Tom Ross: Just how cold is a three-dog night? |

Tom Ross: Just how cold is a three-dog night?

The conversation at Saturday night’s dinner party was thoughtful and profound. A dozen people weighed in with opinions. Many brows were furrowed in consternation.

I know what you are probably thinking — our dinner group became locked in a heated discussion about last week’s elections. Actually, the elections never came up. Rather, we pondered the answers to serious questions such as, “If Jeremiah were a bull frog, how is it that a mere amphibian ‘always had some mighty wine’?”

And, “Is there really a road to Shambala? And if if there is, what country is it in?”

Finally, we posed the ultimate question: “How did the ’70s super group Three Dog Night get its name?”

For many of you born in the early to mid-1980s, your only opportunity to get to know the music of Three Dog Night comes about when you accidentally stray onto an oldies radio station. However, Three Dog Night dominated the top 40 airwaves from 1969 to 1974, when the band had singles that sold 7 million copies. During that period, they seemed to put out two record albums a year. Invariably, there would be one or two catchy songs on each album. They were the kind of songs that had lyrics no one could make any sense out of. Yet, once they were in your head, it was difficult to get rid of them. Your assignment, should you accept it, is to think of six Three Dog Night hits before you get to the end of this column. I’m going to eliminate a couple of the obvious ones, but leave you some really easy ones, too. Here’s one to get you started: “Joy to the World.”

“Jeremiah was a bull frog, was a good friend of mine

I never understood a single word he said,

But I helped him a-drink his wine.

and he always had some mighty fine wine.

Joy to the world, all the boys and girls, now

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me.”

And who can ever forget the classic “Never Been to Spain?”

“Well I never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music

Say the ladies are insane there,

And they sure know how to use it.

they don’t abuse it, never gona lose it

I can’t refuse it.

Well I never been to England, but I kinda like the Beatles Well, I headed for Las Vegas, only made it out to Needles Can you feel it? It must be real it…

Feels so good, oh feels so good.”

What many people don’t realize is that those two monster hits were written by the late Hoyt Axton, who was not a member of Three Dog Night, but a country artist who also wrote songs made popular by Steppenwolf and Ringo Starr.

Axton was born in Oklahoma in 1938 with a song-writing pedigree; his mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote Elvis Presley’s breakout hit, “Heartbreak Hotel” (“Well since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell, it’s down at the end of lonely street … “).

Anyway, only Hoyt Axton knew for sure if Jeremiah was really a bullfrog. And only Hoyt Axton could have explained what it was he didn’t know about the ladies in Spain, and what made him write such nonsensically entertaining lyrics.

However, my friend Steve informed his fellow dinner guests there’s no big mystery to how the band got the name Three Dog Night. “That’s easy,” Steve said. “A three-dog night is a really cold night … so cold, you have to get three sled dogs on the bed to keep you warm.” Steve was almost right. The inspiration for the band’s name came not from some Inuit legend, but from Australian aboriginals, who did in fact gauge exceptionally cold nights by the number of canines required to keep warm. Only, they didn’t have sled dogs.

Have you thought of more Three Dog Night hits? Anyone who is stumped should go straight to Here are a few more hit songs: “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Black and White,” “Easy to be Hard,” “Old Fashioned Love Song,” “Eli’s Coming,” “Out in the Country,” “Liar” and “Family of Man.” Always remember: “I’m a high night flier and a rainbow rider, and a straight-shooting son of a gun.”

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