Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night Interview: Happy Together Tour 2013

By Ray Shasho

Chuck Negron is the discernible voice and founding member for American rock legends Three Dog Night. Between 1969 and 1975, the group spawned (21) consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits with (3) reaching the number one spot. The group generated twelve straight gold albums and sold nearly 50 million records by late 1975. Nobody sold more records or concert tickets during this period than Three Dog Night.


The band prevailed by recording cover tunes penned by new and gifted songwriters while executing soulful & hip musical harmonies and delivering dynamic stage performances. Three Dog Night became one of the most commercially successful rock/pop groups of all-time and helped to launch the careers of countless music artists that would eventually become legendary. Some of Three Dog Night’s opening acts were …Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, ELO, Uriah Heep and co-headlining with Led Zeppelin. 

The Happy Together Tour 2013 will spotlight Chuck Negron along with The Turtles (featuring Flo and Eddie), Gary Puckett of the Union Gap, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere & the Raiders and Gary Lewis of The Playboys. The tour kicks off on June 8th (Chuck Negron’s birthday) in Biloxi, Mississippi and arrives at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Friday June 14th. Five legendary music artists that have generated over (60) Top 40 hits (half in the Top10) including (6) number one hits. The tour will span 54 cities in the U.S. and Canada.

 Tickets for the Ruth Eckerd Hall show are available at www.rutheckerdhall.com or by calling 727-791-7400.

CHUCK NEGRON was brought up in Bronx, New York by a Puerto Rican father and a British mother. Chuck became a street-corner doo-wop singer on the streets of New York. At age 15 he recorded his first single with the vocal group The Rondells. The band performed to a cheering audience during Amateur Night at the world famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. Besides his interest in music, Negron was also a star basketball player. He accepted an athletic scholarship to Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. He was later recruited by Bill Sharman, coach at Cal State in Los Angeles, but eventually chose a career in music.

In 1965, Negron and the Sorenson Brothers released two singles “Sharon Lee” and “I Dream of An Angel.”  After his success with the Sorenson Brothers, Negron was signed to Columbia Records as singer Chuck Rondell.

Chuck Negron met performer Danny Hutton at a Hollywood party. Chuck Negron, Cory Wells and Danny Hutton recorded three demos with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys under the name “Redwood.” Wilson wanted to sign the trio to a recording contract but the rest of The Beach Boys became impatient wanting to complete their own projects.

Three Dog Night was formed in 1967 by Chuck Negron, Cory Wells and Danny Hutton. The vocal trio was deeply rooted in R&B, rock and roll, and urban doo-wop, but the bands musical styles were unparalleled. The trio had hired backup musicians that included Jimmy Greenspoon on organ, Joe Shermie on bass, Mike Allsup on guitars and Floyd Sneed on drums. The group was signed to the Dunhill/ ABC Label.

Since his teenage years in New York, Negron had developed a rapport with songwriters. Because of his relationships, those writers introduced Chuck to new, up and coming songwriters. So Negron brought in a Harry Nilsson penned tune entitled “One” (Is the loneliest number) to the band. Soon after recording it, the song climbed to #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1969 and became their first gold record.

Their self-titled debut album Three Dog Night (released in 1968, also known as “One”) spawned the hits “One” and “Try a Little Tenderness” (#29 Billboard Hot 100 Hit). Suitable for Framing their second LP, spotlighted Negron’s beautiful yet haunting vocalizations on “Easy To Be Hard” (#4 Billboard Hot 100 Hit), “Eli’s Coming” (#10 Billboard Hot 100 Hit) A Laura Nyro composition and “Celebrate” a tune penned by Gary Bonner & Alan Gordon.

Three Dog Night Captured Live at the Forum (#6 on Billboard’s Hot 100) was released in 1969. The live performance was recorded in support of a Steppenwolf concert. Negron disclosed that Steppenwolf was the group that gave Three Dog Night its first big break.
It Ain’t Easy (1970) their fourth release, produced Three Dog Night’s second number one single, a Randy Newman cover song entitled “Mama Told Me (Not to Come).”

In November of 1970, the group released Naturally. The LP generated the bands biggest selling single of all-time Hoyt Axton’s, “Joy To The World” (#1 Billboard Hot 100 Hit) sung by Chuck Negron. The tune was multi- Grammy nominated and became Billboard’s “Record Of The Year” for1971.The album also produced the hits “Liar” (#7 Billboard Hot 100 Hit) and “One Man Band” (#19 Billboard Hot 100 Hit).

