More than 50 years after he co-founded the band, Danny Hutton still brings joy to the world with Three Dog Night. The 76-year-old Irishman and lead singer will bring the boys to the Adler Theatre Friday.
“We're on the never-ending tour,” Hutton said in a recent phone interview, noting the group has been recording a new album at his home studio in southern California. Three Dog Night is celebrating five decades together, and from 1969 to 1974, no other group achieved more top 10 hits, moved more records or sold more concert tickets, according to their bio.
Their hit singles include “Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” “One,” “Easy To Be Hard,” “Joy to the World,” “Black and White,” and “Shambala.”
In 1967, Three Dog Night was founded by Hutton, Cory Wells, Chuck Negron, Joe Schermie, Floyd Sneed, Jimmy Greenspoon, and Michael Allsup. American Songwriter wrote in 2017: “Three Dog Night was a producer’s dream, a trio of lead singers who had a sweet harmony blend and great instincts for vocal arrangements.”
Harry Nilsson's “One” (released by the group in 1969) — “was the perfect choice for a pop single: short for radio play, a showcase for three strong vocalists, and an emotional and identifiable hook that could be pounded into the brains of radio listeners,” the magazine wrote.
The band's unique moniker was suggested by Hutton's then-girlfriend June Fairchild, after reading a magazine article about indigenous Australians, in which it was explained that on cold nights they would sleep in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo, a native species of wild dog. On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs, and if the night was freezing, it was a “three dog night,” according to notes in the CD set “Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story, 1965–1975.”
Their manager then hated it, Hutton said in the recent interview. “He was furious. He said, 'You're going to have a name with 'dog' in it? It sounds like a circus act or something,'” Hutton recalled. But it stuck and flourished.
“I learned a lot from Brian Wilson, who's a good friend of mine,” he said of the legendary Beach Boys co-founder. Hutton was the best man at Wilson's wedding and sat in on some of the recording of the landmark 1966 Beach Boys' album, “Pet Sounds.”
“We have really intricate vocals. It's kind of like the Beach Boys, but it's a little more funky,” Hutton said, “They're more like the Four Freshmen – beautiful, ethereal. This is a little more soul.”
One of the most famous hits he sang lead on was “Black and White” – written in 1954 by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson, and released by Three Dog Night in 1972, when it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Black and White” had like 15 verses, and Hutton said he first heard it in Holland, in a hotel room. “I heard the chorus, and I said, that's a hit chorus. We went back to the States and it disappeared. Records could fall through the cracks. No one would know about it. We were lucky. There were very few reggae records on the Top 40 charts. We had a black drummer in 1969, and that was a problem down South.”
Though the song pleads for racial togetherness and retains its powerful relevance today, Hutton said his band is not political.
After disbanding for a while, the group got back together in the early 1980s, and continued with Hutton and Wells, with founding members Allsup and Greenspoon. Greenspoon died on March 11, 2015, and Wells died on October 20, 2015.
Recently, Three Dog Night began adding new songs by releasing its first double-A sided single in nearly 25 years. The performances of "Heart Of Blues" and the a cappella ballad "Prayer of the Children” are available at iTunes, Amazon.com and other digital retailers as well as through the band's website, threedognight.com.
Its touring schedule includes more than 70 dates a year. The current lineup features Paul Kingery (bass/vocals), Pat Bautz (drums), Howard Laravea (keyboards) and David Morgan (vocals).
Is it difficult to sing the same material after 50 years? “I love it. I absolutely love it,” Hutton said. “I have not lowered the keys for any song. When you change the key, the audience doesn't know why, but it doesn't sound the same. It's in a different place. That's real important. I can sing above high C, with no falsetto.”
“I really got into the health thing, got myself really healthy,” he said. “I walk my dog every day. I weigh 162, 6-foot-2. That's what I weighed in 1973.” His current French bulldog was a Christmas gift from Brian Wilson.
On tour, “We sound like the records or better,” Hutton said. “Some guys have been with us for years. I'm real proud of them.”
“We're lucky enough,” he said, noting many of their fans are in their 60s and up, and bring their kids and/or grandkids. “The demographics are great."