Introduction to Three Dog Night

Formation of the band Three Dog Night

Three Dog Night is an American pop/rock/blue-eyed soul band originating from Los Angeles, California, largely known for its stirring vocal harmonies as well as having made hits from interpreting songs written by other artists. The nucleus of this group consists of Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells. Wells had been a lead singer for The Enemies and had a recording contract under Dunhill Records, while Hutton had worked for Hanna-Barbera Records as a writer/producer in 1965.

It was Hutton who had the idea of a vocal group. He and Wells invited mutual friend Chuck Negro and together they formed the band in 1967 and started to record under the name of Redwood. Later on they adopted the name Three Dog Night from an Australian expression of cold temperatures at night, where the indigenous people embrace dingos (a native wild dog) for warmth while they sleep. And if the night was freezing cold, they need more dogs to keep themselves warmer, thus “three dog night.”

Things taking off for the band

To enhance its sound, Three Dog Night enlisted backup musicians Mike Allsup (guitars), Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards), Joe Schermie (bass) and Floyd Sneed (drums). Things began to take off in the band as “Try A Little Tenderness” became their first Top 40 hit in 1969.

Garnering hits from doing covers

Much later that year another single, “One” became their first Top 10 hit, peaking at #5. It was written by Nilsson (as Harry Nilsson). Three Dog Night went on to score more hits from their song interpretations: “Easy To Be Hard” (at #4; written by Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot for the musical Hair), “Eli’s Coming” (at #10; written by Laura Nymo), “Mama Told Me Not To Come” (their first #1 hit; written by Randy Newman), “Out In The Country” (at #15; written by Paul Williams), “An Old Fashioned Love Song” (at #4; written by Williams), “Joy To The World” (at #1; written by Hoyt Axton), “Never Been To Spain” (at #5; written by Axton), “Liar” (at #7; written by Russ Ballard of the band Argent), and “The Show Must Go On” (at #4; written by Leo Sayer and David Courtney, and performed by Sayer).

Three Dog Night also covered songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin (“Lady Samantha” and “Your Song”), Daniel Moore (“Shambala,” which went to #3), Paul Williams and Jack Conrad (“The Family Of Man,” at #12), David Arkin and Earl Robinson (“Black And White,” at #1 on both pop and adult contemporary singles charts) John Finley (“Let Me Serenade You” at #17), John Hiatt (“Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here at #16), Allen Toussaint (“Play Something Sweet” at #33) and Dave Loggins (“’Til The World Ends” at #32). Despite having a majority of their hits derive from covers or songs penned by other songwriters, the band also wrote their own material as well.

Lineup changes, and subsequent breakup

By early to mid-1970s, the band experienced shifts in the lineup, with some of the band members leaving, and new musicians being included in the fold. Hutton left the band in 1976 and he was replaced by Jay Gruska; however, this lineup wasn’t successful and didn’t last long. By then their hits had dried up as well as internal strife rose among the band members and after their final tour that summer, the group broke up.

Reunion and later career

In the early 1980s, the band reunited with all of the original members (except Schemie) intact. They released a new album in five years, It’s A Jungle on a small indie label Passport Records. Hutton and Wells continued with the band after Negron was dismissed due to his drug abuse problems (Negro has been drug free since 1991 and pursuing a solo career). Since Three Dog Night reunited there have been subsequent lineup changes. The band has also been touring internationally. In 2004, the band released the anniversary album The 35th Anniversary Hits Collection Featuring The London Symphony Orchestra. In 2009 they issued fresh material with “Heart Of Blues” and “Prayer Of The Children,” and they’re currently recording their next album.