Three Dog Night - Michael Allsup
Who were your influences as a musician?
Not necessarily the impressive ones that you might want to hear.
I started out with Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison.
That's a good start.
Also the Kingston Trio's music, the Ventures, Duane Eddy and, going way back, Link Wray. As I learned to play I started playing James Brown songs and a lot of the old club songs of the times.
As we all did, and if I hear "96 Tears" one more time, I'm going to kill somebody.
Then I dabbled with a little B.B. King with the coaxing of a drummer named Huey that I was working with when I was about 16. Of course, Chuck Berry was in me from listening to him as a kid before I learned to play. James Burton got into me more than I realized, just from watching the "Ozzie and Harriet" show on TV.
"Believe What You Say," "Be Bop Baby" ...
Yes, I was playing those Ricky Nelson songs at home like "Hello, Mary Lou" and "Travelin' Man." All that stuff, as well as my anglo religious youth environment, impacted my likes and dislikes in music. Then the 60s and Jimi (Hendrix) and Eric (Clapton) came down the road. Everything changed.
Bless their hearts.
Thanks, guys. Still love it. Jimi was my guy, though. Best I ever saw or heard. I was fortunate enough to have jammed with him and (we) played a couple of shows together (NOTE: Three Dog Night was also on the bill at the very last performance of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience, in 1969 - T.W.). Don't get me wrong; I was not a personal friend of his, just another guitar player that recognized his genius. I'm proud to have shared an era and life with him. I've seen others that play with more speed than him, but I have never seen anyone play with (greater) ease of interpretation than he. That is, it just went from his head straight to his fingers, and usually back again. He was as much enthralled with his music as were the fans.
And a true showman ...
Oh, sure, the world knows that, but one beautifully monstrous guitar-playin' kid from Seattle who changed the face of rock music and guitar for all of us. Absolutely the BEST I'VE EVER SEEN or HEARD.
The volume swell effects have become one of your trademarks, and you used them beautifully on "Out In The Country" and "Pieces Of April," and the "french horn" part on "Cowboy" was one of my favorite things that you ever did.
Wow! I don't believe you dug up that stuff from way back when. You are the first one to call that part a "french horn" part, and that's exactly what it is. We had a dub of that song - Randy Newman wrote it - and he had used a full orchestra on it. I had to come up with a way to reproduce that part with guitar so I could also do it live. Register and tone were very important as well as using the volume swell effect. A very soft and gentle attack (with) absolutely no pick sound. Two-part harmony on the lower mid-range of the guitar with a gentle wind attack.
How did you begin using the volume swells?
Early in my career, I had done a gig with another band who had a 16-year-old guitarist named Larry Carlton.
How was he as a teenager?
He was scary even back then. I think I was 18 at the time. He was doing a few things while messing with his volume control on a Tele he used to play. When I joined the band before our first album, Danny wanted me to get into more of the "violin" type lines, as he described it, and I did. Over the years it has become kind of a sub-style that other guitarists attribute it to me somewhat. Over the years I have used it on numerous songs, starting with "One" and, as you noticed, on "Pieces Of April." There are other songs that I don't recall at the moment.
You also used a Leslie better than any other guitarist I ever heard, on "Woman" and the live version of "Jam," for example, and the break in "One Man Band" almost sounds like two organs. I suppose, just for clarity, that I should ask if you actually used a Leslie or a pedal such as a Uni-Vibe?
I actually used a real Leslie. I had the gray colored ones, at first a 900 model and then later a 925. Greenspoon and I had a real blast weaving in and out of each other's playing. He sometimes used the 900 series as well, but just as often he would use the old 122 wood cabinets. They are still the real deal as far as the Hammond B-3 organ sound is concerned. I liked the 900 series for guitar. Of course I didn't use only that. I would use a regular guitar amp as well and then blend the sounds. Back then I was using an unheard of amp called Bruce Amps. They weren't particularly good for guitar in the traditional sense. They were first-generation solid-state electronic amps, no tubes at all. They had JBL speakers in the cabinets, which, together with the crystal-clear solid-state circuitry, made for a great response on some of the old stomp boxes I used.
There were a couple of occasions, such as that last note on "One" and on the instrumental "Fire Eater," where you had sustain that sounded like it would last for days. How did you do that?
I'm so glad you asked that question. I've been dying to respond to a question like that for years. My answer? None of your business. (Laughs) One of life's little secrets that I will indulge myself in keeping private. I do appreciate the question, though.
Oh, you're quite welcome. Well, let's try this one. Many of us know that (producer) Richard Podolor is also a fine player in hiw own right. How much did Richard play on the records, and how much of an influence did Richard have on your approach to working in the studio?
Richie Podolor is, to this day, the biggest single influence of my entire career. Joe Schermie and Floyd Sneed would be close seconds, and, of course, Jimmy, Chuck, Danny and Cory. Working and playing with Richie was like taking a course in "music appreciation." He IS the master, and that's a fact. I love Richie, if you can't tell. The times we spent together in the studio and at rehearsals are of monumental importance to me. My way of listening to - and approaching - music was forever changed by working with Richie.
Are there any well-known tunes that you brought to the band?
I've heard different versions of how we came upon "Joy To The World" by Hoyt Axton. I swear, I think ALL of us rock people rewrite history the way we remember things, so here we go. Here's my version of "Joy:" I say Joe Schermie and I brought it to the group. Joe and I were visiting Hoyt at a demo session he was doing, just him sitting and playing guitar. Schermie and I thought it would be a smash, with a good arrangement. 'Course we really didn't know how big it could be. I say Joe and I brought it to the studio and put it in the listen pile. Now I know this will raise an eyebrow or two in the group, but I'm sticking with my story. Hoyt may have indeed, after the fact, lobbied some of the guys to do it. In fact, I do remember two of the three - no name mentioning (laughs) - actually said something to the fact of "Nah, too teeny-bopper. Not for us." And then, when the listening session was over. certain people drifted back into the studio saying, "Er, where's that song of Hoyt's? Think I'll listen to it again." So there you have it. Call it Michael Allsup's rewrite of history if you will. So be it! I know Schermie would have no problem backing me up on that one.
But you didn't do the song the way Hoyt wrote it.
Once we started working the song up, we actually wrote the little thing at the end where it modulates up to the key of E. Back in those days, they called it arranging. Well, it really was. Hoyt had already finished writing the song. Hoyt was somewhere else. Wish you could have known him. Beautiful dude. We all loved him and do miss him.