Three Dog Night at Sportscenter

Photo courtesy of Steve Spatafore Three Dog Night performs in concert at The Orleans Hotel & Casino Showroom in Las Vegas recently. Three Dog Night, a band that's been on the road for 50 years, returns to Owensboro on Saturday for an 8 p.m. show at the Sportscenter.

In 1971, Rick Nelson was booed at an oldies rock show in Madison Square Garden when he sang a new song rather than the hits the fans wanted to hear.

From that experience, he wrote "Garden Party," his last hit in 1972.

"If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck," Nelson sang.

Not Danny Hutton, one of the founders and the last remaining vocalist of Three Dog Night.

"My band and I are out there to serve the people," he said in a recent telephone interview. "People drive up to an hour and half to see our show. The excitement from the audience really drives me. I never think, 'Do I have to sing that again?' I want to leave people with a big smile on their face."

Hutton said, "It's all theater. People say we look so natural. The stage is the most unnatural place there is, up there with all the lights, in front of an audience."

Three Dog Night, which played the old Executive Inn Rivermont several times between 1982 and 2006, returns to Owensboro on Saturday for an 8 p.m. show at the Sportscenter.

Tickets are $99, $79, $69 and $45 -- plus processing fees.

Parking is $10.

Tickets are available at OwensboroTickets.com, at the Owensboro Convention Center box office and at 270-297-9932.

Did Hutton think he would still be on the road 50 years after Three Dog Night's recording of Harry Nilsson's "One" topped the Billboard charts?

"I didn't think I'd still be alive," he said. "When you're young and arrogant, you think 50 is old."

He'll celebrate his 77th birthday next month.

Three Dog Night was his first band, Hutton said.

"I was a soloist and a studio cat," he said. "I would go in the studio, sing lead and background, play all the instruments and make up a name for a group. If the record started charting anywhere, they would hire a band to go in and lip sync to the music."

Hutton said, "I did that until 1965. Then, I went to Hanna-Barbera Records. They put me in an episode of the 'Flintstones' as a cartoon character. I went on tour with Sonny & Cher. That was my baptism in performing."

He hung out with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys during those years.

"My manager went to MGM Records and I went with him," Hutton said. "Then, he went to Brother Records, the Beach Boys label and I went with him. I had three Top 20 hits and then things went cold. Brian Wilson became my mentor."

He said he got Cory Wells and Chuck Negron together.

"We began going over to Brian's house, working on a song, 'Darlin'," Hutton said. "The rest of the Beach Boys came in. They said don't give that song to those guys. It looks like a hit. So, they stripped our vocals out and put theirs in."

Birth of the band

He said, "My manager said we should form a band. We weren't rookies. We all knew what we needed to do. That was the beginning of Three Dog Night."

The name is a reference to a cold night in Australia, when shepherds slept with dogs to keep warm.

A three-dog night was below freezing.

Life, Hutton said, "is funny. Rock'n'roll is strange."

This year, the band is working on a new album with 10 songs.

"I wrote six of them," Hutton said. "People said we covered songs. We didn't cover songs, we resurrected them. They were never hits for other people."

To survive in music, he said, "You have to capture lightning in a bottle."

Three Dog Night racked up three No. 1 singles -- "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)," "Joy to the World" and "Black and White."

It had 21 consecutive Top 40 hits and seven singles that sold more than 1 million records each.

And there were 12 gold albums.

"Where do you put in a new song when you've had 21 consecutive Top 20 hits?" Hutton asked. "But we're going to do at least one new song in Owensboro. The new song gets the best reaction of the night."

Asked about today's music, he said, "There's good music, mediocre music and bad music. I listen to a lot of alternative radio.

Any music I hear that's clever is great."

But Hutton said, "I really miss the art work on old LP covers."

Today, he lives in Alice Cooper's old house in Laurel Canyon.

"My sons are drummers," Hutton said. "They help keep me energized."

He said, "Charlie Ferren will open for us in Owensboro. Make sure to get there early to see him. He's fun and he's talented."

Ferren is best known as the lead singer of the rock bands The Joe Perry Project and Farrenheit.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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