ted Nugent, who was himself born in Detroit. He had been in the music scene since he was just 10 years old, playing for previous bands The Royal High Boys and The Lourds. It was in the Lourds where he first encountered John Drake, who would the Amboy Dukes’ future vocalist.
Nugent’s family moved to Chicago, Illinois, therefore he discontinued playing with the Lourds. Over in Chicago he formed another new band Amboy Dukes. He took the name from a Detroit band that had been just disbanded. Following Nugent’s return to Michigan in 1967, he assembled a new Amboy Dukes lineup that consisted of himself, Drake, Steve Farmer (rhythm guitars), Bill White (bass), Rick Lober (keyboards) and Dave Palmer (drums). They began to play in local clubs around the Detroit area, where they became one of the hottest attractions in virtue of their provocative cover of Them’s “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
The Amboy Dukes released their self-titled debut album in 1967, where they shifted their focus on their originals. Nugent took care of the music, while Farmer handled the psychedelic lyrics. The band experienced many shifts in their lineup; White and Lober quit, and they were replaced by Greg Arama and Andy Solomon.
“Journey to the Center of the Mind” – The Amboy Dukes’ only hit single
In 1968 the Amboy Dukes released their second album Journey to the Center of the Mind, which was released on Mainstream Records and featured the title track written by Nugent and Farmer. It went to #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 at #16. It was to be the band’s only hit.
The group’s instability and lineup shifts
The band again experienced lineup shifts, with Rusty Day replacing Drake as new vocalist in time for the band’s release of Migration (1969). It was a disappointment, as well as its successors Marriage on the Rocks (1970), and Survival of the Fittest(1971). Every release of the band’s albums saw a different lineup. Nugent fired Day and Solomon, while Palmer quit to become an engineer.
The band had a variety of members including Nugent, John Drake, Rick Lober, Steve Farmer, Bill White & Dave Palmer, Andy Solomon, Greg Arama & Rusty Day. Two albums were recorded under the name of Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes,Survival of the Fittest Live & Call of the Wild, with Nugent, Solomon, K.J. Knight & Rob Ruzga on the first LP, and Nugent, Vic Mastrianni, Gabe Magno & Andy Jezowski playing on the second. The last album Tooth, Fang & Claw, was recorded under the name of Ted Nugent’s Amboy Dukes and consisted of Nugent, Mastrianni, Jezowski, Rob Grange & Rev. Atrocious Theodoeius.
After recording a number of those unsuccessful albums with the group as Ted Nugent and the Amboy dukes, Nugent dropped the group’s name altogether and pursued a solo career. He became successful in the 1970s; Nugent’s early guitar playing style with his famed Gibson Byrdland, which was raised high on his chest, became his singular style that made him a standout among other guitar players. He earned the nicknames The Nuge, Uncle Ted, and Motor City Madman. He also joined the supergroup Damn Yankees in the 1980s, and in later years he became a staunch supporter for hunting and conservative politics.
In 2009 the Amboy Dukes reunited. They consisted of Nugent, Farmer, Lober, Soloman and White (Arama died in 1979, while Day died in 1982). The group performed together for the first time in many years, at the Detroit Music Awards at the Fillmore Detroit. Their performance consisted of the songs that got them popular, “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and “Journey to the Center of the Mind.”