Three Dog Night holds a special place in my heart. As a kid, I remember family trips to my grandmother’s house. It was a two hour drive, and my stepdad only played cassettes by the following bands: The Beatles, Stones, CCR, Elton John, and Three Dog Night. Now, that’s a lot of great tunes, but you get tired of hearing them over and over.
Three Dog Night is the only band from that list that never seemed to make it into the “classic rock” format on the radio. It’s a format that has always baffled me, even when I spent five years as a DJ for a classic rock station in San Diego.
Yet strangely enough, the first person I ever interviewed while working in radio as a 22-year-old, was their keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon. He had a book come out (One is the Loneliest Number) that dealt with his musical escapes, as well as his drug abuse. I remember one story he told me on the air about how he got a gold record for the Beck, Bogert, Appice album. He wasn’t sure why he got the gold record, until he called Jeff Beck and found out he actually played on the album. Apparently, he was so whacked out on drugs those days in the studio, he had no memory of it.
The best story he told last night involved his mom – Mary O’Brien. She was a silent film star who had done movies with Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Jack Benny was his godfather. Growing up in Beverly Hills with a famous mom and a dad with a successful business, there were often lots of famous people at his house. One day he came home from school and Boris Karloff was sitting in the living room. Greenspoon said, “I did what any other kid would do. I ran to my room and called all my friends. I told them for 50 cents, they could come over and meet Frankenstein.”
The 30 minute interview I did 22 years ago went well, but there was something about it that bothered me still. It was over the phone and not in the studio. That meant I wasn’t able to get my albums signed.
There came a point where Three Dog Night did a show with the Beach Boys and another band at the San Diego Sports Arena the following year. My radio station let me take a few listeners there in a limo and we sat in the second row. It was a fun evening.
They didn’t have one of their original singers – Chuck Negron – but they sounded great.
So last night they were playing at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. Tickets were $70, and the show sold out quickly (it holds about 600 people). My stepdad recently had a quadruple by-pass, but he was game for going to the show with me.
A person was walking by the line saying, “I have an extra ticket. I’ll give it away for free if anybody needs it.”
I sounded like Homer Simpson as I yelled “D’oh!”
We got in and were lucky enough to see almost all the second half of the Broncos/Colts game before the band hit the stage just after 8:00 p.m.
I was disappointed to see their original drummer, Floyd Sneed, wasn’t with them. I had read he had a few medical scares recently but that he’s doing better. Chuck Negron still isn’t a part of the band (he also has a book in which he talks about his drug abuse).
I talked to a guy standing next to me that had the Harmony album – signed by both those former members. He told me he got them a few weeks ago at that rock ‘n roll autograph show at LAX. He also was thrilled that he got Lou Gramm (Foreigner) and a few others. I remembered reading Roger Epperson talk about it on this website, and I meant to go up there. I would’ve liked to get Elliot Easton (The Cars) and a few other people.
This fan told me he also got Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), and he spent over $700. That’s when I thought…perhaps that wouldn’t have been the autograph show for me. It was $20 to get in, and you had to pay each musician $20. That can get expensive fast. Especially when you can go to a smaller venue like this, and often time get autographs before or after the show, for free.
There was a guy from Germany who didn’t speak English. He had an album signed by a few band members. He was pushing his way to the front of the stage. One of my pet peeves has always been the pushy people when it comes to getting autographs. It not only creates a bad vibe among the fans, but the musicians, too. They often get turned off. And as one manager said when he pointed to a guy with 10 albums and a few posters, “Don’t sign for him. He’s a dealer.”
I know who that guy is, because he shows up at a lot of the classic rock shows, pushing his way around. One time he showed up late for B.B. King. There was a line at his bus, and he just walked to the front of it as everyone yelled.
For a show by Link Wray, he pestered the son, who was working as a roadie. He got his guitar and five albums signed, before Link told the rest of us to get lost.
After the Link Wray, I cornered the son. It was 1:30 in the morning. I said, “That guy didn’t even pay to see the show. He just showed up here, and you got his stuff signed…and all of us, the real fans, we get nothing.”
He told me he was going to take his dad to get something to eat and when he came back, he’d sign the one CD I had brought (not sure why he couldn’t just do it at that moment).
I waited until 2:30 and he came back saying, “My dad was tired, so I took him to the hotel.”
As I yelled at this guy, how I had waited in the rain, he took my CD and said he’d send it back to me in the mail. I never got the CD, and Link Wray died a year later.
It was this scenario that filled my head as I watched this guy bugging everyone with his huge “Newport ’69” poster that was already signed by Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and a few other musicians.
The set that night was okay. Jimmy Greenspoon was there, and selling his book at the merchandise booth (it wasn’t signed, and he wasn’t signing after the show). Singers Cory Wells and Danny Hutton were still part of the band, as was original guitarist Mike Allsup. He told a story about getting Jimi Hendrix drunk once at a party, and having Hendrix play bass for him. Not many people can say that.
We heard all the hits: Joy to the World, One, Mama Told Me Not to Come, Celebrate, Liar, You Can Leave Your Hat On, The Show Must Go On, and Shambala. I was bummed to not hear Play Something Sweet, which I remember they did at the Sports Arena show decades earlier (it’s weird the things we remember).
So after an hour and a half, it became what it always does at these smaller venues. The hardcore fans pestering roadies and the sound crew for set lists and autographs.
I was ticked because, I saw Greenspoon before the show, but wasn’t positive it was him. There was long hair, balding in front. That’s most of the Three Dog Night fans!
I rolled my eyes at the three or four people that had satchels filled with every album the band put out. I only bring two albums. You bring more than that, you’re bugging the band or making them think you’re looking to make a few bucks on eBay. Some could argue why I don’t just bring one album. Well, I used to do that, but then I’d cringe as they’d sign multiples for other people. Also…there’s nothing like having doubles and trading with somebody that has a signed album by another group you don’t have.
My dad left, but I stayed an hour and a half longer trying to get some autographs. Your big fear with a band like this is that you’ll get one or two, but it won’t be completely.
I was lucky enough to be standing in a location where a curtain backstage opened and Danny Hutton saw me. I held up my Sharpie. He ran out, signed one album for me, and ran back in before the rest of the autograph hounds saw him. I told him the set was good and he thanked me.
He signed my Hard Labor album. It’s strange, the original album cover got banned. Strange because, it shows a woman having a baby – but it’s an album you see, not a baby. Not sure why this was deemed offensive in any way. Yet, the big band-aid all the other albums had over the “offensive” section, did make it a perfect place for the signature.
Finally, security made us all leave. Only one person had gotten a few autographs before the show.
I decided to walk around the back of the venue where the van was. They had a gate and it was locked, but I should’ve guessed. The guy with the poster and all the albums was standing back by the van waiting for his things to get signed.
I should’ve also mentioned, he’s a trust fund baby. His parents left him all this money, so he has a huge house by the ocean, and he goes to all these rock shows and pays security guards to let him backstage. I wouldn’t begrudge him that, if he wasn’t such a jerk about it by being pushy or by bringing so many other items.
I yelled his name from far away, and he pretended not to hear me. Finally he walked over, and remembered who I was from other shows. I also purchased a few old Fillmore concert posters from him.
I always hate talking to him, but I do anyway. There’s nothing more frustrating than a person at these shows that makes it difficult for you, never helps you out, gives you bogus information, and just gets in the way of everyone, including the guys trying to load equipment back onto the trucks.
I drove home thinking – paying that $20 for Chuck Negron doesn’t sound so bad now.