Gary: This trio started in Los Angeles in 1967 and eventually added 4 more musicians. They started as Three Dog Night and I guess Seven Dog Night was stupid so Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron kept the name as Three Dog Night. I was not a huge fan, but I loved Old Fashioned Love Song and, like everyone else, Joy To the World.
From 1969-1974, nobody had more Top 10 hits, moved more records, or sold more concert tickets than Three Dog Night. During this period, they were undoubtedly the most popular band in America: twenty-one consecutive Top 40 hits, eighteen straight Top 20s, eleven Top 10s, three U.S. number 1s, seven million-selling singles and twelve straight gold LPs. By late ’75, they had sold nearly 50 million records.
The band was unique for it’s time, featuring three separate lead singers, Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells.
Danny Hutton, who had graduated from loading and unloading records at the Disney studio to recording as a solo artist, hit number 73 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1965 with a song called “Roses and Rainbows”.
Chuck Negron first started singing seriously in his college choir, and eventually cut some minor hits for small labels, as a solo act, billed as Chuck Rondell. He joined a campus rock band and was brought to the attention of Columbia Records, where he recorded a series of flop singles as Chuck Oberon.
Cory Wells was born in Buffalo, New York and began singing in small time groups as a teenager. While in the Air Force, he started singing in a band called “The Satellites”. When his tour of duty ended, he set off for Los Angeles, to seek his fortune in the music business. While performing at The Whisky A Go-Go one night, Sonny and Cher heard him sing, and asked him to join their tour. It was on that tour that he met Danny Hutton.
Danny knew Chuck from their days with Columbia, and when Chuck returned from a small time tour in August of 1967, Danny invited him over to meet Cory Wells. By this time, Cory was in the house band at ‘the Whisky’ called “The Enemy’s”. The three of them sang “a cappella” for hours and at the end of the night, Danny and Cory asked Chuck to join a new band they were putting together. With nothing on the horizon, Chuck agreed.
Danny had made friends with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who wanted to get into producing other acts and quickly took the three singers under his wing. He suggested the new trio call themselves Redwood, because it reminded him of something tall and strong.
Brian Wilson also offered to sign them to The Beach Boys new label, Brothers Records, and write some material for their first album. That deal was quickly quashed when the rest of The Beach Boys, who wanted Brian to write for them only, would only commit to one single release, and Wells, Hutton and Negron declined. Losing the three vocalists was a mistake that would cost the fledgling record company millions in royalties over the next few years.
On their own again, the trio started putting together their own band, one by one recruiting Jimmy Greenspoon on keyboards, Joe Schermie on bass, Floyd Sneed on drums and Michael Alsup on guitar.
Playing small California clubs, the ensemble still had no permanent name, until one night, Danny’s girlfriend, June Fairchild, came up with a suggestion. She had read a magazine article about the Australian aborigines, who on cold nights, would sleep beside their dogs for warmth. The very coldest weather was called a “three dog night“.
Climbing the local club scene, the band soon started to get attention wherever they played and came under the guidance of Bill Utley who managed the Turtles and Steppenwolf. One night, Utley rented the Troubadour Club in West Hollywood and invited news media and record company executives. The show went so well, Jay Lasker, president of Dunhill Records offered them a contract on the spot.
Their first album, “One” was produced by Gabriel Mekler, Steppenwolf’s producer. It was recorded “live”, that is, the songs were recorded while the band played and the singers sang, no double tracking, no over dubbing. The first single selected for release was a song called “Nobody” which, while becoming a regional hit, couldn’t crack Billboard’s Top 100. Next out was Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” which climbed to number 29.
By then, the band was preparing to record their second LP, but Chuck Negron was convinced that the title cut from the first album could be a hit record. He pressured Dunhill to release the song as a single. It proved to be a wise choice, as “One” would bring the band their first of many gold records, hitting number one in April of 1969, just three weeks after it was released.
The group had no hang-ups about ‘doing only their own songs.’ They recorded the best new material from the best new songwriters and wound up with fourteen gold albums, nine gold singles and sold over forty million units. Three Dog Night toured extensively during the seventies, breaking attendance records in venues ranging from concert halls to football stadiums.
Between 1969 and 1974 , Three Dog Night recorded 18 straight “top 40” hits
- Try A Little Tenderness – charted #29 – Jan. 1969
- One – charted #5 – April 1969
- Easy To Be Hard – charted #4 – July 1969
- Eli’s Coming – charted # 10 – October 1969
- Celebrate – charted #15 – February 1970
- Mama Told Me Not To Come – charted #1 – May 1970
- Out In The Country – charted #15 – August 1970
- One Man Band – charted #19 – November 1970
- Joy To The World – charted #1 Feb. 1971
Liar – charted #7 June 1971
- An Old Fashioned Love Song – charted #4 Oct. 1971
- Never Been To Spain – charted #5 Dec. 1971
- The Family Of Man – charted #12 March 1971
- Black and White – charted #1 July 1972
- Pieces Of April – charted #19 October 1972
- Shambala – charted #3 May 1973
- Let Me Serenade You – charted #17 October 1973
- The Show Must Go On – charted #4 Feb.1974
- Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here – charted #16 June 1974
Play Something Sweet – charted #33 Sept. 1974
- Till The World Ends – charted #32 June 1975
In 1975, however, the rigors of non-stop roadwork caught up with the group. “We became disenchanted,” Wells would later say, “We just quietly backed out of the picture. We have always had a sort of verbal agreement that we were never going to exploit the public for our own gain. We are not going to do four or five ‘farewell tours’ just to rake in the money. We had come on the scene quietly and we were going to leave the same way, with dignity.”
Of the original 7 musicians, only Negron, Wells and Greenspoon performed for the final performance.
