Answering critics' claims that Three Dog Night, the pop supergroup from the late 1960s and '70s, is a "nostalgia band," co-founder and co-frontman Danny Hutton said, "Well, technically if you want to call us that, sure, we are, but the thing is -- only 'bad nostalgia' is no good. You can call Shakespeare nostalgia, you can call opera nostalgia. It just means you're doing something from the past. If you do it well, then it's like good opera or Shakespeare."
Between 1969-74, Three Dog Night was one of the most popular bands in America with 21 consecutive Top 40 hits and 12 straight gold LPs. By late 1975, they had sold nearly 50 million records.
On Sunday, Sept. 4, they will headline two shows at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire and perform a truckload of their hits, many of which have become classic rock standards, including "Joy to the World," "One," "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" and "Shambala."
"Yeah, nearly all our hits are covers of other people's songs. We looked for interesting songs that hadn't already been hits," Hutton, 68, recalled. Indeed, the likes of Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro, Elton John and Hoyt Axton provided material for the band.
"They weren't involved in the recordings, although I became friends with Nilsson -- Crazy Harry -- and I knew Laura Nyro's producer," Hutton said. "They were just songs we found."
Three Dog Night formed in 1967-68 in California, after Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron had sung in a band called Redwood, the material of which was produced by none other than the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. The project fell apart, but their manager insisted that they form a new band. The name came from indigenous Australians. On a cold night, an Aborigine would customarily sleep in a hole in the ground cuddled with a dog. When it was freezing, it became a "three dog night."
"We found guys we really liked, put it all together, and started," Hutton said. "ABC Dunhill signed us. Jay Lasker, the head of ABC, liked the material we already had and told us 'that's your first album!'"
Besides vocalists Hutton and Wells, original guitarist Michael Allsup and keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon are still with the band.
"Everybody's in great shape musically and vocally," Hutton said. "It's thrilling that we're on the charts again, which really surprised me."
For most audiences, though, it's all about the "good" nostalgia. The golden period of the early '70s was a whirlwind for the band.
"I wish I could have appreciated it more. It all happened so fast and was so huge," Hutton said. "I remember going to England and having to sneak in our friend Reggie Dwight disguised as a roadie -- he later became Elton John."
When asked if Chuck Negron, who tours under his own name and performs Three Dog Night material, would ever rejoin the band, Hutton said, "Never say never. I saw him at the airport last week. He looks good. But right now this is Three Dog Night. And I guarantee we kick butt when we play. Good luck to anyone who goes on after us."