EXCLUSIVE: Chuck Negron, the voice of Three Dog Night

Three Dog Night without Chuck Negron: Butter without the bread. Photo: Chuck Negron Website

WASHINGTON, November 11, 2013 — After a grueling 2012 and 2013 tour as a single performer and with others acts, world-class singer Chuck Negron kindly took the time to speak with Washington Times Communities Digital News, enlightening us on what he is up to these days and how he is faring without his former band members who travel under the name Three Dog Night.

However, today, the old band is the same in name only. Without Negron, the current line-up has two remaining dogs. But the soul, heart and sound of the group is missing.


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At age 15, Negron was a Brooklyn street corner doo-wop singer. He formed a group called the Roundels and booked into the famed Apollo as the only Caucasian act. It was there that Negron discovered great music combined with great performance cuts cuts a pass through the thickets of race and culture.

Having traveled to the West Coast, Negron accepted a basketball scholarship but left college in 1967 to join with Corey Wells and Danny Hutton for what eventually became Three Dog Night.

In the beginning, Wells and Hutton thought of Negron as vocal support. But with Negron’s four-octave range, this dynamic changed fast. As history records, this turn of events proved to be a blow to the egos of the other members.

From 1969 through 1974, Three Dog Night went on to record more hits than any group in the USA including 13 gold albums, 21 consecutive top 40 hits, 3 number 1 recordings and 7 gold singles. They also sold more recordings and tickets than any band of the era.


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Their first number one hit was “’One’ (is the loneliest number),” written by the late Harry Nilsson and sung by Negron. Perhaps this moment in music history was the precise point where the seeds of discontent were sown. The support vocalist was now the front man of the three.

The group was regularly accused at the time of not being responsible for writing their own music. But at the same time, they were never credited with bringing to the fore such longtime household names as Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Hoyt Axton—whose mother co-wrote Elvis Presley’s first hit, “Heartbreak Hotel”—Paul Williams, Leo Sayers, David Loggins and more.

Negron styled many of these songs by altering their original form and presentation, remaking them in many instances as hits for both the original songwriters and the band. The kind of criticism he and his associates put up with was never endured by Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and other artists of the day who often did much the same thing.

By 1976, hearty partying had ruined Three Dog Night, as key members of the group fell into an all-too-familiar entertainment world pattern, becoming booze and drug addicts. Negron, by his own admission, was the worst of the bunch, if only because his addiction lasted longer.


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After the members got dry, the band reunited, with the stipulation that, if Negron relapsed (as he had many times), he was out of the group. In 1985, Negron relapsed and he was out.

The group moved forward, refusing to permit the voice that originally took them to the height of fame to exercise any rights to the Three Dog Night name.

In September 17, 1991, with the help of several addiction support groups—primarily one called Cri-help—Negron finally won his battle with the abuse that almost killed him. His doctor told him that because Negron had once been an athlete, his body had grown accustomed to greater amounts of physical abuse than the average “Joe.” But Negron was at a now or never point in his life. He knew it was high time to break both the habit and the old mold, and he chose “now” with a vengeance.

Negron drew on his former experience as an athlete to get himeself back in shape and get his life in order. He started touring again, performing the older Three Dog Night songs along with his own music of choice, and once again making new recordings.

But even after Negron’s 22 years in recovery, not to mention his working like a dog at his craft—demonstrating clear proof of his commitment to a clean life—his former band mates Corey and Wells have not yet reached out to telephone Negron to say, “OK. You are obviously back. Let’s rock!” The reasons why aren’t entirely clear but may be due to factors not related to Negron’s former habit of relapse.

Perhaps a better explanation can be found in the band’s individual personalities. At most performances, Negron always gives a shout out to his former mates as a thank-you because he knows that without them, he would not be what he is today. Negron also credits John Kay of Steppenwolf for introducing Three Dog Night to the world by having them open for a Steppenwolf tour.

Examining the the Three Dog Night website confirms the continuing rift among the old band members, however. There is absolutely no mention of Negron and his substantial contribution to his mates’ success on the site, a musical effort that proved of far greater significance their contribution to his.

The current edition of the Three Dog website also lists extensively the group’s numerous hits, while failing to mention who sang and arranged the bulk of the songs. Instead, all references to the group’s past and present are referred as “Three Dog Night” this and “Three Dog Night” that, as if Negron were less consequential than if he were deceased or never existed at all.

The website shamelessly showcases Three Dog Night’s new album by declaring it is “A re-recording of their past hits.” In other words, “This is what we were and who we are” sans Negron, hoping folks do not pick up on the truth.

Most references to the group on the site date from 1985 forward, indicating that the current members seem keen on not being overshadowed by Negron’s vocals like they were in the past. If this observation holds true, one could conclude that the band’s mindset in its current iteration, is almost absurdly egotistical, as if Hutton and Wells were choosing to rewrite history.

For his part, Wells claims Negron was approached to re-join the group at one point but is demands allegedly proved to be too great. One could surmise whatever demands Negron may have made to re-join the group may have involved his desire not to be treated once again with disrespect because he has chosen to perform without the band at smaller venues.

Meanwhile, the remaining members of Three Dog Night tour without mentioning they no longer include the distinctive sound of the renowned Chuck Negron. This dynamic is equivalent to the Stones performing sans Jagger, or Aerosmith touring without Tyler.

Many groups try to get away with such backbiting and nonsense. But the current Three Dog Night’s pattern of turning their backs on Negron would seem to hew very much to that old cliché of cutting off the group’s noses to spite their collective face.

Having recently attended a Three Dog performance, we can confirm that the show seemed somehow lacking. Exactly what was initially difficult to pin down until many ticket holders, including this one, realized Negron wasn’t there.

The group had zero chemistry,  a business meeting style performance, lacked inner-group exchange, no audience exchange and worse of all, had a band member standing in the shadows to hit the high notes whenever the singer of a particular song could not,-which was frequent. The group lacked personality.

In fact, in our opinion, the group in its current iteration is a shell of its former self, which, if “truth in labeling” standards were enforced on rock bands, might force them to rename their act “A Tribute to Three Dog Night.” It’s as if they have become actors in their own off- Broadway play.

Having since caught Negron in performance as well, we can confirm he’s clearly back in great voice, with a stage persona that’s interactive, funny and self-effacing. He creates a tremendous atmosphere and rocks the night away in grand old style. An added plus: his new music is as timeless as the old hits.

Negron said that today he is quite happy. He has children (some who play in his band) and grandchildren, and speaks of them with pride. He also does not miss the bickering and arguing with the other Dogs.”

As if to underline this point, Negron will be off touring again in 2014, starting some time in April or May as part of what will be called the “Happy Together Tour” along with favorites like The Turtles, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Mark Lindsey, Gary Lewis and others. This lineup is still subject to change but should solidify in the coming months.

Negron has also become an author, having penned the book “Three Dog Nightmare.” He will be promoting the third edition of the book on the upcoming tour.

Negron agreed to do an interview with us before his next tour, and to promote his book, which we’ll also be reading and reviewing here at WTC Digital News.

Meanwhile, if you want to hear once again the true, familiar sound of the classic Three Dog Night, look for Chuck Negron’s next live appearance in a venue near you and queue up to get your tickets early. You won’t be alone.

Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and psychotherapist.

 


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