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Three Dog Night
Three Dog Night, 1972. Back L-R: Joe Schermie, Floyd Sneed, Michael Allsup and Jimmy Greenspoon. Front L-R: Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron
|Labels||Dunhill, MGM, MCA, Epic, Columbia|
|The Enemys, Cory Wells Blues Band, SS Fools|
James "Smitty" Smith
John Mrowiec Mike Keeley
Three Dog Night is an American rock band formed in 1967, with founding members 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 had 21 Billboard Top 40 hits between 1969 and 1975, with three hitting number one. Three Dog Night recorded many songs written by outside songwriters, and they helped to 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 Aboriginal 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 wild dog. On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs and, if the night were freezing, it was a "three dog night".
Musician Van Dyke Parks, an arranger at Warner Bros Records, disputed the above story and claimed that he coined the name. He wrote, "I wuz nuts about Hutton's girlfriend. Quite a dancer. Yet, she didn't read Mankind magazine, nor have an inkling of anthtopology [sic] and the cold aboriginal nights that inspired my suggestion."
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. They initially went by the name of Redwood and made some recordings with Brian Wilson while the Beach Boys were working on the album Wild Honey. 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. Morgan left the band before its first album was recorded and subsequently joined the Electric Prunes. Michael Allsup was quickly recruited to replace Morgan on guitar.
Three Dog Night earned 12 gold albums and recorded 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits, seven of which went gold. Three Dog Night became one of the most successful bands in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. 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.
The band members composed only a handful of songs, and most songs Three Dog Night recorded were written by outside songwriters. Notable hits by other composers 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), David Loggins's "Pieces of April" (US # 19), and "Til The World Ends" (US #32), 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 Whisky 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 left in early 1973 due to "problems arising that were apparently unresolvable". His replacement was Jack Ryland in 1973, and the band then became an eight-piece with the inclusion of a second keyboard player, Skip Konte (ex-Blues Image), in late 1973. In late 1974, Allsup and Sneed left to form a new band, SS Fools, with Schermie and Bobby Kimball of Toto. New guitarist 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.
By 1973, Danny Hutton was sick on a regular basis and had developed jaundice from incessant and uncontrolled drug abuse. The band was forced to hire a registered nurse to administer Vitamin B12 shots to Hutton and take care of him so the band could continue touring. For the albums Cyan, Hard Labor, and Coming Down Your Way, Hutton did not show up for many of the recording sessions and would be present only long enough to record one song. Cory Wells became fed up with his frequent absence and Hutton was fired from the band in late 1975. He was replaced by Jay Gruska.
Coming Down Your Way, released in May 1975, failed to sell well in the United States, likely due to poor promotion on account of the bands recently switched label, ABC, and the growing popularity of disco music. Disappointed by this, the band decided "Til The World Ends" would be the only single released off the album, which ended up being the group's last Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hit.
Jay Gruska toured with the band to promote their last album, American Pastime, released in March 1976. Still, the album did not sell well for the same reasons as before. 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 in the first half of 1976. The group played their final show at the Greek Theatre 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 Seratte (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 Seratte, Steve Ezzo, bassist Scott Manzo and drummer Mike Keeley. The band toured all through 1985, but in late '85, Negron was forced back into rehab. Seratte left the band to pursue other offers and Greenspoon rejoined the band with Negron in late 1985 and 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.
Original bassist Joe Schermie died on March 26, 2002. In May 2002 the band released Three Dog Night With The Tennessee Symphony Orchestra. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and in London at Abbey Road Studios and includes two new songs: "Overground" and "Sault Ste. Marie". In the summer of 2004, 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 August 2008, they released Three Dog Night Greatest Hits Live, a compilation of previously unissued live recordings from concerts in Frankfurt, Germany and Edmonton, London in 1972 and 1973. On October 24, 2009, they released three new songs: "Heart of Blues", "Prayer of the Children", and "Two Lights In The Nighttime". They issued two new songs on their 35th Anniversary Hits Collection Featuring The London Symphony Orchestra.
In the summer of 2012, guitarist Allsup was hospitalized for an intestinal disorder, forcing Kingery to move back to guitar, while Danny's son Timothy Hutton played bass. This happened again during the summer of 2015 when Allsup was 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 substituted for him when he took ill in mid-2014.
On October 21, 2015, Cory Wells died at his home in Dunkirk, New York at age 74. In November 2015, the band announced that singer David Morgan would be joining them on the road. He was a member of the Association. In April 2017, Howard Laravea replaced Eddie Reasoner on keyboards. He was formerly with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.