Three Dog Night 

A Change Is Gonna Come

Three Dog Night had a phenomenal year in 1971, with the albums Golden Bisquits and Harmony selling extremely well. The single "Joy To The World" amassed sales of over five million units by itself. The band was often on television, including a memorable appearance on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In on NBC, in which they mimed "Joy To The World" and were also assaulted by Ruth Buzzi, as her purse-slinging "Gladys" character.

The band also completed a tour consisting entirely of concerts in large baseball and football stadiums (a first in rock - not even the Beatles had done this), playing for audiences in excess of 50,000 per night. Years of hard work and struggle had gone into building this success, and the 'Dogs finally had a chance to enjoy it.

Some, however, were beginning to enjoy it a bit too much, and the typical overindulgence in women, drugs and drink would be problems that would escalate and haunt some of the members for years to come. 

There were changes in the way the band was perceived as well. Initially, the group found acceptance with "album-oriented" radio, although that fizzled when the 'Dogs began to garner one hit single after another. And the rock press, fully inflated with its own artificial hipness (not to mention a touch of jealousy), began to degrade Three Dog Night as crassly commercial. The music journalists also blasted the band for not writing its own music, failing to note the band's truly great talent as arrangers, allowing them to, in essence, take another's song and make it uniquely its own. 

With the band's success, it was quite easy to laugh at the critics - all the way to the bank. Those internal problems, however, would eventually lead to more serious issues for the band to deal with.

For the time being, it was ahead to 1972, and the band hosting its own television special, Three Dog Night Night for ABC-TV. The program consisted largely of performances of tunes from Naturally, along with a fine rendition, with guest Roberta Flack, of her hit "Where Is The Love."


(Courtesy MCA Records)

A few months later came the release of Seven Separate Fools, a somewhat ironic album title, given the status of the band at that point. They were still a band, but very much becoming more separated from each other. The album jacket, shaped like a box containing a deck of playing cards, included large photo cards of each member involved in a favorite activity or hobby, although some were done strictly for laughs. The first single, a mid-50s tune, "Black & White," assumed its perch at the top of the charts within a few weeks of its release in July. A charismatic lead vocal from Danny, plus Floyd's unique drumming, helped propel this tune up the hit parade. It was followed in October by "Pieces Of April," a tender David Loggins ballad sung by Chuck.

The album also contained a down-home reading of Randy Newman's "My Old Kentucky Home," an electric adaptation of another Argent tune, "Chained," and "Freedom For The Stallion," another anthem for brotherhood (which became a modest hit for the Hues Corporation in '73). 

The band then returned to the road, performing onboard the Queen Mary for the first-ever airing of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, and recording concerts in England, Japan, Germany and the U.S. for the two-LP set, Around The World With Three Dog Night, released in March of '73. This, the band's second live package, featured many of the hits, along with instrumentals allowing Jimmy and Floyd to display their skills in the spotlight. Also included were fine renditions of "Midnight Runaway" (from Seven Separate Fools) and "Jam" (from Harmony). This album would also be the last for Joe Schermie, who departed the band shortly after the tour was completed.


(Courtesy MCA Records)


(Courtesy MCA Records)

Onetime session player Jack Ryland came in as bassist for Cyan, the band's tenth album, released in October of '73. "Shambala," written by Daniel Moore (a member of Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen troupe) had been released in May, well in advance of the album and peaked on the singles chart at #3. The easy-rolling "Let Me Serenade You," which, like its predecessor, was sung by Cory, hit the charts the same month the album debuted, and reached #17 on the singles charts. Three excellent Allsup compositions, the upbeat "Happy Song," the ballad "Storybook Feeling" and the haunting, soul-searching "Into My Life," were among the album's highlights. 

The Writing's On The Wall 


(Courtesy MCA Records)

Three Dog Night, working with producer Richard Podolor and engineer Bill Cooper, had the Midas touch. A skilled engineer, a sympathetic producer and a versatile and talented band made for an effective team. Cyan, however, proved to be the end of that magic union, as the band opted to hire Jimmy Ienner, who had produced hits for the Raspberries and Grand Funk, for 1974's Hard Labor. The album also marked the arrival of Skip Konte as the band's second keyboard player. The atmospheric, circus-flavored "The Show Must Go On" (co-written by Leo Sayer), was released, along with the album, in March of that year, peaking on the singles chart at #4, followed by a loping rendition of John Hiatt's "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here," which topped out at #16. 

This would be the band's last Top 20 finish, however, as Allen Toussaint's "Play Something Sweet" (previously recorded by B.J. Thomas) stalled at #33. ABC/Dunhill released another hits package, Joy To The World - Their Greatest Hits in time for Christmas gift-giving, and the band returned to the studio with Ienner in early '75 for its thirteenth album.

The sessions proved to be chaotic at best, as Allsup, Ryland and Sneed departed before the album was completed. Coming Down Your Way, released in June of '75, was the band's first-ever LP not to reach the top 20 of the album charts, peaking at #70. Another Loggins tune, "'Til The World Ends," spent just nine weeks in the hit parade and crested at #32. Three Dog Night's world was about to end. 


