Three Dog Night: Riding the Rock ‘n’ Roll Road ahead

Lead singer Danny Hutton has spread “Joy To The World” with Three Dog Night for more than 50 years. | Steve Spatafore

Danny Hutton is hanging out at the Laurel Canyon pad he bought from Alice Cooper. Full of goodwill, free spirit and humor, Hutton’s been busy recording Three Dog Night’s 13th studio album, “The Road Ahead,” at his home studio with a little help from his sons. It’s the first one since 1983.

“There’s just about every different style on there,” says the 79-year-old artist and early psychedelic socialite. “A lot of intricate parts, like Brian would do.”

Feb. 5 | 7:30 p.m.
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe | Stateline, Nev.

He’s talking about Brian Wilson, sonic architect of The Beach Boys. Hutton befriended him in 1965 when he was head of Hanna Barbera’s recording division writing nascent Flower Power melodies for kids’ television programs. A cartoon cameo as a long-haired pop singer on the 141st episode of “The Flintstones,” in which Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm become bubblegum pop stars in Fred’s bad dream, accompanied the release of Hutton’s first single, “Roses and Rainbows.”

While the song’s popularity never fully blossomed, it led to an opening slot for Sonny and Cher not long after “I Got You Babe” hit No. 1. Hutton was suddenly singing in front of thousands of people. He moved to Laurel Canyon with his neighbors Neil Young and Stephen Stills, who would come by to share songs. A consummate L.A. scenester, Hutton invited Elton John — on his earliest U.S. performance at the Troubadour — then spiked his dinner at Billy James’ Black Rabbit Inn with cocaine so he would stay up all night entertaining friends on piano at his house on Lookout Mountain.

When you’re young and naïve, you think you know it all. All I can say is, I’m almost 80. I’ve been around the block and we’re still out here doing this. I am really, really happy with my life now.
–Danny Hutton

He was present in the studio for the recording sessions of The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” considered one of the greatest psychedelic albums of all-time.

“I sat there like a fly on the wall,” he says. “I was there when [Brian Wilson] did ‘God Only Knows.’ He did things that were so incredible I thought would be a huge part of the record and he’d put it in the background. He knew how to sonically get stuff to marry like a puzzle.”

In 1967, Hutton joined Chuck Negron and Cory Wells to form the three-part harmony at the heart of Three Dog Night. From 1969 to 1975, the smash group scored 21 consecutive Top 40 songs, including three No. 1 singles and 12 straight gold albums with hits such as, “Joy To The World,” “One” and “Mama Told Me (Not to Come).” They were one of the first acts after The Beatles to sell out stadium concerts in the U.S.

While they were sometimes criticized for playing other people’s songs, Three Dog Night supported the careers of celebrated songwriters such as Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Paul Williams and Hoyt Axton through their creative arrangements and interpretations.

“The critics were not kind to us,” says Hutton. “All I can say is that we’re still working and living very good lives. We were never a cover band. We resurrected songs.”

The success and money led to decades of excess with Hutton leaving the group from 1975 to 1981 to manage punk bands and Negron succumbing to heroin addiction and living on the street before finding God and recovery.

“There are lots of stories I can’t tell you,” says Hutton. “When you’re young and naïve, you think you know it all. All I can say is, I’m almost 80. I’ve been around the block and we’re still out here doing this. I am really, really happy with my life now. There are great moments in the past, but if I keep my health, I couldn’t be happier.”

Although he penned half the songs on the new album, Hutton admits he never learned to read music.

“Being a good typist doesn’t make you a good novelist,” says Hutton. “You can almost learn too much. They’ve lessoned all the spontaneity out of kids these days. I’ve kept an innocence in my chord structure that’s important.”

Perhaps he learned a thing or two from the legends of classic rock he tripped with down the road before.

“Social intelligence is more important than anything,” he says. “Get people around you that are better than you. Be the guy that phones them and sets it up.”

Three Dog Night performs on Feb. 5 in the South Shore Room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

“Playing live is being on a tight rope,” says Hutton. “Something is never going to be exactly like what you expect. It keeps me frisky. Every night, I can tell the audience wants us back.” |

Watch “Roses and Rainbows” on a 1965 episode of “The Flintstones”