Negron enjoying ‘Happy Together’ tour

Three Dog Night singer: 'I'm very grateful that I still have this opportunity'
Chuck Negron, former Three Dog Night singer, performs.
Chuck Negron, former Three Dog Night singer, performs.

Along with very good voices, the three vocalists that made up Three Dog Night, one of the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll between 1969-75, also had very good ears.

“Nobody really wrote songs for us,” said Chuck Negron, an original band member who will be performing at 8 p.m. Saturday as part of the Happy Together Tour at Palace Theatre in Albany. “But we did become very good at listening to songs, and we found some writers and we nurtured them. We had very good ears. We found songs, we picked them, and we became good producers.”

Three Dog Night, which along with Negron included vocalists Cory Wells and Danny Hutton and four other musicians, produced 21 top 40 hits, 10 platinum albums and three No. 1 songs, “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Joy to the World,” and “Black and White.” They didn’t write that many songs themselves, and instead used the works of songwriters such as Paul Williams, Laura Nyro, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson.

“When the three of us got together at first and tried to write a song, it produced a lot of anxiety and resentment,” said Negron, who turned 75 last week. “We just didn’t work well in that context. We started injecting a lot of personal stuff at each other and I can remember thinking, ‘Boy, this is bad.’ We had to do something or else we were going to break up.”

So, the trio went after songwriters and songs that had in most cases already been recorded, found four good musicians to back them (Jimmy Greenspan on keyboards, Joe Schermie on bass, Michael Allsup on guitar and Floyd Sneed on drums), and then headed out on tour opening for bigger acts, such as Steppenwolf and Vanilla Fudge.

“We were trudging along, serving as an opening act, and then we released ‘One,’ by Harry Nilsson, and then we were discovered,” said Negron. “We were performing in venues with 15,000 people with some big groups, and the next time around those venues wanted us by ourselves. ‘One’ really was our big break.”

In 1974, things started changing. Allsup and Sneed left to form their own band and in 1975 Negron began doing drugs heavily and became addicted to heroin.  He suffered throughout the ’70s and ’80s before finally overcoming his addition in 1992.

“I’ve been sober for 25 years,” he said. “There were a lot of casualties during that time period, and there was a lot of mayhem in my life. In the group we all went our separate ways. I had money and I had the addiction, so I was very sick. Fortunately, you realize that if you’re going to continue to drink and do drugs, then you’re going to die. You have to change your attitude and follow those 12 steps that Alcoholics Anonymous gives you. Obviously, it was a big change in my life.”

Negron grew up in the Bronx and, after graduating from William Howard Taft High School, headed to a community college in California to play basketball. He now lives outside Los Angeles and performs about 50 to 60 times a year.

“I’m very grateful that I still have this opportunity,” said Negron. “I still take voice lessons; I had one today. My performance is very important to me. I know the people who come to listen have some serious connection to me and the music, and I don’t want to disappoint them. I was a big part of their lives and I want to leave them with a good impression.”

As for his days with “Three Dog Night,” Negron says they were one of the most unique bands in rock ‘n’ roll.

“How do you do ‘Mama Told Me Not to Come,’ by Cory, which was something like rap, just brilliant, and follow that up with something like ‘Out in the Country’ or ‘Easy to be Hard,'” said Negron. And then we did ‘An Old Fashioned Love Song,’ and followed that up with ‘Never Been to Spain.’ We were a real force to be reckoned with.”

And as for singing the lead on “Easy to Be Hard,” the hit song from the 1968 musical, “Hair,” it was far from easy, according to Negron.

“It’s not at all easy to do technically because you start out very soft and very airy, and then you go from half chest and half falsetto into this huge full voice at the end,” said Negron. “No it’s not easy, but it’s a great song.”

Performed by Lynn Kellogg on Broadway and Cheryl Barnes in the 1979 film for Hollywood, “Easy to Be Hard” climbed to No. 4 on the charts when Three Dog Night, with Negron singing the lead, released the song in 1969. It had earlier been released by Jennifer Warnes but never gained any traction, failing to reach the top 100 on the U.S. Billboard charts.

“I was home watching TV when I saw Jennifer Warnes do it,” remembered Negron. “She sang the song, and did a great job, but I thought maybe the phrasing was off here and there. I checked the charts and nothing was happening with it, so I thought maybe we should do it.”

When Wells called Negron after watching the same show and suggested he do it, Negron didn’t need any more convincing.

“Cory called me and asked me if I had heard the song, and I said, ‘yeah, I just watched it, too,'” remembered Negron. “He told me I should do it, so when Cory said that, that kind of verified what I was thinking. If he thought it was a good song, and that I should do it, I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.'”

“Easy to Be Hard” got as high as No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard chart in September of 1969. It was one of nine Three Dog Night hits that reached the top 5 between June of 1969 and May of 1974.

Joining Negron and his band at the Palace Saturday night with be the Turtles, featuring Flo & Eddie, the Association, the Cowsills, the Box Tops and Ron Dante of the Archies.

‘Happy Together Tour’

WHERE: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $82.50-$52.50
MORE INFO:, 465-4663

Top 10 Hits by the Three Dog Night Songs on the U.S. Billboard Charts

  • No. 1 — Black & White, Sept. 1972
  • No. 1 — Joy to the World, April 1971
  • No. 1 — Mama Told Me Not to Come, July 1970
  • No. 3 — Shambala, July 1973
  • No. 4 — The Show Must go On, May 1974
  • No. 4 — An Old Fashioned Love Song, Dec. 1971
  • No. 4 — Easy to be Hard, Sept. 1969
  • No. 5 — Never Been to Spain, Feb. 1972
  • No. 5 — One, June 1969
  • No. 7 — Liar, Aug. 1971
  • No. 10 — Eli’s Coming, Nov. 1969

Top 20 Hits

  • No. 12 — The Family of Man, April 1972
  • No. 15 — Out in the Country, Oct. 1970
  • No. 15 — Celebrate, March 1970
  • No. 16 — Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here, Aug. 1974
  • No. 17— Let Me Serenade You, Dec. 1973
  • No. 19 — Pieces of April, Jan. 1973
  • No. 19 — One Man Band, Jan. 1971

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