From the late 1960s through the mid 1970s, Three Dog Night ruled the commercial radio airways. With eighteen consecutive top twenty hits, four number one songs, and five top ten albums, the voices of lead singers Cory Wells, Danny Hutton, and Chuck Negron were heard day and night for years.
Recording songs written by legends such as Laura Nyro, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Paul Williams, Three Dog Night topped the charts until their rock & roll lifestyle caused them to crash and burn.
While Cory Wells and Danny Hutton have regrouped and are still successfully touring, Chuck Negron has gone the solo route. He is also in the midst of a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funding for the completion of a new album, which will include three previously unreleased tracks from Three Dog Night.
Currently on the road as part of the Happy Together Tour, which features other bands and singers from the same era including: Mark Lindsey of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Gary Lewis, Gary Puckett, and The Turtles, I recently spoke to Chuck about the Kickstarter campaign, the beginnings of Three Dog Night and the road he has traveled.
Kath Galasso (KG): How did you get involved with the Kickstarter campaign?
Chuck Negron (CN): Some friends of mine told me about Kickstarter about a year ago and I said I’m not interested. I come from a different generation where we don’t ask the fans to help us. It was a foreign concept to me. Then I watched some people who did very well with Kickstarter, who got far beyond what they wanted for an album or a movie. So I was having some difficulties with investors, where they were changing their deal and this stuff was so annoying, so I said “Let me give it a shot.”
Three Dog Night’s “One”
KG: One of the things you said about putting out the new album was there were going to be three unreleased Three Dog Night tracks. How does that happen? Where did these tracks come from?
CN: Years ago Danny, Cory and I made a deal with the record company that in twenty-five years we would own the masters to any records that we did from that time on. The record company basically thought we would be shot, so they made the deal. And we made seven more records that had many hits. So a couple of years back, those masters reverted to Danny, Cory and myself. I got physical custody and when going through the masters, I found three songs that were never released. Two of them I had a recollection about; one I didn’t even remember at all. When I listened to the stuff, it was great. But to bring them up to snuff, it’s going to take some money it’s going to take some money because they weren’t finished… that’s why they weren’t released.
KG: I was looking at some of the incentives you have for the Kickstarter. There’s some cool stuff there.
CN: For a ten dollar donation there’s one of two DVDs; one is live in concert the other is Biography of an Entertainer: The Chuck Negron Story. We have the book now in its third edition with a hundred pictures, Three Dog Nightmare. We just wanted to give something to people are getting involved. But it’s (the Kickstarter campaign) definitely not the easiest journey. There’s a lot out there and to keep people engaged and involved in my project is not easy. You either tap into a market or you don’t. But it’s a wonderful endeavor to learn out about this and define the market of people who would be interested in helping.
CN: You’re right, this is old stuff, this is not stuff that is around. Fortunately I had a locker and a young son, and I said “can you go in and see what’s in there?” and there were boxes of stuff.
KG: Back when Three Dog Night was together, having three lead singers was a very new concept. How did it come about that there would be the three of you singing lead, and how was it determined who sang what song?
CN: We did the songs we brought in. That’s why I got a head start with the band with “One” and “Easy To Be Hard,” and “Eli’s Coming” I actually gave to Cory, I was gonna do it. But it was time to get the other two singers on the radio, so everyone could see what the concept of the band was; that it was three lead singers. At that time, I was on Columbia records, Danny was on MGM and Cory was on MGM, and we were kind of stalling. We each made records and nothing happened. And we had been around enough to know it might be a year or so before we could make another record, so we decided to pool our resources. The industry in LA knew who we were, and the fact that we were together would mean something. And, in fact it did. That was the reason why the three of us got together; we felt for our careers that we needed to do it.
KG: And how did you guys really meet?
CN: I met Danny at a party for Donovan Leitch, and we became friends and hung out. I did some background vocals on some records he was doing. And Cory and Danny had done the Sonny and Cher tour together. So the three of us got together to sing and to see it this thing would work, and it did. It sounded great and we went ahead and did it.
KG: Now Three Dog Night is touring and you’re out there with the Happy Together Tour, what’s the story with that?
CN: Well, almost twenty-two years ago I got sober, and it just wasn’t a fit. I turned my life around. It was all to get well, it wasn’t to get Three Dog Night back together again. And I sat down with them and decided this is not a got neighborhood. My soul made a shift, and I walked away. They offered me a certain amount of money a week and it was a good living, and in three years I would have been a partner. But I didn’t want to be in that insanity. So I went on my way and they continued to tour, and they’re doing unbelievably well. And I’m doing well on my own. I make a nice living with these tours. I have my own band. I’m at peace.
KG: Talking about the Happy Together Tour, there are a lot of dates crammed into a short period of time, had you done that many dates in a row since Three Dog Night?
CN: You know what, they talk about muscle memory; that just kicked in. We (Happy Together Tour) did a three week stretch, six nights a week. By the end of two weeks, I was like… at home. I’m leaving again Friday, six nights a week for three more weeks. And it’s coming very naturally. My body just knows how to do it. I know what to do, get the rest and eat right, and it’s wonderful. I really enjoy this work.
KG: I was listening to an interview you did on a webcast and you were talking about always putting on your A Game because people are spending a lot of money to see you, and there’s a lot to choose from… and they’ve chosen you. I thought that was such a great quote because so many artists just mail it in, especially on the packaged tours. They go out there and it’s like they’re just putting in time as opposed to playing for the audience.
CN: Well that quote came from working with many artists and seeing many artists who didn’t even know they were done. In my estimation, go home, watch TV… cause you’re done. I felt for the people who paid; first of all because you’re squashing their dreams. Forget about the twenty bucks, forty bucks sixty bucks, you see faces smiling that turn into disappointment. It’s a terrible thing to see. And there are artists who do that night after night, and no one has told them “hey, get it going or go home.” I just didn’t want to be one of those artists. These people deserve more, especially when you’re tapping into their memories and squashing them. I want to be the best I can and I want those people to go “he’s better than he was.”
KG: What gets your heart pumping the most: walking out on stage, having the audience sing the songs back to you, or the standing ovation at the end?
CN: Actually, when I go for the big note and it comes like butter. That’s what gets me. But it’s all great. For me doing the best I can really lights me up, it brings me down if I don’t make them (the audience) happy.
If you believe the reviews from around the country, at seventy-one years of age, Chuck Negron is still making the audience very happy.
Link for more information on the “Then and Now” Kickstarter Campaign
Link for Chuck Negron Website
Written by Kath Galasso
OurVinyl | Contributor