Archive Interview – Three Dog Night – Gruene Hall show

Old story I wrote when Three Dog Night played Gruene Hall….

In 1968, keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon was living in Los Angeles and his next door neighbor just happened to be Danny Hutton, a successful solo artist, writer and producer. The two musicians became friends and Hutton shared his vision with Jimmy, to form a rock band with three lead singers. His dream became a reality when he joined forces with singers Cory Wells and Chuck Negron. The other original members included Mike Allsup on guitar, Floyd Sneed on drums, Joe Schermie on bass and Greenspoon on keyboards. Their debut self titled album was released in 1969 and contained two early hits, ‘One’ and ‘Try a Little Tenderness.’ Once the album was recorded the band was tasked with finding a name for their new group.

Calling from his home in Los Angeles, founding vocalist Danny Hutton recalls that time. “It was on a Friday afternoon and we still didn’t have a name for the band. Our manager said ‘guys, please come up with a name this weekend.’ So that was our homework. We sat around my kitchen table and wrote down about 50 names. I had just read a magazine called ‘Mankind’ that had an article about Australian aborigines. They would lie down with their dogs on cold nights in the outback to try and keep warm. If it got really cold at night, they would say it was a ‘three dog night.’ So I just wrote that phrase down on our tablet with all the other names we were thinking of using. When we decided to use it as our band name, our manager wasn’t too crazy about it but it all worked out ok.”

I asked Hutton about some of their biggest hits and he provided some interesting tidbits of info. “Hoyt Axton wrote ‘Joy to the World’ for a children’s album he was doing, but when that project didn’t pan out, he came to the studio and played it for us. At first we weren’t that impressed with it, but once we tweaked it a bit to fit our style, we decided to include it on our 1970 album ‘Naturally.’ We didn’t release it as a single but the DJ’s started playing it right off the album and it became a huge hit. Randy Newman wrote ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come,’ and again, we didn’t think it would work for us, but we started rehearsing it and really got into it. I heard ‘Black and White’ while I was in England. I walked into my hotel room and heard it playing on the radio while the maid was cleaning the room. It was by a Jamaican reggae group called Greyhound. It was written in 1954 by folk singer Earl Robinson. When I got back to America, I tracked the song down and we recorded our version. I used my best ‘Gene Pitney’ vocals on it. ‘Shambala’ was another huge hit. Our record label found that song for us and as soon as we heard it, we knew it would be a hit. We recorded it for the ‘Cyan’ album in 1973 and it was a big hit for us.”

When I quizzed Hutton on what we could expect at their upcoming Gruene Hall show, he replied, “We have an attitude in this band that we play to entertain the crowd and make everybody smile and be happy. We are just like our fans, when we go see a show; we want to hear the hits, so that’s what we try to do. We will play the hits, some of our new music and some of our favorite obscure album cuts.” The current lineup for the band consists of founding members Cory Wells, Danny Hutton, Mike Allsup and Jimmy Greenspoon. Paul Kingery and Pat Bautz are the two newest members on bass and drums respectively. With over 90 million albums sold since 1969, Three Dog Night is one of the most successful bands in America. The Krayolas will open the show at Gruene Hall on Thursday night, June 24 and tickets are just $49.50 to see this legendary group. See gruenehall.com to purchase your advance tickets now.

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