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Three Dog Night
Three Dog Night, 1972
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Labels||Dunhill, MGM, MCA, Epic, Columbia|
|The Enemys, Cory Wells Blues Band, SS Fools|
James "Smitty" Smith
Three Dog Night is an American rock band. They formed in 1967 with a line-up consisting of vocalists Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, and Chuck Negron. This lineup was soon augmented by Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards), Joe Schermie (bass), Michael Allsup (guitar), and Floyd Sneed (drums). The band registered 21 Billboard Top 40 hits (with three hitting number one) between 1969 and 1975. Because Three Dog Night recorded many songs written by outside songwriters, they helped introduce mainstream audiences to writers such as Paul Williams ("An Old Fashioned Love Song") and Hoyt Axton ("Joy to the World").
The official commentary included in the CD set Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story, 1964-1975 states that vocalist Danny Hutton's girlfriend, actress June Fairchild (best known as the "Ajax Lady" from the Cheech and Chong movie Up In Smoke) suggested the name after reading a magazine article about indigenous Australians, in which it was explained that on cold nights they would customarily sleep in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo, a native species of feral dog. On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs and, if the night were freezing, it was a "three dog night".
The three vocalists, Danny Hutton (who got his start with Hanna-Barbera Records in 1964), Chuck Negron and Cory Wells (who landed a recording contract with Dunhill Records) first came together in 1967 and made some recordings with Brian Wilson while the Beach Boys were working on the album Wild Honey, and initially went by the name of Redwood. Shortly after abandoning the Redwood moniker in 1968, the vocalists hired a group of backing musicians - Ron Morgan on guitar, Floyd Sneed on drums, Joe Schermie from the Cory Wells Blues Band on bass, and Jimmy Greenspoon on keyboards - and soon took the name Three Dog Night, becoming one of the most successful bands in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ron Morgan left the band early on and subsequently went on to join the Electric Prunes. Michael Allsup was quickly recruited to replace him on guitar.
Three Dog Night earned 12 gold albums and recorded 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits, seven of which went gold. Their first gold record was "One" (US #5), which had been written and recorded by Harry Nilsson. The group had three US #1 songs, each of which featured a different lead singer: "Mama Told Me Not to Come" (Cory Wells on lead), which was also their only Top 10 hit in the UK; "Joy to the World" (Chuck Negron on lead); and "Black and White" (Danny Hutton on lead). Dunhill Records claimed that 40 million record albums were sold by the band during this time.
As its members wrote just a handful of songs on the albums, most songs Three Dog Night recorded were written by outside songwriters. Notable hits by outside writers include Harry Nilsson's "One" (US #5), the Gerome Ragni-James Rado-Galt MacDermot composition "Easy to Be Hard" (US #4) from the musical Hair, Laura Nyro's "Eli's Comin'" (US #10), Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not to Come" (US #1), Paul Williams' "Out in the Country" (US #15), "The Family Of Man" (US #12), and "An Old Fashioned Love Song" (US #4), Hoyt Axton's "Joy to the World" (US #1) and "Never Been to Spain" (US #5), Arkin & Robinson's "Black and White" (US #1), Argent's Russ Ballard's "Liar" (US #7), Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Lady Samantha" and "Your Song", Daniel Moore's "Shambala" (#3), Leo Sayer's "The Show Must Go On" (US #4), John Hiatt's "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here" (US #16), Bush's "I Can Hear You Calling", and Allen Toussaint's "Play Something Sweet" (US #33).
Three Dog Night made its official debut in 1968 at the Whiskey a Go Go, at a 5 p.m. press party hosted by Dunhill Records. They were still in the process of making their first album Three Dog Night when they heard the favorable reactions from the hypercritical audience.
The album Three Dog Night was a success with its hit songs "One", "Try A Little Tenderness", and "Nobody" and helped the band gain recognition and become one of the top drawing concert acts of their time.
In 1973, Three Dog Night filed a $6 million lawsuit against their former booking agent, American Talent International (ATI) for continuing to advertise in the media that the band was still with their agency when in fact they signed with William Morris Agency in October 1972. Other damages were sought due to ATI taking deposits for booking Three Dog Night, whom they no longer represented.
Joe Schermie was replaced by Jack Ryland in 1973, and the band then became an eight-piece with the inclusion of another keyboard player, Skip Konte (ex-Blues Image). In late 1974, Allsup and Sneed left to form a new band, SS Fools, with Schermie and Bobby Kimball of Toto. New members James "Smitty" Smith and drummer Mickey McMeel were recruited, but by 1975, Smith was replaced by Al Ciner from Rufus and the American Breed and Ryland by Rufus bassist Dennis Belfield.
