Three Dog Night Biography

This highly successful US harmony rock band formed in 1968 with a line-up comprising Danny Hutton (Daniel Anthony Hutton, 10 September 1942, Buncrana, Eire), Cory Wells (b. 5 February 1942, Buffalo, New York, USA) and Chuck Negron (b. Charles Negron, 8 June 1942, Buffalo, New York, USA). The three lead singers were backed by Jim Greenspoon (b. 7 February 1948, Los Angeles, California, USA; organ), Joe Schermie (b. 12 February 1948, Madison, Wisconsin, USA, d. 26 March 2002; bass), Mike Allsup (b. 8 March 1947, Modesto, California, USA; guitar) and Floyd Sneed (b. 22 November 1943, Calgary, Alberta, USA; drums). With their distinctive and sometimes extraordinary harmonic blend, the band registered an impressive 21 Billboard Top 40 hits between 1969 and 1975. Their startling version of John Lennon / Paul McCartney’s ‘It’s For You’ typified the band at their best, but it was their original arrangements of the work of less well-known writers that brought welcome exposure and considerable royalties to fresh talent. Both Nilsson and Laura Nyro first glimpsed the Top 10 courtesy of Three Dog Night’s cover versions of ‘One’ and ‘Eli’s Coming’, respectively. The risqué ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’ provided the same service for Randy Newman while also giving the band their first number 1 in 1970. During the next two years they registered two further US chart toppers, ‘Joy To The World’ (composed by Hoyt Axton) and ‘Black And White’ (a UK hit for reggae band Greyhound).

Always ready to record promising material and adapt it to their distinctive harmonic blend, they brought vicarious US chart success to Russ Ballard’s ‘Liar’ and Leo Sayer’s UK number 1 ‘The Show Must Go On’. By the early 70s, there were gradual changes in the trio’s back-up musicians, with several members of Rufus joining during 1976. The departure of Danny Hutton (replaced by Jay Gruska) proved a body blow, however, and precipitated their decline and disbandment. During 1981, they reunited briefly with Hutton but failed to retrieve past chart glories.

The strength of Three Dog Night lay in the power of their harmonies and the strength of the material they adapted. In the age of the singer-songwriter, they were seldom applauded by critics but their inventive arrangements struck a chord with the public to the tune of 10 million-selling records and total sales of over 90 million. Three Dog Night brought a fresh approach to the art of covering seemingly uncommercial material and demonstrated how a strong song can be translated into something approaching a standard.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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