Three Dog Night to perform Friday at Luhrs

October 31, 2012|By CHRIS COPLEY |
  • Three Dog Night will perform Friday, Nov. 2, at H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center in Shippensburg, Pa. The band is, from left, Michael Allsup, Paul Kingery, Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, Pat Bautz and Jimmy Greenspoon.
Submitted photo

 In his decades in the music industry, Danny Hutton has acquired a boatload of awards, a lifetime of accomplishments and a long list of VIP contacts.

But mainly, he just wants to make art and have fun.

Hutton is an original member of Three Dog Night, a hugely popular pop-rock band active in the late 1960s and early '70s. Over eight years, the band recorded 10 albums — all certified gold — and notched 21 Top-40 hit songs.

But Hutton is not resting on past fame. He's still making art. Take "Prayer of the Children," a heartfelt, a cappella song calling attention to the plight of abused children. Hutton recorded the song few years ago with the current lineup of Three Dog Night.

"I'm really proud of that song. I played it for (Beach Boy founder) Brian Wilson. He said it was like angels. That's a great compliment," Hutton said by phone from his home near Los Angeles. "I feel if this was 1972, that would be a No. 1 song. And no one knows about it."

"Prayer of the Children" will be part of Three Dog Night's song list when the band performs Friday, Nov. 2, at H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center in Shippensburg, Pa. A few tickets were still available at press time.

Three Dog Night made a big mark when it debuted its eponymous first album in 1968. Their sound was distinctive for the time — rich instrumental background, complicated harmonies, and complex musical treatments of verses and choruses in each song.

Also, the band played a variety of musical genres. Hutton said that came from the band's three singers — Cory Wells and Chuck Negron in addition to Hutton, each of whom had fronted his own band — and from the hurry-up schedule of the band's first album.

The three singers first came together to sing under the guidance of Brian Wilson.

"He named us Redwood. He produced us first," Hutton said. "But then our manager said, 'Get a demo and go out (and perform), instead of just being a recording trio. And get something happening.'"

 So Wells, Negron and Hutton quickly pulled together their favorite songs, such as "One" by Harry Nilsson, "It's for You" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and "Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad" by Randy Newman. With four background musicians, the singers worked up their own interpretations to show their chops.

Then, Hutton said, the band got a break. They played for Jay Lasker, president of Dunhill Records.

"He said, 'I want to sign you guys. Let's get in the studio next week,'" Hutton recalled. "And we said, 'We don't have songs yet.' And he said, '(We'll use) what you just played me.' We said, 'No, those are just songs we put together that we like.' He said, 'That's your first album.'"

And it was their first album — covers of 11 favorite songs. The band, now going by a new name — Three Dog Night — released three singles from that album. "One" reached No. 5 on the Top 40, and Three Dog Night's career was launched.

A distinctive style

After being on top of the pop music world for eight years, Three Dog Night disbanded in 1976. Hutton got involved in other projects, including managing punk bands. But the band reunited in 1981, went through a lot of personnel changes and eventually settled into a reasonably stable routine.

The current lineup features founding members Wells and Hutton, keyboard player Jimmy Greenspoon and guitarist Michael Allsup, along with two longtime members, guitarist Paul Kingery and drummer Pat Bautz. They perform about 80 concerts a year.

"Cory (Wells) and I decided we're only going to tour as long as it's fun," Hutton said. "I usually leave on a Thursday and we get back home Sunday in time for Sunday dinner. We have 25, 30 people. With a lot of young, musical people."

He said the band tries to find a good balance for each concert — old favorites, new songs in the old style and some less-well-known favorites.

"We'll go deep into the albums, do a couple songs only the big fans will know. It keeps us from being bored, and it's fun," he said. "We always do 'Joy to the World.' But you can't do it anywhere except near the end."

"Joy to the World," written by country singer-songwriter Hoyt Axton, became one of Three Dog Night's No. 1 hits. But Hutton said when the band first recorded it, they considered it just an eccentric add-on to their fourth album. After all, it's about a wine-drinking bullfrog.

"Who knew that was going to be (a hit)? It's just an oddball song," Hutton said. "It's, like, the third (single released) off the album. We had no idea."

Hutton lives in Hollywood Hills with his family. In addition to his music, he works on his house and car.

"I love making new stuff (look) old. And art — just crazy. The house is a log (structure). It's a bit of a hobbit house," he said. "If you imagine the 'Lord of the Rings' movies — the house is done up like that."

He also likes steampunk — an industrial-style, Victorian-fashioned science fiction aesthetic.

"I'm steampunking my car," Hutton said. "You know the sports cars with two seats? I'm having the interior done in aged brown leather. And everything's brass. I've got 1,000 brass rivets in my car, and it's been aged. I love steampunk."

Hutton likes collaboration, and after nearly 50 years in the business, he knows everyone.

"The guy who's doing my car did props for ‘Star Trek' the TV show and (Arnold) Swartzenegger movies and (Steven) Spielberg (movies) and all that," Hutton said. "And he does suits of armor. So my car almost looks ironclad, like a suit of armor with brass rivets in it.

"To me, it's like a work of art."

If you go ...       

WHAT: Three Dog Night in concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

COST: Tickets cost $44 to $57

CONTACT: Call 717-477-7469 or go to

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