"Coming Down Your Way", released sometime in May 1975, failed to sell well in the United States, likely due to poor promotion on account of their recently switched label, ABC. The growing popularity of Disco music may have also been a factor for the poor sales. Disappointed by this, the band decided "Til The World Ends" would be the only single released off the album, which ended up being the groups last Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hit.
Danny Hutton left in late 1975 and was replaced by Jay Gruska, who toured with the band to promote their last album, American Pastime, released sometime in March 1976. Still, the album was a victim of poor promotion and didn't sell well. However, the only single released off the album, "Everybody Is a Masterpiece" became an Adult Contemporary hit. Another former Rufus band member, Ron Stockert, was recruited as second keyboardist after Konte left sometime in 1976. The group played their final show at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on July 26, 1976.
In 1981, Three Dog Night reunited and released the ska-inspired It's a Jungle in 1983 on the small Passport Records label, which garnered some airplay on the new wave circuit. The EP failed to sell after Passport went bankrupt. The reunion featured all of the original members, except Joe Schermie, who was succeeded by Mike Seifrit until 1982, and then by Richard Grossman, who stayed until 1984. Two guitarists, Paul Kingery and Steve Ezzo, occasionally played with the band, filling in for Allsup on dates he was not able to make between 1982 and 1984. Ezzo replaced Allsup when he departed in late 1984 to take care of some personal and family matters. Sneed was let go from the band at the same time. In early 1985, keyboardist Rick Serratte (formerly of Poco and later with Whitesnake and others) filled in for Greenspoon, who was ill, and the band hit the road with a revised lineup that included Serratte, Steve Ezzo, bassist Scott Manzo and drummer Mike Keeley. But a spring and summer tour that same year was postponed after Negron and Greenspoon were both forced to enter drug rehab. By late 1985, Greenspoon and Negron were back touring with the group.
By December 1985, after a relapse into his drug habit, Negron was let go, and the group continued with Wells and Hutton fronting the band and Paul Kingery was brought back on guitar to cover Chuck's vocal harmonies. In 1986, their song "In My Heart" was featured in Robotech: The Movie.
More changes in personnel occurred when guitarist T.J. Parker and vocalist and bassist Gary Moon replaced Kingery and Manzo in 1988, and were replaced themselves by Mike Cuneo and Richard Campbell during 1989.
Allsup returned to the group to replace Cuneo in the spring of 1991. Negron entered drug rehab, but did not return to the band.
Pat Bautz succeeded Keeley as drummer in 1993.
In 1993, Three Dog Night performed for The Family Channel show Spotlight on Country, filmed in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Kingery returned to the band as their bass player in 1996 following Campbell's departure.
In May 2002, Three Dog Night With The London Symphony Orchestra was released. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and in London at Abbey Road Studios. The album includes two new songs: "Overground" and "Sault Ste. Marie".
Original bassist Joe Schermie died on March 26, 2002.
In the summer of 2004, the band's 80s bassist, Scott Manzo, returned briefly to fill in for Paul Kingery.
In October 2004, Three Dog Night 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".
In 2007, Sky Television launched a new ad campaign in the UK, which promoted the company's aspirations to be seen as an environmentally friendly company, and used the band's song "Joy To The World".
On October 24, 2009, Three Dog Night released three new songs - "Heart of Blues" and "Prayer of the Children", as well as "Two Lights In The Nighttime".
A new studio album, the group's first in 24 years, is being recorded during breaks from touring using producer Richie Podolor. 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.
In the late summer of 2012, guitarist Allsup was hospitalized for an intestinal disorder, forcing Kingery to temporarily move back to guitar, while Danny's son, Timothy Hutton, currently a Los Angeles music studio owner, manned the bass slot. This happened again during the summer of 2015 when Allsup was again forced to miss some shows.
On March 11, 2015, Jimmy Greenspoon died from cancer, aged 67. His place at the keyboards was taken by Eddie Reasoner. who had come in to sub for Jimmy when he'd first taken ill in mid-2014.
On October 21, 2015 Cory Wells died at his home in Dunkirk, New York. He was 74. Wells' cause of death was sepsis while battling multiple myeloma. Funeral services were private, and he is buried in Dunkirk. When he was not performing on tour, he was often seen fishing at Lake Erie.
In November 2015 it was announced that singer David Morgan (a former member of the Association) would be joining Three Dog Night on the road.