Hutton, the black-haired Irishman, relaxed awhile at home in Los Angeles, then left for Central America, then England, and eventually his home town of Buncrana, Ireland.
Danny formed a management/booking agency which thrived. Among those bands he managed was the ‘premier punk band’ “FEAR” and he booked bands such as the “The Go-Go’s” and “X.” He recorded two songs for motion picture soundtracks albums “Wouldn’t It Be Good” for Pretty in Pink and “Brand New Day” for American Flyers.
Wells packed his family into an automobile and leisurely toured the United States.
An ardent and expert fisherman, Cory traveled the world, fishing as he went. He became a field editor for Outdoor Life magazine and wrote articles for various sporting publications. Cory appeared on various television shows such as “American Sportsman” and filmed a Country Sportsman episode in New Zealand.
Chuck Negron, however, suffered from drug addiction for many years. In his book “Three Dog Nightmare”, Negron describes how he spent his entire fortune on heroin and went from a wealthy rock star, to skid row drug addict, seldom performing.
Although each band member needed to get away from the hectic world of pop music, each began, eventually to feel the need to return and the feeling of unfinished business involving the original group got them together again. To their surprise, they found they all shared the same feeling, a resurgence of interest in music and a growing desire to try it all over again. As Danny Hutton puts it, “We just had a test rehearsal and discovered the old magic was still there.” Three Dog Night was reborn with 6 of the original 7 members. Only bassist Joe Schermie was absent.
That magic however, couldn’t overcome constant problems caused by drug abuse. One by one, members of the band were fired and replaced. On December 10, 1985, the end came for singer Chuck Negron too, as he was kicked out of the group for failing to show at too many concerts due to his drug addiction.
Since their 1981 reunion, Three Dog Night toured regularly. Their records continued to sell in great numbers and they received regular airplay on radio stations around the world.
Chuck Negron, having finally beaten his drug addiction in 1991, approached Cory Wells in 1993 about re-entering the band, but although Danny Hutton was anxious to see him back, Wells was not.
In April 1997, an offer was made to Negron to join the band at less than full partner and less pay than the other two singers. The offer was refused. What could have been a great comeback by one of the world’s most popular rock bands was not to be and Wells and Hutton continued to tour without Negron.
The usual lawsuits over use of the “Three Dog Night” name followed as Chuck Negron toured on his own. 1999 saw the release of his biography, Three Dog Nightmare, and his second album, “Long Road Back”, the book’s musical counterpart.
As the year 2000 rolled around, the band continued to deliver their signature sound with founding members Cory Wells and Danny Hutton on lead vocals as well as original keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon and Michael Allsup on lead guitar.
Bass player Joe Schermie, Jr., who played with the group from 1968-1973, died of a heart attack on Tuesday, March 26, 2002. He had just turned 55 a month earlier.
In May 2002, “Three Dog Night With The London Symphony Orchestra” was released. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and in London, England at Abby Road Studios and includes two new songs “Over ground” and “Sault Ste. Marie”.
In October 2004, the band released “The 35th Anniversary Hits Collection Featuring The London Symphony Orchestra”. The album includes live versions of “Eli’s Coming”, “Brickyard Blues”, “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Family of Man”.
Chuck Negron continued his solo career and toured with former Three Dog Night drummer Floyd Sneed. Chuck also remained active at Cri-Help, Musicians Assistance Program (MAP), Hazelden Recovery Center, Music-Cares and Musicians.com, who aim to keep drugs out of the music industry:
“The only reason I’ve included all the horrific life experiences that my journey has taken me on is because I want all people, young and old, to know what can be in store for them if they use drugs. I’m tired of people sensationalizing, glamorizing and romanticizing the drugs and rock-n-roll life style. People die, lives and families are ruined and careers are ended before they start.”
His fourth solo effort “Chuck Negron – Live In Concert, recorded at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas was released in 2001 and included one of Chuck’s original songs “Took Me Under”, which was nominated in 2002 for a PRISM Award for Best Song.
In 2005, Chuck released two DVDs “The Chuck Negron Story: Biography of an Entertainer”, which won several awards including the 2006 PRISM Video to Production Award and also includes classic, unseen footage of Three Dog Night live in concert. His second DVD, “Chuck Negron: Live and in Concert”, Chuck sings his famous Three Dog Night hits as well as several songs from his four solo CDs.
In 2007, Three Dog Night had a heavy schedule of dates across the US, while Chuck Negron was still appearing as a solo act, sharing the stage with Blood, Sweat and Tears.
On October 24th 2009, Three Dog Night released two new songs – “Heart of Blues” / “Prayer of the Children”. Although an EP of five new songs was recorded and released in 1983 and two new songs were issued on Three Dog Night’s 35th Anniversary Hits Collection Featuring The London Symphony Orchestra, Three Dog Night has not recorded a full-length album since 1976’s “American Pastime”.
As of 2013, 2014 and into 2015, Three Dog Night still had a heavy touring schedule across the United States with founding members Wells, Hutton, Greenspoon and Allsup, along with long time members Paul Kingery and Pat Bautz. Chuck Negron continued his solo career, touring with The Negron Band and Blood, Sweat And Tears in 2012.
For 2013 and 2014, he was booked with Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan’s Happy Together tour. For 2015, shows were scheduled across the United States with Gary Lewis And The Playboys, Tommy James, Jay And The Americans as well as several solo dates.
On March 11, 2015, Three Dog Night’s long time keyboard player Jimmy Greenspoon died of metastatic melanoma at the age of 67. He was still an active member of the band up until shortly before his death. Both the band and Chuck Negron posted heartfelt regrets over his passing on their respective websites.