Playing by the numbers

Playing by the numbers

DPO presents Three Dog Night: Live with Orchestra

By Joe Aiello

Three Dog Night

Three Dog Night

Back in ancient Rome, someone coined what is now a proverb: Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis (Times change, and we change with them). That someone was probably the founder, manager, or lead vocalist of a six-piece Roman band (aulos, buccina, cornu, lyre, tubus and water organ).

I would imagine that, even in ancient Rome, bands were afflicted with the problems of settling on a name they could brand, hiring a group of musicians to back up the vocalists, and finding composers to write their songs. And, over two millennia later, the problems haven’t disappeared.

For example, take legendary music icon Three Dog Night that will be appearing with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday, November 12 at 8 p.m. in the Schuster Center. Original start-up: 1968. Original name: Redwood. Original vocalists: Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron. Original back-up musicians: Michael Allsup (guitar), Floyd Sneed (drums), Joe Schermie (bass) and Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards). Original composers: the band members themselves. Original size: Seven members.

Over the ensuing years, the personnel – and size – of the band fluctuated: Jack Ryland replaced Joe Schermie; Skip Konte became the second keyboardist; Floyd Sneed and Michael Allsup left, to be replaced by Mickey McMeel and James Smith; Al Ciner replaced James Smith; Dennis Belfield replaced Jack Ryland; Jay Gruska replaced Danny Hutton; and Jack Ryland replaced Skip Konte.

And that only brings us up to 1976!

For a myriad of disparate reasons, bands have a tendency to turn into revolving doors for artists. Which begs a two-parter….

Q: Three Dog Night disbanded the group in the late ‘70s and reassembled it in the early ‘80s; (1) what were its reasons for disbanding, and (2) what motivated Three Dog Night to put the group back together again?

A: The band toured at length in the late ’60s and into the ‘70s, but in 1975 the non-stop concerts and hit-making had taken its toll. “We just quietly backed out of the picture,” Cory Wells said. Three Dog Night’s desire to “get away” from the hectic world of pop music was relatively short-lived, however. By 1981 they had discovered that they wanted to perform again. “The old magic was still there,” Danny Hutton recalled.

The list of then-new-and-mostly-undiscovered composers that Three Dog Night has collaborated with includes Hoyt Axton, Russ Ballard, John Hiatt, Elton John, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Lauro Nyro, Leo Sayer, and Bernie Taupin.

Three Dog Night didn’t “contract” with writers to create material for them; the band members found songs they were interested in, either from other artists or publishers’ demos, and brought them into the studio for consideration. “We looked for interesting songs that hadn’t already been hits,” Hutton remarks. The guys in the band knew some of the writers of course, and in 2007 Three Dog Night headlined the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame concert to honor Hoyt Axton, who wrote Joy to the World and Never Been To Spain.

Here’s some numbers. From its start-up in 1968 through1983, Three Dog Night released 24 singles. In chronological order, they are: Nobody, Try a Little Tenderness, One, Easy to Be Hard, Eli’s Coming, Celebrate, Mama Told Me (Not to Come), Out in the Country, One Man Band, Joy to the World, Liar, An Old Fashioned Love Song, Never Been to Spain, The Family of Man, Black & White, Pieces of April, Shambala, Let Me Serenade You, The Show Must Go On, Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here, Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues), ‘Til the World Ends, Everybody Is a Masterpiece, and It’s a Jungle Out There.

Here’re some more numbers: 1 night + 3 dogs = 6 musicians, 43 years, and 21 Top 40 hits.

That’s right, of the 24 Three Dog Night singles that the group released from 1968 through 1983, 21 of them made the Top 40. That’s a .875 batting average! Of those, 3 made Number One, 11 were in the Top 10, 18 straight were in the Top 20s, 7 were million-sellers, and 12 LPs straight became RIAA Certified Gold.

Those are some numbers. But here is the most amazing number of all. Of the Three Dog Night members who will appear with the DPO (Cory Wells, Danny Hutton, Jimmy Greenspoon, Michael Allsup, Paul Kingery, and Pat Bautz), all except Kingery and Bautz have been with the band (the on-and-off aspect notwithstanding) for 43 years!

I’ve read that Three Dog Night performs 80 concerts a year. I’m a contemporary of theirs, and I think that number would have been astounding to me back in 1968 when they started. But now we are all 43 years older. How do they do it? Why do they continue to do it?

How? They have three identical tour set-ups (backline equipment and instruments) stationed in three different parts of the country that can be trucked to wherever the band is performing. The band members primarily fly to wherever they need to be.

Why? Because they love performing for the fans. All the guys agree that traveling to and from the shows is the hardest part. Performing is easy.

As easy as 1, 2, 3.

 

For more information and to purchase tickets to Three Dog Night: Live with Orchestra, visit www.daytonphilharmonic.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Joe Aiello at JoeAiello@DaytonCityPaper.com.

A member of the Writers Guild of America, native Daytonian Joe Aiello is the author of numerous screenplays, non-fiction books, novels, TV sitcom pilots, news features, magazine articles, and documentaries. He fills his spare time coaching College, A, AA amateur and semi-pro baseball teams; answering trivia quizzes; and denigrating himself attempting to play golf. Reach Joe at JoeAiello@daytoncitypaper.com.

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