When music fans recount successful recording artists of the early 1970s, there are the obvious acts: The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Elton John were huge. But then there are acts, such as Three Dog Night, which also enjoyed an enviable run during that turbulent but highly creative period.
The group scored 21 hit singles, including a staggering 11 Top 10s and 12 consecutive gold albums.
“We had more hits than you think,” vocalist and original member Danny Hutton says. “People forget how many hits we have. People at times are surprised that a particular hit is a Three Dog Night song.”
The visceral “Liar,” the dramatic “One,” the well-crafted “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” the hook-laden “Easy to be Hard” and the clever “Never Been to Spain” are just a few of Three Dog Night’s top 10 songs. The jaunty “Mama Told Me Not to Come” and the anthemic “Joy to the World” both hit No. 1.
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Three Dog Night, which will perform Friday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, recorded songs written by a variety of hitmakers, such as Randy Newman, Paul Williams and Hoyt Axton. As a result, their music has always been eclectic.
“The cool thing about us is that we were on every chart,” Hutton says. “We were on pop, rock, easy listening and country. We didn’t chase trends. We went with the songs. The genre didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if the critics got it. We went with our gut and it worked out very well for us.”
It all started with three vocalists, who nailed three part harmonies. The singers – Hutton, Chuck Negron and the late Cory Wells – formed Three Dog Night in 1967. “We could all do different things,” Hutton said. “Put on one of our albums and you’ll hear Chuck sing a ballad, Cory doing something funky and I’ll be singing a rock song. We complemented each other very well.”
Negron left the band in 1985 and Wells passed away in 2015. “Cory was such a great singer,” Hutton says. “He was unique.”
Keyboardist Jimmy Greenspan, who joined the band in 1968, also passed away in 2015.
But the group, which includes bassist Paul Kingery, vocalist David Morgan, drummer Pat Bautz and keyboardist Eddie Reasoner, carries on.
“I love being part of this band,” Hutton says. “There’s no reason to stop. As long as people want to hear our songs, I’ll be out there playing them. People want to hear these songs because they’re great songs and these songs are different. You don’t hear much in terms of harmonies with younger bands today. The older groups like us still do harmonies. We came out of doo-wop, which is a wonderful thing. There’s still nothing like the combination of unique voices and great songs.”