The song originally was intended for a children's Saturday morning television program, and music fans are grateful it never made it.
Instead, "Joy to the World" was perhaps the most famous Three Dog Night song, a hit that even Danny Hutton and other band members never predicted.
Three Dog Night will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts.
"That was a big surprise hit for us," Hutton said last week in a telephone interview from his Southern California home, which once belonged to rock singer Alice Cooper.
If you go
Three Dog Night
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27
Where: Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples
Tickets/Information: 239-597-1900 or www.thephil.org
"We thought it was a funny, quirky song."
Country music singer-songwriter Hoyt Axton wrote "Joy to the World" among several songs he was trying to sell to kids' TV shows, Hutton said. The band put the song on its fourth album called "Naturally," never thinking it would become so big. It was No. 1 on the charts for six straight weeks in 1971, and was that year's top hit.
Many of the band's hits happened that way, he said. They included the band's first No. 1, "One," which Harry Nilsson wrote and recorded; "Mama Told Me Not To Come," "Black and White," "Shambala," "Old Fashioned Love Song," and "Never Been To Spain," another song Axton penned.
For Hutton, 70, the success with Three Dog Night was not his first brush with fame.
He began working at Disney Studios in 1963.
"I started in the warehouse, loading and unloading albums off trucks," Hutton said.
He eventually met up with Kim Fowley, a record producer, musician, songwriter and filmmaker who brought him to legendary animators Hanna-Barbera. Hutton began writing music for cartoons and even was drawn in as a character on an episode of "The Flintstones," singing "Roses and Rainbows" — a hit of his in the mid-1960s — as Pebbles and Bam Bam watched his animated self on TV.
Hutton performed "Roses and Rainbows" on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand in 1965. Hutton recalled being "a little tipsy" one night and spilling his drink on Clark, who was wearing a blue velvet suit.
"He was always a real gentleman," Hutton said.
Later that year, Hutton was introduced to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and was present for many of the recording sessions for the Beach Boys' album "Pet Sounds," released in 1966 and considered one of the most influential records of popular music and one of the best albums of the 1960s.
"Pet Sounds" ranks No. 2 in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 greatest albums of all time.
It included the hit "God Only Knows," which Hutton said Wilson produced and recorded when he was present. Hutton said he and Wilson have remained friends since, and Wilson occasionally stops by his home.
"Our 8-year-old dog is called Ms. Wilson — Missy. She's a birthday present from him," Hutton said.
As his music career languished, Hutton recalled, Three Dog Night — originally called Redwood — formed in 1968. Joining him were Chuck Negron, Cory Wells and other musicians.
Hutton said the band took pride in focusing on great music, never adding "fillers" to an album, or songs that weren't great but were needed to complete an album.
"It's better to always serve the song in the long run," he said.
Three Dog Night songs seemed more upbeat as the 1960s ended and the 1970s were beginning. "Black and White" could be considered a song about harmony among races, and "Joy to the World" was about happiness for every living creature, even "the fishes in the deep blue sea."
But that was not the band's intent, Hutton said.
"We really were not political," he said. "It's all about the music."
And, as he pointed out, everyone in the band sings. The band's trademark, if anything, was the wonderful blending vocals, or as they sing in "Old Fashioned Love Song," " ... comin' down in three-part harmony."
"All of our songs are about emotions or about parting," Hutton explained. "There are certain people in groups that their whole persona is mysterious and dark and brooding."
"That's perfectly fine — that's what they are — but we're not like that. When people come to see the show, they leave, I think, with a big smile on their face."