Happy Anniversary: Damn Yankees, Damn Yankees

Monday, February 22, 2016
Happy Anniversary: Damn Yankees, Damn Yankees

16 years ago today, Jack Blades, Michael Cartellone, Ted Nugent, and Tommy Shaw released their debut album as Damn Yankees.

The idea of putting Nugent together with the lead singer of Night Ranger and the guitarist/vocalist from Styx emerged from the mind of John Kalodner, a gentleman who is well-known in the industry for his A&R savvy. “I think I had dinner with Jack Blades, or maybe Tommy Shaw, and for some reason I got in this mindset,” Kalodner told Ultimate Classic Rock in 2015. “I knew Ted Nugent well and he wasn't really doing anything. Night Ranger wasn't really doing anything, and Tommy Shaw was kind of in and out with Styx. So I came up with this crazy idea to have the three of them have a supergroup.”

Per Kalodner, he called Shaw's representatives first, called Nugent's manager next, and then just asked Blades directly, and they apparently all had approximately the same reaction: they thought it was nuts. “Ted Nugent particularly thought it sounded like a stupid idea,” said Kalodner. “But I convinced them to all get together.”

No matter what Nugent may have thought about the idea, he was nonetheless a fan of Shaw's musicianship. “I always admired his soulfulness,” Nugent told UCR. “I was the only one who really stood up in defiance of the claim that Tommy Shaw was this cute little blonde towheaded cherub playing pretty Styx music. I knew that he was a huge black man from Montgomery, Alabama, raised on the same blues of James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and Motown that I was.” As it turned out, that shared musical background resulted in instant chemistry when the two guitarists first got together to jam, resulting in the spontaneous composition of the song “Come Again.”

At that time, Nugent and Shaw were working with bassist Norm Dahlor, but Blades told UCR that he got a call from Kalodner to inquire about his availability. The timing couldn't have been more perfect: it was less than a week after Night Ranger played the final date on their Man in Motion tour.

“(Kalodner) said, 'Look, I have Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw working on these songs in New York City: something's not quite there, it's not quite right and I think maybe you'd be the catalyst for it,'” said Blades. “He sent me a plane ticket and flew me to New York, and I just ended up on the porch of Tommy Shaw's brownstone on the Upper West Side in like 1989. It was like, 'Wow,' and that first weekend we all got together and wrote about half the record, that first weekend.”

Or as Shaw put it, “Jack showed up and then within about a half hour, we'd written 'High Enough,' so all of a sudden it went from being really good to 'Holy shit!'”

It would be inappropriate to spend any more time swiping quotes from “The Complete History of Damn Yankees,” so this would be a great time to head over to Ultimate Classic Rock and bask in the wonderful work by writers Jeff Giles and Matt Wardlaw. While doing so, however, you should definitely listen to the band's debut album and revisit the massive Mainstream Rock hits delivered by Damn Yankees: “Coming of Age,” “High Enough,” “Come Again,” “Runaway,” and “Bad Reputation.”