SHIPPENSBURG - Those of a certain age recall clearly Three Dog Night’s blockbuster hit, “Joy to the World.” In a time when our collective psyche desperately needed a shot-in-the-arm after devastating years of war, the upbeat song was a breath of fresh air, appealing to young and old alike.
Many kids who barely listened to the radio recall singing what could be referred to as the “anthem of the era.” I couldn’t have been more than age nine when I joined several friends on the front porch “stage” and curled my little fake microphone fist to belt out “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog.”
The band enjoyed years of radio play with that song alone but their string of hits was mind-boggling, with 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, including “One,” “Mama Told Me (Not to Come), the aforementioned “Joy to the World,” and “Never Been to Spain,” to name a few.
Nearly four decades later, the band is still going strong, maintaining a year-round touring schedule of more than 70 dates a year. On Jan. 30, they’ll be making a stop at Shippensburg’s H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center for an 8 p.m. performance.
Lead singer describes the early days
Three Dog Night lead singer Danny Hutton took the circuitous route to stardom. The musician was born in Ireland and arrived in Boston around age four. “When I was 12, mom said, ‘we’re going to Hollywood,’ so I’ve lived in LA since then,” Hutton said.
Fast forward to age 18. Hutton unloaded trucks full of LP records at Walt Disney studios before being discovered by Kim Fowley, for whom he became a driver. “I ended up at Hanna-Barbera Records and became head of artists and repertoire. They started a record label and I was a talent scout, recording records, playing drums and singing parts in three-four-part harmony.” Hutton even appeared on the Flintstones in an episode titled, "No Biz Like ShowBiz."
“That was me singing on there with Barney, watching TV,” he said.
Word of Hutton’s talent spread, and opportunities blossomed. He toured with Sonny and Cher and appeared on American Bandstand with The Lovin’ Spoonful in 1965. “That’s where I met Corey [Wells],” said Hutton. Sadly, Wells passed away just this October.
After touring, Hutton spent time at MGM records. “I hung around with people like Frank Zappa and my old manager became the head of ‘Brother Records,’" which was Brian Wilson’s label. “He started producing us as ‘Redwood’ and that was the start of that,” said Hutton. The band later embraced the name “Three Dog Night,” and “we took off like a rocket ship,” said Hutton, who remains friends with Wilson to this day. “I was the best man at his wedding,” he said.
The grueling schedule eventually took a toll on the band, and around 1977 they took a three-year hiatus. When they resumed, they agreed on one thing. “When it starts to feel like work again, that’s it,” said Hutton.
Current fans and the upcoming performance
East Pennsboro musician Trent Sprenkle, who plays in a country group called American Posse and a rock band called Love Haters, said, “Three Dog Night was one of those bands that always makes you feel good. One of my favorite songs is ‘Shambala,’ which I've had the pleasure of singing over the years and it has always garnered a great response--such a rich and storied history in the years they were making hits and selling out arenas.”
Kathy Drabkowski, senior editor of ConcertFix, said, “I’ve been a big Danny Hutton fan since way back in the ‘Roses and Rainbows’ days. Believe it or not, I still break out ‘Joy to the World’ when I’m at the gym. I’m also impressed with his son Dash having recent success with Haim, which was just nominated for Best New Artist at the 2015 Grammy Awards. That’s some talent right there!”
Hutton acknowledges that the band has had incredible staying power, with many factors playing into the longevity equation. “You have to perform well and sing or play well, or have an incredibly weird personality, but the song is everything. We specialize in a lot of harmony and I think we have a pleasant sound.”
Hutton hints at an explosive encore if the audience calls the band back on the Luhrs stage. “This song blows the house down.” He won’t share his secret, however. “That’s a surprise. It’s the most unique presentation of every song we’ve ever done,” he said.
When you go:
Three Dog Night
H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center
475 Lancaster Drive, Shippensburg, PA 17257
Tickets: $59, $55, $49 and $44
Call: 717-477-SHOW for tickets.