Hog Wild

The Harley-Davidson 100th anniversary tour's music lineup is all over the map, which is perfectly appropriate.

August 15, 2002|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,SUN STAFF

Rarely, if ever, will you find two more differing musical personalities than Ted Nugent - the raffish, rough-and-tumble, 53-year-old rock-guitar showman who has sold 30 million albums worldwide - and Alison Krauss, the 31-year-old dulcet songstress whose award-winning vocals and fiddling, some say, have brought American bluegrass to mainstream audiences as effectively as Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs or Ricky Skaggs ever did. Yet their surprising similarities mirror the ever-growing diversity of Harley-Davidson lovers - a diversity that Harley fans say reflects the growth and history of America itself.

That diversity might be the theme of the historic motorcycle company's "100th Anniversary Open Road Tour" - a series of extravaganzas that marks Harley's first century of existence - and which makes its second of 10 U.S. stops this weekend, starting tomorrow afternoon at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course.

If it's like the first, held last month in Atlanta, the festival will be three days of education, entertainment and outreach. Harley-Davidson, according to event producer Robert Butters, chose Baltimore as a venue not just for its proximity to other Eastern cities, but also because 25-acre venues like Pimlico are hard to come by, and it'll need every square inch. Harley exhibits will pack the track - tents showcasing vintage cycles, historical presentations, riding venues for bikers and newcomers alike - but Butters, a Londoner and onetime theatrical producer for Andrew Lloyd Webber, is just as proud of the musical slate he has assembled. "Nowhere else in the world will there be such an assortment of acts in one place," he says.

The card includes 13 performers, starting tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. with Southside Johnny, the Neville Bros. and the Marshall Tucker Band. On Saturday, reggae kings the Wailers; up-and-comers Default; Krauss and her band, Union Station, and Hootie and the Blowfish will star. Sunday's roster includes Billy Idol, Bob Dylan and, last but not least, the high-powered Nugent. (For complete coverage, see Page 3 of LIVE.)

"We've been setting attendance records at state fairs everywhere," Nugent says. "This is the peak of my career. Every night is dreamland, my musical jihad.

"When I choose to be progressive, jump back, Jack, or get singed."

Nugent, a conversational stick of dynamite, is hardly the model of the dissolute, left-wing rock star. Known for his support of gun ownership and bowhunting; his seat on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association; his authorship of best-selling books like God, Guns & Rock 'n' Roll and the Kill It & Grill It cookbook, and his lifelong opposition to drug and alcohol use, he is seen by many in rock as a right-wing crank - a fact that amuses him.

How to explain Ted Nugent's Spirit of the Wild, the video series he created that has netted more than $3 million for PBS affiliates? Or his recent win of the James Fenimore Cooper award for writing, his induction into the Native American Strongheart Society, and his founding of the Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids?

"In a world of sheep," he says, "I love being the grizzly bear."

All his works incorporate a belief in the American dream that, to him, calls for individual freedom, resistance to evil, community involvement ("we-the-people stuff") and respect for the mystical forces of nature. "I love to tell the truth," he says. "It's fun. I have supreme confidence. Part of it comes from never having taken a drug or drink, never eating an unhealthy piece of food. I have a discipline that guides me at being a positive force - as a parent, a husband, a voter, a community member, a participant in self-government."

He deeply respects "the continuing rush hour for excellence [in the United States]," he says, "and I salute it and celebrate it. But I see the decay of society in AIDS, obesity, welfare whore-ism. The fact that Clinton was president was a nauseating barometer. The lunatic fringe is expanding."

That fringe excludes the musicians who jazzed him as a boy in Detroit. "I have no white influences," he says. "Bo [Diddley], Chuck [Berry], the black artists of that era, were it. Both the musical blackness and the hunting blackness - it comes from black aboriginal peoples as hunters. I tread the primordial goop."

The Harley gig should please Nugent.

"I love all forms of music," he says. "I should clarify that rap and hip-hop are not music. I represent the R&B factor. I also happen to be a fan of Britney Spears and the boy bands. They deliver the goods."

He spurns country and bluegrass, whose rhythms he finds simplistic even when he respects the musicianship. Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited was a masterpiece, he says, "though Bob did his species a disservice by celebrating chemical abuse. ... The notion that drugs inform consciousness is ridiculous. Drooling does not enhance one's creative possibilities. Just try to get Jerry Garcia on the phone."

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