In 1971 Three Dog Night released a compilation of their hits called Golden Biscuits.

Harmony (1971)Three Dog Night’s seventh album featured two Top 10 hits … Paul Williams “Old Fashioned Love Song” (#4 Billboard Hot 100 Hit) and Hoyt Axton’s “Never Been to Spain” (#5 Billboard Hot 100 Hit).
In 1972, Three Dog Night released Seven Separate Fools which spawned the bands third number one hit “Black and White” written by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson. The album also generated a David Loggins composition entitled “Pieces of April” (#19 Billboard Hot 100 Hit). The arrangement was artistically performed by Chuck Negron. 

Cyan was released in 1973 spawning the hit “Shambala” (#3 Billboard Hot 100 Hit) written by Daniel Moore. The album was succeeded by Hard Labor in 1974 which produced the single “The Show Must Go On” (#4 Billboard Hot 100 Hit) written by David Courtney and Leo Sayer, and was followed by the album Coming Down Your Way. “Til The World Ends” from Coming Down Your Way in 1975 was Three Dog Night’s last Top 40 hit.   

Three Dog Night disbanded in 1976 but reunited in 1981. The band recorded It’s a Jungle in 1983 and it became the final album to feature the original singing trio. Negron’s drug problem became a hindrance and was dismissed from the band in 1985. 

To date …Three Dog Night sold over ninety million records worldwide.

The band continues to tour with original members Cory Wells, Danny Hutton, Jimmy Greenspoon and Michael Allsup.

 Chuck Negron’s solo career released four CD’S … Am I Still In Your Heart (1995), Joy To The World (Christmas CD 2001), The Long Road Back (1999) and Chuck Negron-Live In Concert (2001).

In 1999 Negron wrote his autobiography entitled … Three Dog Nightmare: The Chuck Negron Story. He followed its success with a second book … Three Dog Nightmare: The continuing Chuck Negron Story. The book describes his horrendous drug abuse including terrifying near- death experiences that encompassed two decades and the miracle that saved his life on September 17, 1991. Chuck has remained sober ever since. He remains active with several of the organizations whose focus is to help keep drugs out of the music industry. Chuck also helps the addicted. Cri-Help Drug and Alcohol Treatment in North Hollywood was extremely essential to Negron’s recovery.

Chuck Negron performs 70 shows a year and will be featured on this year’s Happy Together Tour 2013.

I had the great pleasure of chatting with Chuck Negron recently about life before, during, and after Three Dog Night. 

Here’s my interview with the legendary voice of Three Dog Night … CHUCK NEGRON.
Ray Shasho: How are you doing Chuck, where are you calling from?
Chuck Negron: “I’m good … Southern California.”
Ray Shasho: You’ll be kicking off the Happy Together Tour on your birthday, June8th in Biloxi, Mississippi and will be arriving at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Friday June 14th. Is this your first time on the tour?
Chuck Negron: “I’ve done Hippiefest. I’ve worked with Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan and actually worked with everybody but Mark Lindsay before, but yeah, it’s a great show!”
Ray Shasho: So you could have been the first NBA Rock Star?
Chuck Negron: “(Laughing) Yea, I started as an All-City ballplayer in New York back in the day when there were some historical names; it’s embarrassing just to mention them because that’s how old I am … Billy Cunningham, Connie Hawkins and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he was a sophomore when we all graduated. Then Bill Sharman who played for the Boston Celtics with Bob Cousy as the other guard, and went on to coach the Lakers to that record, the longest winning streak ever as their coach. Anyway, he brought me out to Cal State LA and when I got there he went off to the ABA. I kept playing until Columbia Records would sign me.”

