Three Dog Night brings hits to Packard
Three Dog Night will be doing something in 2020 that it hasn’t done in more than 40 years — releasing a new studio album.
Even more surprising for a band best remembered for drawing on some of the best songwriters of the 1960s and ’70s for its songs, at least half of the tracks on “The Road Ahead” will be originals penned by founding member Danny Hutton.
During a telephone interview from southern California, where he was getting ready to take his labradoodle for a walk, Hutton said he was a songwriter in his pre-Three Dog Night days, and a couple of his songs appeared on the first few 3DN albums.
“There’s always group friction, especially when you have more than one songwriter,” he said. “I didn’t want to go through that with the other guys, and when Randy Newman walks in and hands you a song, you don’t say, ‘No, I write my own stuff.'”
Three Dog Night gave exposure (and much needs songwriting royalty checks) to such artists as Newman (“Mama Told Me Not to Come”), Hoyt Axton (“Joy to the World”), Harry Nilsson (“One”) and Laura Nyro (“Eli’s Coming”), but Hutton bristles at the characterization of the group as a cover band.
“We never covered anybody,” he said “We resurrected songs that didn’t happen. We got a hold of them, arranged them our way and had hits with them.”
The band had no shortage of hits. Between 1969 and 1975, 3DN had 21 consecutive singles crack the Billboard top 40, including three number ones — “Joy to the World,” “Mama Told Me Not to Come” and “Black and White.”
Fans can expect to hear most of those hits when the band performs Sunday at Packard Music Hall.
“We haven’t lowered any of the keys,” Hutton said. “We still sound like the records.”
And while they have taken a little of the fat out of the arrangements, they don’t do any medleys.
“You get the full song.”
What you won’t get Sunday is any of the new material, which he expects to release in early 2020. Except for picking a first single, Hutton said the band used to let the response from DJs and fans tell it which songs to push.
“I don’t like the idea of subjecting people to, ‘Let’s do eight new songs,'” he said. “We’ll slowly put them in if people like the idea. They’re going to concerts to bring back memories. That’s what music does.”
Hutton credited Robert Greene’s book “Mastery,” which looks at historical figures and the traits that made them successful, with inspiring him to get Three Dog Night back in the studio with his own songs.
“Listening to that book gave me that shot of adrenaline — ‘What am I doing? Why am I not out there writing?”
Hutton drew inspiration from Beach Boy Brian Wilson in writing and recording “The Road Ahead.” Hutton and Wilson became friends in the ’60s. Hutton sang on an early, unreleased version of “Good Vibrations” and was in the studio while Wilson was working on the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” album.
“He was like my mentor,” Hutton said. “I would sit there watch him and learn how to really make a record. This record almost has that kind of vocal interaction with all six of us doing the vocal parts.”
The current lineup features Hutton, lead vocals; Michael Allsup, another original 3DN member on guitar; Pat Bautz, drums; Paul Kingery, bass; Howard Laravea, keyboards; and David Morgan, guitar and vocals.
Hutton, 77, is the only one of Three Dog Night’s three lead singers that remains with the group. The band has been estranged from Chuck Negron since the mid 1980s and he continues to tour as a solo act. The third, Cory Wells, died in 2015. Morgan was recommended by Wells before his death.
“He fits like a glove,” Hutton said. “He’s somebody that Cory liked. The guys like him. You’ve probably heard him on so many commercials. His voice is all over the place.”
Unlike most bands that have been around as long as Three Dog Night, the group actually is touring more than in recent years and will play about 100 dates in 2019.
“I love it,” Hutton said. “It’s like being at the best party every night.”
WHO: Three Dog Night
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Packard Music Hall, 1703 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $52.50 to $75.50.