In a surprising tale of camaraderie, Ted Nugent and the late Wayne Kramer, both influential Detroit guitarists, showcased an enduring friendship that transcended their stark political differences. Despite being on opposite ends of the spectrum – with Nugent being a brash right-winger and Kramer a deep-seated progressive – their bond stood the test of time.
This unexpected friendship was grounded in shared musical passions, as both musicians hailed from Detroit, studied guitar together, and drew inspiration from the city’s vibrant music scene. Nugent expressed deep admiration for Kramer and fondly remembered their time together, emphasizing the genuine discussions and friendly debates that marked their relationship.
Despite their contrasting lifestyles, Nugent highlighted the respect and civility that defined their interactions. The camaraderie, he said, was fueled by a mutual love for music, the Motor City, and a soulful groove. The relationship wasn’t just about shared interests but also included political discussions that never escalated into arguments, always concluding with a handshake and a shared laugh.
From their early days in Detroit, where both were born in 1948, to studying guitar under the same mentor, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Motown music played significant roles in shaping their musical journeys. While Nugent’s preferences differed from the MC5’s radical politics and drug indulgences, he proclaimed himself as one of the band’s biggest fans, praising Kramer’s dynamic presence and the band’s unique fusion of R&B-driven rock ‘n’ roll.
Nugent vividly recalled the impact of seeing MC5’s explosive live show, acknowledging that it inspired him to push his own band, the Amboy Dukes, to practice more. Despite their musical and political differences, Nugent emphasized the unparalleled soulfulness that MC5 and Kramer brought to the stage, injecting a James Brown-Motown dynamic into their performances.
The guitarist pushed back against the common categorization of MC5 as garage rock or proto-punk, asserting that they played R&B loud and fast with a keen sense of dynamics. Nugent acknowledged the band’s eventual decline due to drug issues and increasing political involvement but expressed his deep connection to the music they created.
Nugent revealed that their friendship deepened significantly after Kramer’s release from prison in 1979, following drug convictions. In recent years, Nugent contributed to Kramer’s Jail Guitar Doors organization, highlighting their shared passion for music and rehabilitation.
Following Kramer’s passing, Nugent reached out to Kramer’s widow, Margaret, offering condolences and referencing a line from his song “Fred Bear” to express that Kramer’s spirit lives on. This unlikely friendship between Nugent and Kramer serves as a reminder of the power of shared passions and genuine connections, transcending political and lifestyle differences.