If various rock ‘n’ roll memoirs are to be believed, nearly every American musical group of the 1960s had at least one member who evaded the Vietnam-era draft by scheming to fail a physical examination through some combination of drug use, sleep deprivation, neglected hygiene, deliberate starvation, feigned homosexuality, and assumed bizarre behavior. Johnny Rogan’s biography of the Byrds, for example, describes such plotting by two of the group’s members, frontman Gene Clark and drummer Michael Clarke:
Gene had previous escaped [the draft] due to a knee injury incurred when he played football in his teens. But the diagnosis of Osgood-Schlatters disease was remedied by rest and physiotherapy, so it was not long before he was
re-examined.This time, he feigned madness, employing whatever drugs were at his disposal to enhance the desired effects. “Gene was living with me at the time,” Clarke told me. “We did a programme and it was hard getting Gene out of the draft. They weren’t buying that bullshit about his leg. I kept him up for a week. Thanks to massive amounts of dexedrine he screwed up all the tests. They looked up his ass. It was seriously demeaning. But we were the best of brothers and I helped get him out.”
“When I went in, it was major shit. I wore these stupid pants and sandals. I sat there cross-legged and suggested I had a problem. They were waiting for somebody to try and get out and their attitude was ‘You’re front line, dude.’ I got through the tests. There was a form with the question, ‘Are you a homosexual?’ I wrote ‘No!’, then changed it to ‘Yes’, then ‘No’ again, then crossed it out a few times. I knew all the answers and freaked out. I followed the yellow line and I had to take a piss. They give you this thing to carry and I threw it down on the floor and went over in the corner and took a piss. The guy said, ‘This is very
serious …You can’t do that!’ I turned around and accidentally ended up pissing on him. Then somebody tried to take my stuff, so I jumped in and said, ‘Take your hands off my stuff or I’ll kill you. I’m serious’ I’d got my hands round this guy’s neck. Right away, they sent me to the psychiatrist’s office. They were looking at me thinking, ‘Is he for real or is he bullshitting us?’ There was one guy there with long hair who went to Vietnam, but I didn’t. You had to be good. The psychiatrist asked me, ‘Have you ever done it with a woman?’ I said, ‘No!’ He said, ‘Have you ever wanted to?’ I said, ‘No!’ He said, ‘Have you ever done it with a man?’ I said, ‘No!’ He was just looking at me — that’sall he was doing. Finally, he said, ‘Get the hell out of here.’ They ran me down the red line and booted my ass out of there — ‘Getout of here, you faggot bastard, schizoid homosexual, not fit for military service at any time — 4-F.’I ran out the door, jumped in my Porsche, beat it back to the beach and was laughing all the way. If you think I wanted to go to Vietnam, you were out of your mind. I was making too much goddamn money.”
In an interview with published by High Times magazine in 1977, Ted Nugent claimed he had engaged in similar behavior to deliberately fail a physical exam in 1967 and be qualified
Interviewer: How did you get out of the draft?
Ted Nugent: Ted was a young boy, appearing to be a hippie but quite opposite in fact, working hard and playing hard, playing rock and roll like a deviant. People would question my sanity, I played so much. So I got my notice to be in the draft. Do you think I was gonna lay down my guitar and go play army? Give me a break! I was busy doin’ it to it. I had a career Jack. If I was walkin’ around, hippying down, getting’ loaded and pickin’ my ass like your common curs, I’d say “Hey yeah, go in the army. Beats the poop out of scuffin’ around in the gutters.” But I wasn’t a gutter dog. I was a hard workin’, mother****in’ rock and roll musician.
I got my physical notice 30 days prior to. Well, on that day I ceased cleansing my body. No more brushing my teeth, no more washing my hair, no baths, no soap, no water. Thirty days of debris build. I stopped shavin’ and I was 18, had a little scraggly beard, really looked like a hippie. I had long hair, and it started gettin’ kinky, matted up. Then two weeks before, I stopped eating any food with nutritional value. I just had chips, Pepsi, beer-stuff I never touched-buttered poop, little jars of Polish sausages, and I’d drink the syrup, I was this side of death, Then a week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants. poop, piss the whole shot. My pants got crusted up.
See, I approached the whole thing like, Ted Nugent, cool hard-workin’ dude, is gonna wreak havoc on these imbeciles in the armed forces. I’m gonna play their own game, and I’m gonna destroy ’em. Now my whole body is crusted in poop and piss. I was ill. And three or four days before, I started stayin’ awake. I was close to death, but I was in control. I was extremely antidrug as I’ve always been, but I snorted some crystal methedrine. Talk about one wounded motherf*cker. A guy put up four lines, and it was for all four of us, but I didn’t know and I’m vacuuming that poop right up. I was a walking, talking hunk of human poop. I was six-foot-three of sin. So the guys took me down to the physical, and my nerves, my emotions were distraught. I was not a good person. I was wounded. But as painful and nauseous as it was — ’cause I was really into bein’ clean and on the ball — I made gutter swine hippies look like football players. I was deviano.
