Best remembered for their 1968 acid rock classic "Journey to the Center of the Mind," Detroit's Amboy Dukes also introduced the world to the Motor City Madman, guitarist Ted Nugent. The group's roots date to 1965, a period when a teenage Nugent was living in Chicago; there he formed the first incarnation of the Amboy Dukes, borrowing the moniker from a recently disbanded Detroit band who themselves took the name from an infamous exploitation novel of the period. When Nugent returned to Southeastern Michigan in 1967, he assembled a new Dukes lineup including vocalist John Drake, his former bandmate in the Lourds, as well as rhythm guitarist Steve Farmer, bassist Bill White, keyboardist Rick Lober, and drummer Dave Palmer. Famed for its snarling closer, an incendiary cover of Them's "Baby Please Don't Go," the group emerged as one of the hottest attractions on the Detroit club circuit.
Still, when the Amboy Dukes' self-titled debut LP appeared on the Mainstream label in 1967, it was the group's originals that became the focus -- while Nugent handled the music, Farmer penned the drug-fixated lyrics, adding a psychedelic sensibility to an otherwise proto-metal sound. After a series of lineup shifts that saw White and Lober exit in favor of bassist Greg Arama and keyboardist Andy Solomon, in 1968 the Dukes issued Journey to the Center of the Mind, riding the title track into the U.S. Top 20. Vocalist Rusty Day replaced Drake in time for 1969's Migration, which failed to equal the success of its predecessor; Marriage on the Rocks, issued later that same year, was also a disappointment, and after 1971's Survival of the Fittest Nugent dismissed Day and Solomon after Palmer left the group to accept an engineering gig. After recording a handful of albums as Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes, he finally dropped the group's name altogether and mounted a solo career. ~ Jason Ankeny