STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Rising out of the tempestuous late 60’s political and music scene, Three Dog Night emerged with catchy, upbeat, simplistic songs that instantly resonated with the masses.
“In that era, everything was down and oppressive and against the man,” recalls co-founding member Cory Wells, speaking from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. “We took the high road and went with everything positive — all positive songs, and we tried to keep things happy. If I had to pick a song, I would have to say that “Joy to the World” was the one that really emphasized Three Dog Night as a band.”
The brainchild of vocalists Cory Wells and Danny Hutton, who added friend and vocalist Chuck Negron to form a harmonic trio, Three Dog Night released an astonishing 21 successive hit singles, 11 of which made it to the Top Ten.
The Band recorded a dozen successive gold albums. The songs “One,” “Joy To the World,” “Momma Told Me (Not to Come),” “ Black and White,” “Shambala,” “Celebrate” and “Old Fashioned Love Song” ignited the band’s popularity and legitimized Three Dog Night’s place in rock stardom, much to the dismay of harsh music critics.
“Three Dog Night was several forms of music formed into one band,” recalls Cory Wells. “We had different singers with different avenues. I was the R&B guy. Danny was the middle of the road Beach-Boyish kind of guy, and Chuck was the balladeer. So, each song had its own element.”
“It was incredibly easy, and it seemed liked it was meant to be,” added Wells. “I was blown away by how fast things happened for us. We did a demo of an old Rascals tune called “If You Knew.” We presented that to the record company and they were chomping at the bit. They all wanted us. So we had this big playoff, so to speak, at this club, and the record companies came in to bid.”
After signing with Dunhill Records, Three Dog Night released their eponymous Platinum debut album, also known as “One,” in 1968.
“We went into the studio and just did all the material that we had, and this thing just took off,” recalls Wells. “We had all these singles coming off the first album, and they were on the charts. It was faster than I even thought. I had no idea that this was going to take off so quickly. It sort of caught us flat footed a little bit at the time.”
Wells, Hutton and Negron enlisted the full-time talents of back-up musicians Mike Allsup (guitar), Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards), Joe Schermie (bass) and Floyd Sneed (drums) to round out the official line-up of Three Dog Night.
The single “One” was the group’s first Top Ten hit in 1969. One year later, “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” would become the first of three number one songs.
Three Dog Night’s music pervaded the airwaves throughout most of the 70’s. “Joy to the World” (1971) spent six weeks on top of the charts and became their biggest selling single. “Black and White” (1972) was their third and last number one single. The Show Must Go On” (1974) marked the band’s last single to reach the Top Ten.
Enormous fame led to inevitable power struggles between the band’s record label and management, and the trials and tribulations of super stardom also took a toll on the group. With a decade of success under their belt, Three Dog Night unfortunately disbanded in 1977.
“Management wanted us out touring, because that’s how they made their money,” recalls Wells. “The record company wanted us recording, because that’s how they made their money. So, we were barefoot and pregnant — kind of a good spot to be in when you’re in demand.”
“I was challenged, because other people chose to take different routes in how to celebrate their success, if you know what I’m saying,” added Wells. “That became a major challenge — the extra curricular enjoyment of success. I did many, many years of working clubs. So, I think I was more grounded about how to handle success whereas some individuals went straight from their bedroom to the coliseum. So, they were having a hard time adjusting to success, and I think, of course, that is a downfall.”
Three Dog Night, featuring Wells and Hutton, reunited in the early 80’s. Missing was Chuck Negron who, by now, was battling serious drug addiction and would not return to the group.
“When the separation came between Danny and I and Mr. Negron, we didn’t want that, to be honest with you, but it just happened to turn out that way,” recalls Wells. “You have to move forward or you’ll die. So, we moved forward. Michael and Jimmy stayed with us, and we had the nucleus of the band. The original bass player died, and the drummer had some medical issues that stopped him from touring with us.”
Five decades later, Wells, Hutton and Allsup remain as the core of the original Three Dog Night. Sadly, Keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon passed earlier this month after a battle with melanoma.
The band is flourishing on tour, and is hoping to record new music when time allows. Routinely performing sold out shows around the world, Wells is elated by the adulation Three Dog Night still receives.
“It’s cool, and it’s amazing,” says Wells. “We were at the right time and in the right place. The planets were all aligned. This should have been dead 25, 30 years ago, and yet we’re still there. We’re still going on. We’re very, very lucky. We’re very fortunate that we’re able to still do this. I know so many people that go to a job that they hate to do, and here I am. I have the luxury of going to work and doing the thing that I absolutely love to do.”
IF YOU GO
What: Three Dog Night
Where: The American Music Theatre, 2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster.
When: Concert is at 8 p.m. on Thursday March 26.
Info.: Tickets can be purchased on-line at www.amtshows.com or by calling (800) 648-4102 or (717) 397-7700. To stay current with Three Dog Night visit www.threedognight.com