So I went in, and those guys in uniform couldn’t believe the smell. They were ridiculin’ me and pushin’ me around and I was cryin’, but all the time I was laughin’ to myself. When they stuck the needle in my arm for the blood test I passed out, and when I came to they were kicking me into the wall. Then they made everybody take off their pants, and I did, and this sergeant says, “Oh my God, put those back on! You f*cking swine you!” Then they had a urine test and I couldn’t piss, But my poop was just like ooze, man, so I poop in the cup and put it on the counter. I had poop on my hand and my arm. The guy almost puked. I was so proud. I knew I had these chumps beat. The last thing I remember was wakin’ up in the ear test booth and they were sweepin’ up. So I went home and cleaned up.
They took a putty knife to me. I got the street rats out of my hair, ate some good steaks, beans, potatoes, cottage cheese, milk. A couple of days and I was ready to kick ass. And in the mail I got this big juicy
4-F.They’d call dead people before they’d call my ass. But you know the funny thing about it? I’d make an incredible army man. I’d be a colonel before you knew what hit you, and I’d have the baddest bunch of motherf*ckin’ killers you’d ever seen in my platoon. But I just wasn’t into it. I was too busy doin’ my own thing, you know?
Questioned about that account some thirty years later (by which time Nugent was known as a staunch political conservative, a supporter of the Republican Party, and an advocate of hunting and gun ownership rights) in an interview with the UK’s Independent newspaper, Nugent disclaimed that previous account of his draft-evading activities as story he had made up and fed to a gullible High Times reporter and asserted that he actually had avoided the draft through the legitimate means of a student deferment:
He has the rage, but he doesn’t have the war record. At 18, he was called up to serve in Vietnam. “In 1977 you gave an interview to High Times [the cannabis user’s journal of record] where you claimed you defecated in your clothes to avoid the draft.”
“I never shit my pants to get out of the draft,” says Nugent, good-naturedly.
“You also told them you took crystal meth before the medical — as a result of which, and I quote: ‘I got this big juicy 4F.'”
“Unbelievable. Meth,” he replies, in a tone of deep sarcasm. “Yes, that’s my drug of choice. You’ve got to realise that these interviewers would arrive with glazed eyes and I would make stories up. I never did crystal meth. And I never pooped my pants.”
“But you did dodge the draft.”
“I had a 1Y [student deferment]. I enrolled at Oakland Community College.”
“You said then that you wanted ‘to teach the stupid bastards in the military a lesson’. I’d have thought you’d have loved the army. Guns. Travel. Danger.”
“Back then, I didn’t even understand what World War II was.”
“So basically,” — I admit that I have, unaccountably, started to speak Nugent — “you didn’t want to get your Michigan ass blown off in Vietnam.”
“Correct. I did not want to get my ass blown off in Vietnam.”
Clearly, though, Ted Nugent didn’t make up the tale about his snorting crystal meth before his pre-induction physical as a one-off jape just to fool a High Times reporter, as he said the same thing in an interview with CREEM magazine:
Q: “Are you still a hard case on drugs?”
A: “Real hard. I have never done a drug in my life. I have never smoked a joint in my life. I took two tokes off a joint with the MC5 one night and almost gagged and thought it was stupid. And that’s it. I took two tokes off a joint once. I snorted one line of cocaine. And one line of crystal methedrine before my draft
physical — butGod, that was worth it because I wanted to see the look on the Sergeant’s face. That’s it for drugs.”
An analysis of Ted Nugent’s Selective Service classification record doesn’t prove or disprove either version of the story. He did indeed receive a high school student deferment (
So, Ted Nugent did have a student deferment for part of the time he was eligible for the Vietnam-era draft, but he also did fail a physical examination and receive a medical exemption (which, as far as we know, he has neither acknowledged nor explained). But in the absence of more specific information about the results of that physical examination and the reasons for his medical exemption, it cannot be ascertained how truthful the account Nugent gave to High Times magazine back in 1977 might be. (Ted Nugent’s press representative did not respond to a request for additional information about this subject.)
Cizmar, Martin. “Ted Nugent Talks Guns, Meth, and Hippies Before NRA Convention in Phoenix.”
Phoenix New Times. 14 May 2009.
Jensen, Dennis. “Ted Nugent: Call Him Chickenhawk.”
Rutland Herald. 28 May 2006.
Rogan, Johnny. Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless.
London: Rogan House, 2011. ISBN 978-0-095295-408-8 (pp. 136-138).
The Independent. “Ted Nugent: Off His Rocker?”
28 May 2006.