Three Dog Night

For a band that did not write much of their own material, these guys have a bunch of hits. It is impossible to think about the late 1960s and early 1970s without some reference to a Three Dog Night song. The band’s name originated from the Australian Aboriginal custom of sleeping with dogs to stay warm in the brutal cold. The colder the night, the more dogs.

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea or Jeremiah was a bullfrog and a good friend of mine or one is the loneliest number or just an old fashioned love song. These lyrics are still easily recognizable.

From their own promotional materials:

Boasting chart and sales records that are virtually unmatched in popular music, THREE DOG NIGHT had 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, including 3 #1 singles, 11 Top 10’s, 18 straight Top 20’s, 7 million-selling singles and 12 straight RIAA Certified Gold LPs. Legendary band, THREE DOG NIGHT, now in its 5th decade, claims some of the most astonishing statistics in popular music. In the years 1969 through 1974, no other group achieved more top 10 hits, moved more records or sold more concert tickets than THREE DOG NIGHT.

I am not sure how that last sentence is verified, but they were certainly heavy-hitters in the music.

Three Dog Night was also an unusual group because it had three lead vocalists: Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron. They hired a group of musicians to play behind them. The group stayed intact until the mid 1970s, then regrouped in the early 1980s with most of the original members. Negron departed in the mid 1980s due to substance abuse and never really reconnected with the band, although he has maintained an active musical career. Wells and Hutton took over the lead vocals after Negron left. Wells passed away in 2015. The original keyboard and bass players have also died. Guitarist Michael Allsup and Hutton are the only original members still touring as Three Dog Night.

I saw the group in about 1990, at a private event. I can’t say that I remember much about the concert, but I remember the event, the only time I wore a suit to a concert. A fan of their music, I still enjoy the old songs.

In 1968, their debut, Three Dog Night, was released. The first single, “Nobody” did not break the top 100 chart, but their next one, “Try a Little Tenderness” reached number 29. The third single, “One” written by Harry Nilsson, climbed all the way to number 5 and was certified a gold record. “One” was the first song I remember from the band, it rocked hard, and the vocals gave you a glimmer of what was to come. Three Dog Night did not give you normal ballads, they weren’t sweet, they were gritty and soulful.

In 1969, their second album, Suitable for Framing reached number 15 and sold enough to be certified as a gold album. The first single was “Easy to Be Hard” that reached number 4 on the charts, followed by “Eli’s Coming” written by Laura Nyro that made it to number 10, and “Celebrate” that made it to number 15. Their second album really kicked it into high gear. These were great singles that became different songs under their arrangements.

Also in 1969, the band released their first live album, Captured Live at the Forum, which reached number 5 and was again a gold album..

The band released two studio albums in 1970, It Ain’t Easy and Naturally. “Mama Told Me Not to Come” written by Randy Newman, reached number one. This was another rocking song. “Out in the Country” written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams peaked at number 15. One thing I remember about this group was the extensive use of the organ, a prominent instrument of this time period.

On Naturally, “One Man Band” reached number 19, followed by the anthem, “Joy to the World” written by Hoyt Axton, which reached number 1 on the charts. It was followed by “Liar” written by Russ Ballard, which peaked at number 7. “Joy to the World” is usually ranked as the group’s most popular song. You couldn’t go anywhere that the song was not playing. For years, I avoided that song, it had just been overplayed. “Liar” is a terrific song. Russ Ballard wrote many successful songs during the 1970s.

In 1971, Harmony reached number 8 on the album charts and earned a Gold Album. The First single was “An Old Fashioned Love Song” written by Paul Williams, which peaked at number 4. Hoyt Axton’s “Never Been to Spain” charted at number 5, and Paul Williams’ “The Family of Man” reached number 12.

In 1972, Seven Separate Fools was released. It reached number 6 on the charts and was another Gold Album. The single, “Black and White” reached number 1 on the chart. “Pieces of April” written by Dave Loggins, reached a respectable number 19.

Around the World with Three Dog Night, the group’s second live album, was released in 1973. This time it was a double album set and sold well enough to be a Gold Album and be a top 20 album.

Also in 1973, the album Cyan was released and sold enough to be a Gold Album. “Shambala” was the first single and rose to number 3. The second single was “Let Me Serenade You” that peaked at number 17.

Hard Labor was released in 1974 and it was their last really solid album. “The Show Must Go On” written by Leo Sayer, reached number four and was a Gold Record. “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here” written by John Hiatt, peaked at number 16 and “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)” made it to number 33.

Coming Down Your Way was released in 1975 and “Til the World Ends” written by Dave Loggins, charted in the top 40, but was not a big hit.

The band continued, releasing American Pastime in 1976. No songs charted from the album and it would be their last for awhile. Most of their backing band had left and Hutton had left the band.

The band favored songs by Hoyt Axton, Paul Williams, Dave Loggins, Randy Newman, Russ Ballard, Daniel Moore and Allen Toussaint, song they didn’t write, but songs that were unique to Three Dog Night.

Enjoy, J.

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