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(Click here to see Stripes' photos of Ted Nugent at Heidelberg.)

WHILE WAITING backstage at Heidelberg's Rhein-Neckar-Halle for a chat with Ted Nugent, I didn't know what to expect.

After all, I was about to meet the "Motor City Madman," the wild-eyed, crazy rocker who leaps off amps and drum risers, makes "obscene" gestures with his guitar, tears apart raw meat during shows and swings Tarzan-like across stage wearing only boots and a buckskin loincloth.

"He's a nice guy, really," someone assured me, "very friendly and ... eloquent."

Just then, a herd of giggling teen-age girls stampeded into the backstage area, down the long, narrow corridor to Nugent's dressing room.

The maniacal guitarist stepped out, grinning from ear to ear. Sweeping back his shaggy mane, he signed autographs amid the excited cackle and spoke a few friendly words before sending the girls on their way.

Then it was my turn. We found a quiet spot away from the backstage bustle (in the shower room, no less), and I discovered the "other" Nugent: an articulate, aware man, with an open, honest face and an easy smile, passionately outspoken.

"Everybody thinks I'm a complete jerk until they meet me," Nugent admitted, grinning.

Though he had just lost "12 pounds of sweat in one swift hour" leaping about the stage, offstage he was calm and relaxed — almost tame.

"I'm driven by rock 'n' roll — by the music, the rhythm," he explained. "Rock 'n' roll can drive a poor boy looney."

If that's the ease, Nugent's been looney since he was 8 years old, when he got his first guitar. It was a present from his aunt, a stewardess, who found it abandoned on an airplane.

Three years later he had his first band, and at 14, Nugent and the Lourdes beat 60 other auditioning lands to appear as opening act for the Supremes in Detroit.

In 1965, the 16-year-old Nugent joined his first major band, the Amboy Dukes. Playing quasi-psychedelic music punctuated by Detroit hard rock, the band hit the U.S. Top 20 in the summer of '68 with the album, Journey to the Center of the Mind.

It was also in 1968 that Nugent appeared as opening act for Jimi Hendrix. After one performance Nugent was .fired — he had upstaged the headliner. Hendrix had been so far gone on drugs that he lacked control over his guitar-playing.

Eventually the Dukes fizzled out and Nugent went solo, releasing such classics as Stranglehold, Free for All, Dog Eat Dog and Cat Scratch Fever. His wild antics on stage kept him in the public eye (be was arrested once for indecent exposure) and he became known as a hard rock guitarist extraordinaire.

Now 35 and partially deaf ("Talk to my right ear, it's my better one," he advised), Nugent is still going strong. His recently released LP, Penetrator, marks his 18th album, and during live shots he's as zany as ever. When "the wild man of rock 'a' roll" comes running on stage, he never stops. He displays raw energy with his nearly chaotic guitar playing, driving his fans to a frenzy.

Of course the frenzy Nugent creates in the audience often leads to ugly scores of pushing, shoving and fighting — a fact the guitarist is not too happy about.

"A lot of people go over the edge at rock 'n' roll shows," he said. "The name of the game of rock 'n' roil is to go just on the edge, to stay just this side of chaos."

Contrary to the image of rock musicians, Nugent is not inspired by alcohol or drugs. In fact, these are two topics he'll argue about vehemently.

"Why would anybody want to dull their senses, have a false euphoria, be in a state of consciousness in which they might miss something?" he asked. "I don't want to miss anything."

His dislike for alcohol began at age 14, when he "bought a case of Pabst, drank it and puked."

Experiences as a teen-ager in the mid-60s in Detroit led him to his anti-drug stance. "I could give you a list of examples why I don't do drugs and it just grows and grows" he said. "How many corpses do there have to be? How much abuse and destruction going on in the mind?

"Every time you suck down a joint you're giving up something."

Nugent realizes, though, that "drugs are a sad element of rock 'n roll."

"It's a shame that people can't go berserk without any outside stimuli," be said, "All you really need is rock'n' roll and pretty girls.

"But," he added, "these are all personal conclusions. I conduct myself in what I think is right for Ted."

When he's not playing rock 'n' roll or eying pretty girls, the divorced father spends his time at home on his farm in Michigan with his children, Sasha, 10, and Toby, 7. Come October and he's out pursuing another favorite time, hunting.

Skilled with both bow and arrow and guns, Nugent's hunting furnishes most of the meat his family eats.

I reminded him of the time when a crazed fan pointed a .44-caliber magnum at him from a front row seat. While the rest of the band ran for cover, Nugent kept on playing. A week later, the man shot and killed four people in Spokane. Wouldn't gun control have prevented such an incident?

"Any person who really studies the subject," Nugent said, "will rind that an attempt to regulate objects such as whiskey bottles, guns, knives — it's futility in its truest form. It just doesn't work. It's been proven in studies on the gun control issue.

"Guns don't kill people; people kill people," he added.

As with drugs and alcohol, gun control is a topic with which Nugent has spent a lot of time. "The things I believe in, I believe in because I have put my full effort into them."

Then it came time for Nugent's evening phone call to his children: "I'm still the world's greatest father."


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