This was written by the songwriter Daniel Moore, and first released by the Texas songwriter B.W. Stevenson. Moore told Songfacts
: "Regarding the song, 'Shambala,' it was written entirely by myself, Daniel Moore, in the fall of 1972. It was recorded by Three Dog Night in December of 1972. It was recorded by B.W. Stevenson in Late February, 1973 and released two weeks before the Three Dog Night version was released. During those two weeks B.W.'s version sold 125,000 single 45s. Then Three Dog Night released their version and sold 1,250,000 single 45s."
Later in 1973, with the Three Dog Night version of "Shambala" climbing the charts, Stevenson released a carbon copy single called "My Maria
" (credited to Stevenson and Moore), which peaked at #9 US, two months after "Shambala" hit #3.
The word 'Shambala' has a spiritual meaning in the Buddhist religion, and some Tibetan Buddhists believe that it is a mystical land hidden somewhere in the Himalaya mountains. The song's writer, Daniel Moore, told us the story:
'In 1972 my brother, Matthew, called me and informed me that he had received a letter from Dorothy Beg at Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts that told him where and who he had been in his past lives. He had sent a letter to her requesting this information. After recounting several past lives the letter ended with, 'My messenger tells me to tell you, 'Let your light shine in the halls of Shambala.'' In the phone conversation at that point Matthew said, 'Shambala, what the hell is that?'
So I did some research and found dozens of references to the word Shambala, the 5000-year-old word originating from Sanskrit. Some were weird, some were goofy but the one I liked was found in Alice Bailey's Treatise On White Magic. It basically said that there was a gigantic cavern under the Gobi Desert that has a replica of every evolving human being. And when that replica begins to light up or glow (meaning you are cleaning up your act and becoming more spiritual minded or raising your consciousness to a higher level), there is point where your replica gets bright enough to warrant a spiritual teacher being sent to you.
I remember getting excited about the sound of the word, 'Shambala.' Before I wrote the song, I called a friend, Eddie Zip, who I'd been working with and telling him, 'That word Shambala has a magic sound to it, you ought to put together a band and call it Shambala, you couldn't lose.' We had just recorded one of his songs titled 'Don't Make God's Children Cry.' We were getting - ELEVATED!
I wrote the words and melody, a capella, driving on the Ventura Freeway in about 10 minutes. I got home, picked up my Martin guitar and had the music finished in 5 minutes; a pretty good 15 minutes.
The recording session of my demo in 1972 was with Dean Parks and Jim Varley. Dean (playing bass) was sitting with me (I was engineering, playing the acoustic guitar and singing live) in the control room. We were wearing earphones with the speakers turned off, and 50 feet away at the other end of the studio on the other side of the glass with earphones, was Jim Varley playing drums. Twenty-eight years later I had Greg Beck overdub an electric guitar and that is what you hear on this recording. That's the only time Dean Parks and Greg Beck have played together, according to Greg.
Three Dog Night heard the song through a publisher, Lindy Blaskey, who was working at ABC Dunhill Publishing. He called me and was very excited because he had gotten such a positive reaction from Three Dog Night and their producer Richie Podler. Anyway, they cut it, it was their single and it was a hit. Bless all of their hearts.
In the Guinness Book of World Records, under Prophecies, there is a reference to Shambala where it says, 'Any one who furthers the name, 'Shambala' shall be rewarded 100 times.' And so it is."