Introduction to 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.”

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.

Three Dog Night in 1972

Three Dog Night Band Members

The band was particularly known for their vocal harmonies and dynamic live performances by each of the key band members:

Danny Hutton (Vocals): Born on September 10, 1942, in Buncrana, Ireland, Danny Hutton was one of the founding members of Three Dog Night. Before forming the band, Hutton had some success as a solo artist. Known for his distinctive voice, he was instrumental in shaping the band’s sound and was one of the three lead vocalists, contributing to the group’s rich vocal harmonies.

Chuck Negron (Vocals): Born on June 8, 1942, in New York City, Chuck Negron joined Hutton and Wells to complete the trio of lead vocalists that defined Three Dog Night’s sound. Negron brought a powerful and emotive vocal style to the band. His lead vocals on hits like “One” and “Joy to the World” helped propel the band to major success.

Cory Wells (Vocals): Born Emil Lewandowski on February 5, 1941, in Buffalo, New York, Cory Wells was the third lead vocalist in Three Dog Night. Wells had a background in various bands before co-founding Three Dog Night. His soulful voice and ability to sing a wide range of material were crucial to the band’s versatility and success.

Jimmy Greenspoon (Keyboards): Born on February 7, 1948, in Los Angeles, California, Jimmy Greenspoon was the keyboardist for Three Dog Night. His keyboard work was a key element of the band’s sound, providing both rhythmic and melodic support to their songs.

Michael Allsup (Guitar): Born on March 8, 1947, in Modesto, California, Michael Allsup was the guitarist for Three Dog Night. His guitar playing added a crucial rock element to the band’s music and was integral in creating their distinctive sound.

Floyd Sneed (Drums): Born on November 22, 1942, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Floyd Sneed was the drummer for Three Dog Night. His energetic and inventive drumming style provided the rhythmic foundation for the band’s music.

Joe Schermie (Bass): Born on February 12, 1946, and a native of Madison, Wisconsin, Joe Schermie was the original bassist for Three Dog Night. His bass lines were an essential part of the band’s rhythm section, contributing to their overall sound.

Each member brought their unique talents and backgrounds to Three Dog Night, creating a blend of rock, pop, and soul that led to widespread popularity and a string of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Their harmonious interplay, both vocally and instrumentally, was a hallmark of their success.

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)
  • “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 artist such as:

  • 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)
  • 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

Early Lineup Changes: While the core trio of Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron, and Cory Wells remained constant, the band saw changes in other positions. In the early 1970s, bassist Joe Schermie left the group and was replaced by Jack Ryland, followed by another change with the introduction of bassist Skip Konte. These changes marked the beginning of a shift in the band’s dynamics.

Shifts in Musical Direction: As the 1970s progressed, musical tastes and trends began to shift with the emergence of disco, punk, and harder rock styles. This change in the musical landscape, combined with internal disagreements about musical direction, put strain on the band.

Personal Tensions and Substance Abuse: Increasing personal tensions among band members, exacerbated by heavy touring schedules and the pressures of fame, began to take their toll. Additionally, some members, notably Chuck Negron, struggled with substance abuse issues, which further strained relationships within the band and impacted their performances and productivity.

Declining Commercial Success: By the mid-1970s, Three Dog Night’s commercial success began to wane. Their albums and singles were not charting as high as their earlier work, and this decline put additional stress on the band.

Departure of Key Members: The departure of founding member Danny Hutton in 1975 was a significant blow to the band. This was followed by the departure of other original members, signaling a major change in the group’s composition and the end of their most successful era.

Initial Breakup: The combination of these factors led to the eventual breakup of Three Dog Night in 1976. The band’s inability to adapt to the changing music scene, coupled with personal and professional challenges, made it difficult to continue.

Post-Breakup Careers: After the breakup, individual band members pursued various projects, including solo careers and participation in other musical endeavors. However, none achieved the same level of success they had experienced with Three Dog Night.

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, 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 now 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”.

Three Dog Night has maintained an active touring schedule, performing their classic hits at concerts and festivals across the United States. These tours cater to a loyal fan base that spans generations, drawn by the band’s enduring hits and nostalgic appeal.  The band’s lineup has seen changes due to the passing of original members and other factors. Danny Hutton remains a constant presence, leading the group. The band has included newer members alongside long-standing ones to fill roles previously occupied by original members.

The band faced significant losses with the passing of two of its original members. Cory Wells died in 2015, and keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon passed away in the same year. These losses were a profound change for the band, marking the end of an era.

While new studio recordings have been sparse, the band has occasionally released archival material, including live recordings and compilations of their classic tracks. These releases serve to introduce their music to newer audiences and provide long-time fans with different versions of beloved songs.

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