One Track Mind: Ted Nugent, "Fred Bear" (1995)

Share this:

It’s this time of year that I miss my Dad the most.

He passed away in 2008, and though I think about him often, in the fall those thoughts are ever-present. It starts when football kicks off, and I miss the good-natured (and sometimes not-so-good-natured) barbs that we used to sling at each other over my favorite team, the Saints, and his favorite team, LSU. For most of those years, unfortunately, his team was the clear winner. He didn’t live to see the Saints win the Super Bowl, and quite frankly, would probably be shocked that I did.

But when the last weeks in October roll around, that hole widens a little. The one place where my Dad and I truly bonded, where we were always close, was in the woods. Even during the years when we could barely be in the room together without a fight breaking out — usually over something stupid — when we were out on the hunt, all of that junk melted away. We were both of the same mind, both in our element and both at our happiest there. As we both got a little older and decided that we couldn’t change each other, the bond we forged on those autumn days only deepened. I miss working in August and September to get our spot ready, and the big plans we’d make that rarely came to fruition. I miss sharing the stories — all true, of course — about the adventures and misadventures of the hunt. I miss meeting him after a morning hunt or before an afternoon one just to stand around the trucks and shoot the breeze.

My fondest memories of him are of times spent in the outdoors, and in the years since he’s been gone, so many things have happened that I would have loved to share with him.

The year that he passed away was, naturally, the toughest, and it was during that fall that something happened to change my feelings about this song. I already loved it, but it was an afternoon in the woods with my own son that brought the message home. We were out checking our cameras and just goofing off, when we saw a nice buck bounding across a fresh clearcut. My son, who was three at the time, couldn’t wait to tell Papaw Ken every time we saw a deer. I started to speak the familiar words, “we’ll have to tell Papaw Ken,” and they caught in my throat. We rode in silence for a minute, while I hoped the thought wouldn’t come to him, too. Then my son began singing his broken version of “Fred Bear” — learned from a video of our trail camera photos that I had put together for him to watch — hollering out the refrain at the end of the song: “In the wind, he’s still alive.”

It was one of those rare perfect moments in life, and I joined my son in singing. Since then, I’ve made it a point to play the song every opening morning in honor of my Dad.

Though Nugent is singing about legendary outdoorsman Fred Bear, just about every lyric in the song sums up my own feelings and applies to my relationship with my Dad and all the things he taught me. I’d love to walk the trails with him again, and in many ways, I do often feel him at my side when I’m out there.

Aside from the personal meaning to me, it’s just a great song — probably the best in Nugent’s post-1970s catalog and one of the best all around. It’s one of only a handful of times in his career that the Motor City Madman drops the loud, obnoxious wildman bit and sings something from the heart, something that obviously means a lot to him, and it shows. Regardless of what you think about Ted Nugent — and he’s certainly given people plenty of reason to not like him — when he lights the campfire in the middle of the stage and launches into the fingerpicked main riff of this song, it’s a special moment. For all that I enjoy the running around, swinging from vines, jumping from amps and shooting flaming arrows, the understated performance on “Fred Bear” is easily the highlight of seeing Uncle Nuge live.

So, in the pre-dawn hours on Saturday, when I point my pickup toward the woods, you can bet that “Fred Bear” will be the first tune to blast out of my speakers as I hit the highway. And if my Dad were sitting in the truck with me that morning … well, he’d probably ask me what the hell that racket is and tell me to put on some George Strait. And that, I guess, is pretty fitting, too.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B001QQYCBU” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00136NUTI” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00414WBT4″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B002E87BD0″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00136NWF0″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse
Fred Phillips

Latest posts by Fred Phillips (see all)

Share this: