Three Dog Night
Three Dog Night
Just what is a three dog night? Australian aboriginal custom has one sleep with his dogs for warmth when the temperature dips. The colder the night, the more dogs. A three dog night, then, is a very cold one. The group Three Dog Night, however, was anything but cold. On the contrary, they were one of the hottest acts of the 1970s, utilizing an electric rock format and featuring a strong vocal trio that belted out such rock classics as “Joy to the World,” “Black and White,” and, from the musical Hair, “Easy to Be Hard.”
The group was organized in 1968 by Danny Hutton, a young singer-songwriter, producer, and vocalist who had had minor success with the song “Rises and Rainbows” in 1965. Hutton recruited Cory Wells, formerly of the Enemies, and Chuck Negron to form the tightly harmonized core of what would prove to be both a unique and highly successful rock group. A backup band was assembled out of various musicians in the Los Angeles area and remained a stable unit for nearly five years. Earning early successes on the West Coast club circuit and playing a long-term engagement at the
Original band members included Cory Julius Wells (vocals; born February 5, 1942, in Buffalo, N.Y.); Charles “Chuck” Negron (vocals; born June 8, 1942, in Bronx, N.Y.); Daniel “Danny” Anthony Hutton (vocals; born September 10, 1942 [some sources say 1946], in-Buncrana, Ireland); James “Jimmy” Boyd Greenspoon (keyboards; born February 7, 1948, in Los Angeles, Calif.); Michael Rand Allsup (guitar; born March 8, 1947, in Modesto, Calif.); Floyd Chester Sneed (drums; born November 22, 1943, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada); Joseph “Joe” Schermie (bass; born February 12, 1948, in Madison, Wis.).
James “Smitty” Smith replaced Allsup in 1975.Skip Konto (keyboardist) was added to the group in 1974, and in 1973 Jack Ryland (bass; born June 7, 1949) replaced Schermie. In 1973 Dennis Belfield replaced Ryland on bass and in 1975 Mickey McMeel replaced Sneed on drums.
The group was organized in 1968 by Danny Hutton; recorded first LP in 1969, with Dunhill Records; toured beginning in 1969; achieved six gold records. Disbanded in 1976.
Addresses: Record company —MCA Records, Inc., 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
Whisky-A-Go-Go, the group was soon offered a recording contract with ABC/Dunhill.
The Dogs’ self-titled debut album appeared in 1969, launching them into a tremendously successful career. Three Dog Night—One went gold and yielded three singles: “Nobody,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and the Number 1 hit “One,” written by Harry Nilsson. The LP established the group as powerful performers capable of taking the compositions of others (Hoyt Axton, Paul Williams, and Laura Nyro, for instance) and turning them into hits. In the same prodigious year, as the group became an increasingly popular live act, their second album, Suitable for Framing, produced three major hits in “Celebrate,” “Eli’s Coming,” and the heart-wrenching ballad “Easy to Be Hard” from the rock opera Hair. Over a relatively short period of time, the group achieved a number of best-selling albums including Seven Separate Fools, Cyan, Coming Down Your Way, and American Pastime, attained twelve consecutive certified gold albums, and scored major hits with such songs as “Out In the Country” (from It Ain’t Easy, 1970), “Joy to the World” (from Naturally, 1970), “An Old-Fashioned Love Song” (from Harmony, 1971 ), “Pieces of April,” and what would become something of a children’s national anthem in “Black and White” (from Seven Separate Fools, 1972). Even as their popularity waned on the East and West Coasts, the group continued to play to record crowds in sports stadiums in such places as Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia.
The band’s later history was dotted with changes in personnel until percussionist Floyd Sneed, bass player Jack Ryland, and lead guitarist Mike Allsup all left in 1975 to form S. S. Fools. The Dogs disbanded in 1976, and member Cory Wells went on to pursue a solo career in 1978. Throughout the Dogs’ career, critics made few comments aside from the fact that the group did not write the songs they were fashioning into hits—a major no-no after the whirlwind success of such song masters as the Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney. According to John Wasserman in his 1972 article for Saturday Review, “The problem seems to be that nobody takes them seriously.” He indicated that the group’s music was not terribly innovative, nor was the group itself raunchy, ethnically rich, or in trouble with the law. They were, he contended, “accomplished professionals, excellent entertainers, and clearly able to reach vast audiences.” Writing the music, according to this commentator, was not nearly as important as delivering it successfully. On this count, the Dogs made good.
Three Dog Night, Dunhill, 1969.
Suitable for Framing, Dunhill, 1969.
Captured Live at the Forum, Dunhill, 1969.
It Ain’t, Dunhill, 1970.
Naturally, Dunhill, 1970.
Golden Biscuits, Dunhill, 1971.
Harmony, Dunhill, 1971.
Seven Separate Fools, Dunhill, 1972.
Around the World With Three Dog Night, DunhNI, 1973.
Cyan, Dunhill, 1973.
Hard Labor, Dunhill, 1974.
Joy to the World—Their Greatest Hits, MCA, 1974.
Dog yan, Dunhill, 1974.
HardLa bor, Dunhill, 1974.
Coming Down Your Way, ABC, 1976.
American Pastime, ABC, 1976.
It’s a Jungle, Teldec, 1984.
Nite, Norm N., Rock On, Harper, 1978.
Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martin’s, 1974.
Saturday Review, October 7, 1972.
—Meg Mac Donald