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Sound Circuit

Three Dog Night


As classic rock bands tour, fans are eager to see the band “one last time.” For more than a half a century, Three Dog Night has performed to sold-out crowds. They continue with a concert at Hoyt Sherman Place on March 2.

Three Dog Night founder Danny Hutton patched in a telephone interview from his California home, where he’d been without power due to the recent flooding. Speaking from his home, formerly owned by Alice Cooper, he reflected on his musical career spanning more than 50 years.

Hutton’s career started off as a songwriter, and he considered himself a “studio guy,” choosing who would sing which songs. He toured with and produced a song for the Sonny and Cher Show. He sang in a trio with original Three Dog Night band member Cory Wells, along with Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys.

“Brian was a good friend — he still is. He had a studio where the three of us would sing. Then The Beach Boys came back and asked us who we were and said they needed a hit song and so Brian left the trio,” he recalled.

Once Three Dog Night formed, the hits kept coming, starting in 1969. Some of the top songs include “Joy to the World” (a.k.a. “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”), “Black and White” and “Shambala.” Between 1969 and 1974, no other musical group achieved more top 10 hits. They also had 21 consecutive Top 40 hits.

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When I related to Hutton that I sang “Joy to the World” in grade school choir, he said it was a hit among all age groups.

“It was a song that was all over the map. Vietnam was going on, and we wanted a song that wasn’t deep stuff or a 10-minute-long song,” he explained.

That’s why his songs have endured throughout the years, he said. “They’re not political. It’s all about emotions, happiness, love and party songs. That’s our style.”

Over the years, the band has cycled through 15-20 different musicians, but one common powerhouse is in the vocals.

“The band’s songs are melodic, and we always sing with a chorus. The vocals during concerts and recording is always turned up,” Hutton explained. “We’ve kept the harmonies up loud. We eat the mics and sing as loud as you can. We don’t sing like background singers. We stay the lead.”

Throughout his career, he’s met countless musicians. One memorable party he attended included John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans (the Beatles’ road manager). 

“That was the highlight. John came in with a girlfriend — not Yoko. John was very nice, quiet and calm,” he recalled.

Another celebrity he met was Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy. 

“I found his name in a phone book. I called him up, and we spent the day together. He sent me a postcard, which is the first thing I’d grab if the house was ever on fire.”

Hutton’s son, Tim V. Hutton, plays bass with the band. Once, when he had his kids backstage at a concert, Frankie Valli babysat for him.

Three Dog Night has completed a new album, which is due out this year.

“It’s the first record since 1978. I’m thrilled,” he said. “We’ll sing at least one new song in the set. We’ll put it out to see the reaction and look at what people are downloading first.”

At age 80, Hutton doesn’t plan on quitting.

“I’ve seen reviews of different groups saying they can’t hit the high notes. I never want to have a review like that,” he reflected. “I’ll keep doing it as long as I can. We’ll kick butt every night. If audiences leave with a smile on their face, that makes me happy.” ♦

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