Great White Buffalo

Album: Tooth Fang & Claw (1974)
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Songfacts®:

  • Ted Nugent makes a cogent argument in this song about the need to respect animals to ensure their survival. He explains how Native Americans used every part of the animals they killed, and buffalo thrived. When the white man came, he killed buffalo for profit, which dwindled their population. In this song, the great white buffalo is the hero, appearing to lead his herd.

    The lyric reflects Nugent's reverence for nature and Native American culture. "I knew about the Trail Of Tears, I knew about Wounded Knee, I knew about the atrocities of Uncle Sam against the native peoples," he said in a Songfacts interview. "So the accumulation of information in my life came out in those lyrics, which are more appropriate now than ever."
  • "Great White Buffalo" is a staple of Nugent's live set and one of the songs that helped him pack stadiums in the late '70s when he was one of the top-grossing tour acts, performing over 200 shows a year. A rendition from a 1976 show in Dallas is featured on his album Double Live Gonzo!, which went on to sell over 3 million copies.
  • Many of Nugent's songs have lyrics about sex or nonsense, but he maintains that some contain relevant commentary, although the statements often got lost in the riffs. He said in a 1979 interview with NME: "Maybe some people will listen to 'Great White Buffalo' and realize that you can't market animals and expect them to be around for ever, but I don't think so. I think they listen to 'Great White Buffalo' and they listen to the guitar riff."

    In later years, Nugent became a mouthpiece for gun rights and other conservative issues. Always an avid hunter, his views are often at odds with animal rights supporters, but they might find common ground in this song.
  • Recorded in June 1974, Ted Nugent is credited as the writer on this track, and he shares credit for the arrangement with with Amboy Dukes bass player Rob Grange. According to Nugent, the riff came to him while he was tuning up his guitar. They captured it on tape and quickly recorded the song, with Nugent writing the lyric on the spot.

    "One fell swoop we recorded that song, no paper, no pencil," he told Songfacts. "I just sang it. We listened back and everybody went, 'That's cool as hell.' That's the spiritual side of my earthly lifestyle. It came to me in a vision as I blurted the lyrics out."
  • The original recording appeared on Tooth Fang & Claw, the seventh and final album from Nugent's group The Amboy Dukes (credited to "Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes"). Nugent went solo after the album's release and issued a steady stream of albums that sold very well throughout the '70s. As he built up his repertoire with hits like "Stranglehold" and "Cat Scratch Fever," "Great White Buffalo" - ignored for the most part when it was first released - found new life and became a rock radio favorite.
  • Live, "Great White Buffalo" sees Nugent soloing extensively and freely. In 1982, he told biographer Robert Holland that this was one of his favorite (of his own) songs.
  • Nugent says he was often contacted by Native American tribes after this song came out. "They've sweat-lodged me into the Brave Heart Society - I may be the only white guy," he told Songfacts. "They have embraced me and given me eagle-feather war bonnets, thanking me for putting their spiritual legend into a song. To this day, when we play that song - and we do every night - the earth moves."
  • Lyrically, this song is not dissimilar from the Thin Lizzy track "Genocide (The Killing Of The Buffalo)," released in 1980. In that song, Phil Lynott was writing from a historical perspective, but for Nugent it was more personal. A great admirer of Native American culture, one of the hallmarks of his lifestyle is hunting his dinner with a bow and arrow - Ted has never been your regular rock star! >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

Comments: 5

  • Wecer from Nj@Tedstranglehold from Usofa

    Apparently you can’t read or use common sense. How ironic.
  • Anonymous from UsaThe Buffalo killing was to kill off our native brothers and sister by killing their food source and use of hides for their survival this goes very deep into the soul of the white man's lack of understanding of my people or their suffering. nuff said
  • Tedstranglehold from UsofaBow and arrow was the Native American way, not guns. His pervy lyrics are really disgusting knowing he slept with underage girls. But stick up for him, he is your role model Sweatyteddy. Good for you. Ted and Weinstein should be cell mates.
  • Sweatyteddy from UsaApparently Jim doesn't know what feral hogs do to the habitat, and that hog hunts that are carried out in such away are necessary for the region to remain inhabitable by hundreds to thousands of other species of wildlife and vegetation. But yeah, let's take one situation out of context to try and destroy Ted's character, because you can't grasp simple ecology.
  • Jim from UsaWith videos of him machine-gunning hogs from a helicopter and an obsession with killing for pleasure, I can't match the theme of this song with Nugent the wildlife serial killer. Either he lost his morals on the way to becoming a full-blown wingnut, or he was a hypocrite all along.
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