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Did you know Danny Hutton, the only original member of Three Dog Night, has a past that includes cartoons, the Beach Boys, the Brinks Job and Disney? To read more about his unusual history and career, and the band's upcoming concert at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, see below.
And here are four more concerts worth considering this week:
► Singer-songwriter Dar Williams will play at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23 at Payomet Performing Arts Center, 29 Old Dewline Road, North Truro; $28-$45 (with discounts for members); https://payomet.org/events. Williams has released 11 albums, toured with Joan Baez and played main stages throughout North America, including Lilith Fair, the Newport Folk Festival and Carnegie Hall. She has also written two young adult novels, taught a university course on music and social movements, and written a green blog and a book about urban planning.
► Highfield Hall & Gardens and Falmouth Jazz will present a show by Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson and her blues band at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 24 under the tent at Highfield, 56 Highfield Drive, Falmouth; $40-$50; https://highfieldhallandgardens.org/. Willson has been singing blues around the Boston area for more than 40 years and focuses on “the lost music” of vintage soul and R&B. She’s done a tribute show to the music of Dinah Washington, Etta James and Ruth Brown — vocalists telling women’s stories — and adopted her “Evil Gal” stage name from the “Evil Gal Blues” song made famous by Washington and Aretha Franklin. Willson has released five Evil Gal albums, performed in 16 countries and appeared on numerous other recordings.
► Roots and blues musician George Gritzbach and his Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 27 on the outdoor stage at Cotuit Center for the Arts, 4404 Falmouth Road (Route 28); $35 (with discounts available); https://artsonthecape.org/. Gritzbach, who lives in Falmouth, has played with musicians who include B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Dr. John, John Lee Hooker and others in nightclubs, performing arts centers, festivals and more. Over the years, he has toured the United States, Canada, and Europe, and his band’s latest album is called “Full Circle.”
He lives in Falmouth: 'A revival for me': Blues musician George Gritzbach returns with new album, concert
► Maria Muldaur’s midsummer East Coast Swing with her Red Hot Bluesiana Band will stop at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 28 at the Music Room, 541 Main St. (Route 28), West Yarmouth; https://www.musicroomcapecod.com/. "Bluesiana" is described as Muldaur’s upbeat brand of New Orleans flavored blues, R&B and "swamp funk." Muldaur, who will finish her tour in September with an 80th birthday bash, has recorded 43 albums since her 1974 hit “Midnight at the Oasis,” and the show is due to include her hits as well as her most recent projects.
Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll
Three Dog Night returns to Cape Cod Melody Tent
Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night might have one of the most interesting lives in the world of music that you have never heard about.
From early beginnings of recording songs for animation company Hanna-Barbera Cartoons to his friendship with the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and double-dating with Jimi Hendrix, Hutton has seemingly been in the background all the while without most of us knowing it.
Nowadays, he’s at the forefront as the lone original member and singer of Three Dog Night, which was founded 55 years ago and will return Friday, July 22 to the Cape Cod Melody Tent.
With a new studio album on the way — the band’s first in decades – Hutton says he is excited and looking forward to returning to the Cape, a place close to where he grew up.
Welcome to Bedrock
Hutton is a California guy, but his family immigrated from Ireland and lived in Boston’s Back Bay until he was 12 years old. His mother moved them to Hollywood, he says, when they found out that their neighbor was Elmer "Trigger" Burke, an assassin hired to kill one of the men involved in the infamous Great Brink’s Robbery in Boston’s North End in 1950.
“He was arrested and then when he was in jail, he got out by dressing like a woman, so we were guarded (by the police) 24 hours a day for six months, day and night,” Hutton recalls. That was enough for Hutton’s mother to pack up her family and leave on a train with only $300 to their name.
Once in California, Hutton says, he got his start in the music business by working at Disney Studios loading and unloading records before getting a job making music at Hanna-Barbera Records, an extension of the animation company. Unlike most of his peers, Hutton didn’t perform live shows. He was a self-described “studio rat,” writing and recording songs all on his own, including “Monster Shindig.”
