Three Dog Night will celebrate more than 40 years of music when the band returns Sunday to the Pacific Amphitheatre.
The evening will include an opening performance from the Guess Who followed by two sets — roughly 80 to 85 minutes of music — by Three Dog Night.
The Grammy-nominated band is famous for its classic rock hits "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)," "Joy to the World," "Shambala," "One," "Celebrate," and "Black and White," which are still heard in commercials and movies and on oldies stations.
The band's name came from a story about Australian aborigines who, on cold nights in the outback, would sleep with their dogs for warmth.
The coldest evenings were known as "three dog nights."
Nowadays, the group's membership includes founding members Cory Wells and Danny Hutton on lead vocals, as well as original keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon and guitarist Michael Allsup. Bassist and vocalist Paul Kingery and drummer Pat Bautz complete the lineup.
The band continues to play 60 to 80 show dates a year. And the last three dates of their 2012 tour have broken attendance records, according to Hutton.
"It [the dynamic] is wonderful," the 69-year-old said in phone interview. "Forty-two years later, we got it down.
"We're going to do all of the hits, and if you like the records, we sound like the records. We'll probably go deep into the catalog and do a couple songs that people haven't heard. And, we'll be doing a couple of new songs.
"But it's tough to put in new songs with the amount of hits we've had. It's hard to put something in between two gold singles."
The band's new material includes "Heart of Blues" and an a-cappella ballad, "Prayer of the Children," both of which were released in 2009.
In addition, "The Best of Three Dog Night: 20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection" was released in 2010 on the Geffen/UMe record label.
"We're excited because we will be receiving a platinum award after the show [at the Pacific Amphitheatre] for our "The Best of…" album that came out, Hutton said. "It was on the [Billboard Top 200 Album] charts for 42 weeks this year."
But even today, the band's formula for making records has not changed.
"All you can do, I think, is follow quality," Hutton said. "Don't follow trends. When you either create or hear a song that you really like that calls to you, just do it as best as you can and always try to bring in original sounds or little ideas vocally. And that's about all you can do."
In its beginnings, Three Dog Night recorded music of the best — and mostly undiscovered — new songwriters of their time, such as Harry Nilsson,
The band boasts 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, including three No. 1 singles, 11 Top 10s, 18 straight Top 20s, 7 million singles sold and 12 straight Recording Industry Assn. of America Certified Gold LPs.
Their hits appeared on bestselling charts in all genres, including pop, rock and country.
"We do so many genres of music that we are pretty open," Hutton said. "We've been on all of the musical charts — rhythm and blues to easy listening. "
The band even tackled classical music when they recorded at
But interestingly enough, the recipe for Three Dog Night's longevity has always been simple.
"[The formula is] good songs, melodic with a lot of harmonies in them," Hutton said. "They are songs that are all about emotions, so they have got a lot of shelf life. I don't think emotions ever really get dated.
"And then, we do songs that are fun, that are happy, up tempo songs also. And that doesn't get old. I think anyone leaving our concert will leave with a smile on their face."
Instead of exploring darker topics and politics, the band tries "to uplift everybody." That alone has broadened its fan base and pulled in listeners from younger generations, Hutton said.
"We get people our age — the grandparents to their sons and daughters to their grandchildren," Hutton said.
In the future, fans can expect more tour dates, and new material that is being finished up and readied for release soon.
"We are just going to keep on keeping on, Hutton said with a laugh.
"You know, I don't know what's going to happen, except I don't want to retire. We're going to keep on making music and as the people keep coming out to see us, I want to be there. I'll keep doing it until it's no longer fun, and I don't think that will ever happen."
If You Go
What: Three Dog Night and the Guess Who
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, Orange County Fair
Cost: Starting at $17.50