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Scott Underwood column: Three Dog Night still brings ‘Joy to the World’ after all these years

Before I turned 10 years old, I lived a life mostly isolated from music.

Our family had a couple of radios, but they were tuned more often to news or sports than to rock ‘n’ roll. It was difficult, in fact, to find a rock station that wasn’t cursed with static or invaded intermittently by neighboring stations on the dial.

But my oldest brother, Dave, had a record player, and music flowed from his bedroom across the hall.

If Mom and Dad weren’t home, he’d play it with the door open. And he’d play it very loud.

Occasionally, I’d venture into his room to thumb through his albums. Sometimes he invited me in; sometimes he shooed me out.

When he was away from home, I’d work up the nerve every once in a while to sneak in and — carefully, very carefully — pull albums from their covers, set them on the turntable and place the needle on my emerging favorites.

I loved “Ventura Highway” by the band America. ”… Where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moonshine …”

And “Midnight Confessions” by The Grass Roots. ” … When I tell all the world that I love you …”

But “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night was my favorite, in large part because of that wonderful opening line: ”Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine …” (You probably know the rest.)

By the time I was 15, though, I’d pretty much forgotten about good ol’ Jeremiah.

I had my own cassette player by then and a growing collection of tapes, favoring older music from Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles and, later, Billy Joel and The Cars.

Through the decades, I’ve had love affairs with various bands, mostly about 20 years after the height of their popularity. In recent years, I’ve binged through Spotify on John Mellencamp, Pearl Jam, The Presidents of the United States of America, Three Doors Down, Weezer and Green Day, among others.

But when I’m in a nostalgic mood, I’ll turn back to some of my old favorites, and sometimes I’m surprised by the range and quality of their music beyond the few songs that had appealed to me in an earlier stage of life.

This is how it happened with Three Dog Night: Late last year, I was looking for concert tickets as a Christmas gift to my wife, Tammy, and discovered that TDN would perform at the Paramount in downtown Anderson on March 26.

Perfect! Tammy loved to dance to “Joy to the World” when she was a teenager in Greenville, Ohio.

Fast forward four decades.

Fans, mostly folks in their 60s and 70s, packed the Paramount on Friday night for the concert, and Three Dog Night — led by original member Danny Hutton — didn’t disappoint.

They sang their best-known hits — “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)”, “Black and White”, “Shambala” and “One” — and also a few of my new TDN favorites — “Family of Man,” “Never Been to Spain” and “Play Something Sweet (Backyard Blues).”

The audience got an unexpected treat in the vocal harmonizing of a new release, “Prayer of the Children,” before the last number of the night.

As the people rose to sing along with “Joy to the World,” years lifted from their faces.

I closed my eyes for a few seconds and saw my brother’s record player, with Three Dog Night spinning round and round.

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