“I made records where I would play all of the instruments, sing lead and three-part harmony in the background, and then they’d come up with a name and release (the record) and hire a band (to lip sync it),” he says.
That changed when he was told that his song “Roses and Rainbows” was going to be released as a single under his own name and, because it was Hanna-Barbera, he was going to get the cartoon treatment as well.
“So, they drew me as an actual cartoon on ‘The Flintstones,’” he says, referring to the prime-time animated series from the early 1960s. “There’s a scene where Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm sing, and Barney and his buddy are in the living room watching TV. I come on the TV, so I’m actually in Bedrock.”
Hutton had a couple more popular songs during that time and started performing in front of a live audience. His first time was in front of 5,000 people when he was put on the same tour alongside Sonny and Cher during the time in 1965 that their “I Got You Babe” song was at No 1.
“That was my start,” he says. “I learned I could do it live.”
Forming a triple threat
Hutton’s manager became the president of Brother Records, the Beach Boys’ record company, and Hutton established a friendship with Beach Boy Brian Wilson. Hutton was in the studio when that band recorded 1966’s “Pet Sounds” and says that what he learned from Wilson went on to shape how he approached recording music and became part of Three Dog Night’s DNA.
“I kind of went to college learning stuff from Brian,” he says. “He was sort of a mentor to me. I just learned how good something had to sound in the studio to make it sound good on a little radio.”
As things “cooled down” on the solo scene, Hutton decided he wanted to form a group with three singers because of his own experience recording three-part harmonies. He teamed up with vocalists Cory Wells and Chuck Negron to create Three Dog Night in 1968. Hutton says he got the idea for the name from an article he read about Aboriginal Australians who went on walkabouts and huddled with dogs to keep warm at night.
“A three-dog night is a cold night,” Hutton explains.
Although he was used to recording alone, Hutton says he didn’t mind sharing vocals or giving a vocal part to someone else if it sounded better that way.
“I was a studio guy and I didn’t care that much if I was going to sing lead on a song, but the other guys kind of squabbled a bit,” he says. “I was kind of the referee.”
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Three Dog Night would go on to put together a streak of 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, including three No. 1 singles: “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Joy to the World” and “Black and White.” From 1969 through 1974, no other group achieved more top 10 hits than Three Dog Night.
Hutton exited the group in the mid-’70s amid a rough patch.
“I partied hard but I completely stopped being crazy,” he says about that time. “If you don’t have a purpose, you have nothing. You have to get up every day and have some mission, so I started going to the clubs and the whole punk thing started happening and I just loved the energy. I thought (the band FEAR) was incredible, so I started managing them. People are always shocked when they hear that.”
Hutton eventually returned to Three Dog Night in the ‘80s and hasn’t left since.
‘The Road Ahead’
Over 50 years in and Hutton sounds like he’s still having fun leading the band he created all those decades ago. He says that now is a “whole different time,” but the current musicians still sound like the songs on the records or “even better.”
He also notes that he hasn’t had to lower the keys in any of the songs as most singers do as they age. In fact, the soon-to-be 80-year-old says that his voice has gotten even higher.
Not only has Three Dog Night continued to stay busy on the touring scene, Hutton and the band’s plans to release a new studio album later this year will be Three Dog Night’s first since the 1970s.
“I would in no way put this album out if I didn’t think it was really good,” he says. “I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people. It’s called ‘The Road Ahead’ and I’m very proud of it.”
Those who attend the Melody Tent show can expect to hear at least one new song from the upcoming album — and, of course, many of the ones they are already familiar with.
“The songs hold up,” Hutton says about the older material. “The bad thing critics said about us, I think, is our strength: We’re all over the place. We didn’t get into a genre of music. We’re not political. All of our songs are basically about emotions, whether it’s about love, sadness or party. And that has a long shelf life. It doesn’t get dated.”
How to see Three Dog Night
When: 8 p.m. Friday, July 22
Where: Cape Cod Melody Tent, 41 W. Main St., Hyannis
Tickets: $51.50-77.50; members $45.50-71.50
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Three Dog Night on Cape Cod: Danny Hutton on show, album, unusual past