(Courtesy MCA Records)

When It's Over 


(Courtesy MCA Records)

The band, with new members Al Ciner (guitar), Dennis Belfield (bass) and Mickey McMeel (drums) completed its touring obligations for 1975 and recruited producer Bob Monaco for its next release. American Pastime, released in April of 1976, was a dismal effort, filled with unspirited pop and Bee Gees-styled disco tunes. The LP's only saving graces were the moody ballad "Yellow Beach Umbrella" and the soulful "Easy Evil" (the latter penned by Alan O'Day and previously recorded by Steppenwolf's John Kay).

A single was released, although no one thought that "Everybody Is A Masterpiece" was. The album reached a dismal #123 on the album charts before sinking like a rock. Then Danny Hutton, whose vision had led to the creation of Three Dog Night, left. Session singer and musician Jay Gruska (who later became a noted producer) stepped on board, but only for a short visit, as the band's July 4, 1976 concert at the Greek Theater in L.A. would be its last for some time. 

After 21 straight hit singles, 14 albums (the first 12 of which reached "gold" status) and hundreds of concerts around the globe, Three Dog Night was silenced. 

Time To Get Alone 

Just as Three Dog Night was dissolving, a new band, S.S. Fools, was emerging. The unit was formed by Allsup, Schermie and Sneed, and showed some promise with an album for Columbia Records. The album, however, was not met with much acceptance, and S.S. Fools abandoned ship, with Allsup doing some session work, Schermie joining the backup band of singer Maria ("Midnight At The Oasis") Muldaur and Sneed eventually retreating to Canada. Hutton became a manager, working with such acts as the L.A. punk band Fear, while Greenspoon turned up as a backing musician for teen idol Shaun Cassidy. Ryland returned to Helen Reddy's band and did session work until his death in 1998. Negron slid down the drug ladder further, while Wells released a solo album, Touch Me, for A&M in early 1978. A second LP, Ahead Of The Storm, was slated for the fall but canceled, due to a dispute between artist and label regarding promotion. The album was released on CD in Japan in early 2002.

Circle For A Landing 

Three Dog Night (minus Schermie) decided to give it a reunion go in the spring of 1981. Concert audiences were elated, and the band contemplated a return to recording. Major record labels, however, didn't seem interested, and the band went the independent route to release a five-song EP, It's A Jungle, in 1983. The EP, though little-noticed, did mark a reunion with former producer Podolor and engineer Cooper.


(Passport Records)

Sneed dropped out after a couple of years, returning to Canada, and Allsup was in and out over the first half of the 80s. Some past issues, however, had yet to be resolved, particularly some members dealing with their own demons. Negron fell ill during a 1985 tour, due to his drug addiction, and the band eventually decided to continue without him. Around the same time, Greenspoon decided to get clean, which he did. He later chronicled his rise, and fall, and resurgence, in his book One Is The Loneliest Number. It would be the early 90s before Negron finally put the drugs away for good, which he also described in a book, Three Dog Nightmare. He also launched a solo career, and has released four CDs over the past decade. The most recent, both released in late 2001, were a Christmas album and Chuck Negron Live In Concert, a two-CD set almost entirely made up of Three Dog Night hits.

Some legal entanglements also ensued, as Negron had been touring and promoting himself as the "Voice Of Three Dog Night." This was apparently due to a general media assumption that Chuck had sung lead on the lion's share of the singles. It isn't true, really (Negron sang a solo lead on seven singles, while Wells did so on eight), but that myth remains. 


(Courtesy MCA Records)

The lineup of Three Dog Night has shifted a few times, but has been stable for the last several years with Allsup, Greenspoon, Hutton, Wells, drummer Pat Bautz and guitarist-turned bassist Paul Kingery. Future recordings, featuring this lineup, have been discussed, as MCA Records (which assumed control of the ABC catalog in 1979) has reissued some of the original albums, along with the two-CD compilation Celebrate - The Three Dog Night Story, in 1993.

Allsup and Greenspoon have both released solo CDs in recent years, while continuing their work with Three Dog Night. Schermie and Sneed reteamed in 2001 as part of the Los Angeles band K.A.T.T., until Schermie's sudden death from a heart attack on March, 25, 2002.

In May of 2002, two new Three Dog Night projects hit store shelves, both taken from concerts the band performed with symphony orchestras, and both released by Image Entertainment.

 

The CD, Live With The London Symphony Orchestra, includes many of the band's classics (such as "Mama Told Me," "Black And White," "Liar," "Shambala," "Never Been To Spain" and "Celebrate"), along with newer tunes, such as "Sault Ste. Marie" and "Overground." The companion DVD/VHS, Live With The Tennessee Symphony Orchestra (which adds "Eli's Coming," "Play Something Sweet [Brickyard Blues]," "Try A Little Tenderness" and "The Family Of Man" to the song list), was recorded at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN, near Nashville.

 

Both collections are reflective of the collaborative work the band has done the last few years with conductor/arranger Larry Baird, who has performed similar duties on albums by the Moody Blues and Kansas, among others.

If the collections are not available in your local store, many online merchants are stocking them, or a quick trip to http://www.image-entertainment.com will provide ordering information.

Three Dog Night was one of America's great good-time bands in the late 1960s and 1970s, spreading its brand of solid musicianship and soaring vocals around the world. Over thirty years later, it still is. 

See individual interviews for additional information and background.

Official Website: http://www.threedognight.com

Billboard chart data is courtesy Billboard Publications, Inc., and Joel Whitburn's Record Research.

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font size="1"> chart data is courtesy Billboard Publications, Inc., and Joel Whitburn's Record Research.
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