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INTERVIEW: Three Dog Night Founder Danny Hutton On Sneaking A Young Elton John Into A Sold Out Gig, Why The Band's Songs Still Resonate With Listeners, And More

T.J. Clemente

Michael Allsup, Pat Bautz, Danny Hutton,Howard Lavarea, David Morgan, and Paul Kingery of Three Dog Night. (Photo: Courtesy of Three Dog Night, Steven Spatafore, photographer)

The best part of interviewing any rock legend is that you learn more about what you thought you knew and then some new things that blows your mind. This was the case during my interview with Danny Hutton, founder of Three Dog Night, who will be performing at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) on Sunday, July 28 at 8 p.m.

Right off the bat Hutton explained he had started his career, "Working for Disney and then for Hanna-Barbera, the cartoon company when they started their own recording label, in the early sixties. I wrote songs for them." It was at that time that he that met Brian Wilson (Beach Boy founder) and witnessed the recording sessions of Pet Sounds.

Hutton said, "I got to know Brian really well and would go to his house. He actually helped us record his song Darlin', that he had just written. However when the Beach Boys came back from on tour they were not happy about that, so they stripped our vocals off the track, and put theirs on it."

I asked how did he come up with the band name Three Dog Night and he revealed, "I was in my kitchen and my manger said by Monday I want you to come in with a name. We wrote down sixty names... however I used to get this magazine called Mankind, my girlfriend at the time showed me an article about the Australian Aborigines with the phrase, a night so cold you will need to take three dogs to bed with you to stay warm, and that was that, Three Dog Night."

Hutton then talked about the L.A. suburb, Laurel Canyon, his home since 1965. Actually, during the interview, his lovely wife Laurie Anne Gaines had just come back from horseback riding. They were married in 1981 and have two sons and from the way he talked about her you can still hear the affection he has after nearly 40 years of marriage. "Laurel Canyon in 1965 was then filled with small hunting cabins of the rich folks who lived in L.A.. I rented a small one...I remember when Neil [Young] and Stephen [Stills] moved in across the street, we thought of them as interlopers with one form Canada and the other from down south," Hutton said with a chuckle.

I asked him about the craziest gig and he said, "You can define crazy in many ways, like playing in front of 600,000 people like the 4th of July in the 1990's or playing at Woodstock, but I remember this gig we did in England when our first album was on the rise and we had given out all our complimentary tickets and then our friend Reggie wanted to get in, so we had him carry our equipment in pretending to be part of our crew, of course Reggie was Reggie Dwight who is now known as Elton John."

I asked Hutton about his singing. He explained, "I never had any training, I am Irish and we would have these family events and everyone had to sing a song or tell jokes when it was there turn. I guess that's how I started singing."

When asked if he had a mentor, he paused then said, "If I had one it would have to have been Brian Wilson, but truly it was mostly me. I knew what I wanted to do from the beginning."

About still playing live, Hutton shared, "There is always a magic energy to playing live. When we sing we really belt with a fine texture, everybody in the band can really sing... Anything can happen, (laughs) including heckling, but there is a connection between you and the audience and there really isn't anything quite like that. It's golden."

In conclusion, I asked Hutton why has the songs of Three Dog Night remained so popular to this day and he replied, "We recorded them as best we could, we had really great singing, a wall of three strong singers, it was amazing we still hold the record for being in the top fifty on the charts." He also relayed the Westhampton Beach show will be a great one.

Three Dog Night "Top Fifty" hits include Try a Little Tenderness, Easy to be Hard, Eli's Coming, Celebrate, Mama Told Me Not to Come, Out in there Country, One Man Band, Joy to the World, Liar, An Old Fashion Love Song, Never Been to Spain, The Family of the Man, Black and White, Pieces of April, Shambala, Let Me Serenade You, The Show Must Go On, Sure As I'm Sitting Here, Play Something Sweet, Til The World Ends.

It is an amazing body of work.

Tickets to Three Dog Night at WHBPAC start at $105.

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For more information, call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.

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