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STILL TOP ‘DOG’


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No one is more surprised than singer Danny Hutton that his band, Three Dog Night, is still performing concerts before thousands of people a night 44 years after they hit the pop-music scene.

And that’s because ...

“I thought I would be dead,” Hutton said matter-of-factly by phone from the back deck of his home in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon, “where all the old hippies used to live.”

Hutton, one of the founders of the classic rock group, turns 70 next month, a few days after Saturday’s headlining show at the annual Hospice of South Central Indiana concert at Columbus North High School.

“I’m at the age where I have to write phone numbers in my phone book in pencil because so many people have died,” he said.

But age was not the only component contributing to the Irish-born performer’s candid statement.

“I put too many chemicals in my body,” he acknowledged.

Today, the man partly responsible for Top Ten hits such as “Joy to the World,” “One,” Eli’s Coming,” “Celebrate,” “Easy to be Hard” and “Shambala” has his blood drawn every three months to check his health. He also walks and works out daily, and even makes regular visits to the dermatologist.

“Celebrate” has become more than a song title, but an anthem on life.

Hutton gushed about his two grown sons’ link to the music business — son Dash plays drums for a touring band and acts as a fill-in with Three Dog Night, and son Timmy is a record producer. His wife, Laurie, remains a joy, though she often supports his from home, selecting tour dates judiciously.

“She’ll come out on the road if it’s New York or Hawaii or New Orleans,” he said with a laugh.

Hutton said the band will present mostly hits during the performance here, plus two new songs that he politely declined to detail.

“You have to understand that it’s so hard to insert new material,” he said. “But we’ve used one of them for encores.”

He still chuckles over concerts full of the band’s 21 hits — and then watching a flustered fan approach after the performance.

“They will say, ‘I just drove two hours just to see you guys, and you didn’t even do my favorite song,’” Hutton said. “But we’ve got to cut something.”

He’s proud of the fact that four original members remain with the group. More typically, bands from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s are little more than youthful recreations of classic acts.

“There are a lot of the older rock groups that basically have become tribute bands, with a manager owning the name,” he said.

Other original members who will appear at Rock the Park are fellow vocalist Cory Wells, keyboard player Jimmy Greenspoon and guitarist Michael Allsup.

Three Dog Night uses three separate trucks of identical equipment for concerts: One truck and crew travels out of Las Vegas for dates in the West, and two others originate in Indiana for the north, Midwest and South.

Consequently, band members can travel to their 60-some gigs annually, including a string of tour dates this month that take them from California to New York, Indiana and to Nevada in just eight days, without worrying about instruments and sets.

Hutton said he is happy that the band’s music is still so widely appreciated.

“A lot of the songs we did were about simple emotions or they were party songs,” he said. “We were never really political or dark, so we’re not dated. I don’t think that material ever gets old.”

Columbus’ Karen Hays, a fan since the early ’70s, wholeheartedly agrees.

“Their music was happy and fun,” said Hays, who already has arranged a backstage pass for the concert here.

But Three Dog Night isn’t without detractors.

Members received criticism for not writing their own material, though they recorded work by acclaimed songwriters such as John Hiatt and Elton John/Bernie Taupin. They also took heat for mixing folk, country and blues with rock, but fans loved them enough to make them the top record and ticket sellers nationally from 1969 to 1974, according to Hutton.

Hutton said he still smiles at more than a few memories: “Like Jimi Hendrix coming on stage to jam with us and blowing out our speaker, or Neil Young coming to play the Whiskey A Go Go with us, or having a guy named Reggie (Dwight, later known as Elton John) sneak into a show in England as our roadie.”

Hutton waved off specifics about the future, but then backtracked.

“Cory and I have an agreement,” Hutton said, “that we will keep doing this just as long as it remains fun.”

If you go

WHAT: 26th Annual Hospice of South Central Indiana concert with headliners Three Dog Night, and Cincinnati’s Blair Carmen and the Belleview Boys opening the event.

WHERE: Moved to Columbus North High School gym. Tickets will be given to the first 7,000 people. Entry time details still were being finalized at press time for this section.

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHY: To raise awareness and funds for Hospice. Raffle tickets for a $10,000 prize are available for $10 each in the office at the Hospice Center on 17th Street or at the concert.

ADMISSION: Free.

FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES: Limited parking available at the school.

PARKING: In the north lots and on city streets.

HITS: Three Dog Night’s biggest tunes are, “One,” “Celebrate,” “Joy to the World,” “Black and White,” “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” and “Shambala.” From 1969 to 1974, they landed 21 tunes in the Top 10 of the Billboard charts.

INFORMATION: 314-8053

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