Three Dog Night - Jimmy Greenspoon
So it was a form of therapy ...
Yeah, and in the meantime people had called and said, "Hey, we've been fans for years, and our son has a problem and we couldn't get to him. But he read the book and then he checked himself into a hospital. Thank you for saving his life." Well, okay, there you go. The book has served its purpose, if it got to one person and saved him, that's fine. I don't care about having a best-seller. But I've had a few stories like that, and basically that's the gratification of doing the book. I still go off and speak to different church groups and schools, and I'm still listed in the phone book. I've had people call me at night and say, "Look, I know you don't know me from Adam, but ..." And I say, "that's okay, that's what I'm here for." And when I do my speaking engagements I tell people that I'm in the phone book and it's all confidential if anyone wants to call.
Okay, let's go to music now. Who were your major influences as a musician? Who was it that you heard or saw and said, "I want to do that."
Oh, gosh. Well, I started taking classical piano when I was seven years old, and I listened to anybody and everybody. A lot of jazz pianists - Les McCann - and Jimmy Smith, the jazz organist. And Floyd Cramer (NOTE: Legendary country session player and solo artist - T.W.), who I got a lot of my style from.
Yeah, exactly. Which was actually kind of amazing for a seven-year-old kid to be listening to all of that. And then whatever was on the radio. I listened to records and then start figuring out the keyboard parts. As things progressed I just listened to anyone and everyone and became aware of every keyboard player's style and the contributions they made. So then I could listen and say, "Yeah, that's so-and-so on drums, that's so-and-so on keyboards," and so forth. And this went all the back to the early Elvis records, which was interesting because I got to work with some of the guys, like Earl Palmer and Ron Tutt (drums) and Jerry Scheff (bass) and James Burton (guitar), who did all the Ricky Nelson stuff, too. So that was kind of hoot to have been seven years old and listening to these people and then getting to work with them. And there were also people like "The Wrecking Crew" (NOTE: Assemblage of top L.A. session players - T.W.) with Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (keyboards) and Joe Osborne (bass) and Tommy Tedesco and Ben Benay (guitars) and everybody who was on everybody's records. And later on it was all the guys from Toto and the Section and they were all friends of all of ours. Each decade had like its own little group of people like that.
How did the classical training come into play with Three Dog Night?
I used a lot of the classical training
just reworking things, on the arrangements. Some of the intro things I
came up with were from that. The intro to "Old Fashioned Love
Song" is a classically-oriented thing. Whenever we'd get the demo
and would be working on the arrangement, inevitably the guys would go to
dinner and say, "Okay, come up with a hit intro," and I'd say
"Fine, go out and eat and when you get back I'll have one,"
and when they came back and hear what I came up with they'd say,
Was it THAT easy for you?
Yeah, pretty much. I wouldn't even give it any thought. With "Old Fashioned," for example, I think it took me five or ten minutes. The intro to "Joy To The World" literally took three minutes. When we got the demos they were in such raw form there was nothing to them, just a beat and then someone would start singing. Even when I did the solo for "Out In The Country," I took a couple of stabs at that, a couple of different melodies, and I came up with that solo in five minutes or so. It was one of those things where if it isn't there the first time around or the second time around it's not going to be there.
So, was it your intro to "Joy To The World" that changed that song from a folkish, countryish type song to one with that gospel flavor?
So everyone else just fell in behind that.
Right. The original demo was just DAT-DAT-DAT, and then Hoyt (Axton) started singing. And the same with "Old Fashioned Love Song," the same with pretty much every song except for "One" where we used the same intro that Nilsson had on the record.