“They’d say why did you miss this recording session; I heard you told someone you had a game? I said basketball. The guy said you can play ball if you want to but you can’t do both. So I left college and that was the end of my basketball career.  Once I got that deal with Columbia records, my focus was different. I was working on the weekends, singing with different bands, and then my own band and I lost my focus. I understand why they made me choose because now they knew they had my full attention.”
Ray Shasho: How tall are you Chuck?
Chuck Negron: “I’m just 6 foot 1; let me tell you something, I felt like a midget until I got into rock and roll. I was a shooting guard … just give me the ball and I’ll shoot it (Laughing).”
Ray Shasho: I wanted to let all my readers know about your basketball career … my neighbor here in the Bradenton/Sarasota area is Dick Vitale.
Chuck Negron: “What a fascinating and positive man that guy is. And way beyond broadcasting … a great coach and has had a wonderful career in basketball.  He’s one of those guys I enjoy listening to.”
Ray Shasho: I understand your father was Puerto Rican and your mom British?
Chuck Negron:”Yea-yea, my father was eating food, playing music and dancing and my mother was scrutinizing him (All laughing). As a matter of fact I just got back from Puerto Rico. I’m very close to my Puerto Rican family because they’re the family that’s alive. My mother and her family, most of them passed away except for some of my cousins. I went down to Puerto Rico and was inducted into the Puerto Rican music hall of fame.”
Ray Shasho: You always had the coolest mustache, I knew there had to be Latin roots somewhere (Laughing).
Chuck Negron: “I have a great-great grandfather that has a big ole’ stash like mine except his is even higher.”
Ray Shasho: Do speak Spanish?
Chuck Negron: “You know what … unfortunately I don’t. It’s embarrassing, especially when I go to Puerto Rico and meet the family and you’re the only one who doesn’t speak Spanish. Back then the families wanted to assimilate, so they didn’t want to teach their kids. You picked it up by them speaking Spanish in the house and in my house they weren’t because my mother was English. The only ones trying to teach me Spanish was my grandmother and grandfather and I wasn’t into it.”
Ray Shasho: Chuck, who were some of the musicians that got you interested in music?
Chuck Negron: “Ray, for me, it was that I heard different songs and I found out the writers that were writing all these songs, it was the song and the music, it was … Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller, Mann and Weil, Bacharach and David … but the people who were doing them back then was Ben E. King, The Drifters, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke … and of course these artists were unbelievable vocally. There were a lot of great vocalists including Johnny Mathis who did a whole different thing, but when he was young, that first album, I just never heard anybody sing like that and that’s where “Easy to Be Hard” came from and the other side of me, and the other side of “Joy to the World.”  It was hearing (this could be cool) someone singing soft and sweet. But it was the R&B stuff and just the great-great writers.”
Ray Shasho: Three Dog Night produced so many great hits from songwriters that had music that either wasn’t going anywhere or was brand new?
Chuck Negron: “When I picked “One” it wasn’t even out yet. They weren’t even treating Harry Nilsson as a singer/songwriter because the hit they had was “Everybody’s Talkin” which he didn’t write. As a matter of fact the two big hits he had he didn’t write. But my years in the Brill Building and Tin Pan Alley and trying to get to the songs … my thing was not to get to the bands, it was to get to the songs. When I came to Three Dog Night, I went back to all these publishers that I met when I was on Columbia Records. I put most of those songs together and brought them to Three Dog Night. When we met Randy Newman, his first album was out and he couldn’t get arrested. We started doing his stuff and helped him, and of course his great writing helped him too.”
Ray Shasho:  Three Dog Night began churning out Top 40 hits during a period when many of the 60’s Hit Makers were disappearing and hard rock albums were emerging.   
Chuck Negron: “We sold more concert tickets than anybody. We were selling out stadiums! Led Zeppelin approached our management to do a concert and we did a co-bill with them on a date we already had. We had it sold-out. We were basically there because we wanted them to sign with our management company. We were doing this way before anyone and a long time after and kept doing it. The band doesn’t have the cachet that some bands had and it’s a shame because we sold more tickets, we sold more records, more people loved us …and it’s ridiculous.”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with Mick Box of Uriah Heep several weeks ago and he was saying that his first American show was supporting Three Dog Night.
Chuck Negron: “Our manager heard them when they were in London and when we were over there we brought them over. They did a whole tour with us. We helped break them. These bands don’t say it, but without us, nobody would know who those guys were. They were playing in front of 20-25,000 people a night and they were a club band. But I like the guys with Uriah Heep.” 

“It’s interesting … we recorded the very first Elton John song; I was the first guy to ever sing an Elton John song. We went to London and he and Bernie followed us everywhere and took us to the studio and played their first album, and you very rarely hear Elton John say anything about how Three Dog Night helped them. It’s just a weird thing … guys complementing other guys is uncomfortable for them in some way.”
Ray Shasho: Hey, if anyone gave me my first big break, I’d be indebted to that person for the rest of my life … unfortunately that’s never happened.
Chuck Negron: “Trust me, I don’t get it. I always thank Steppenwolf because we opened up for them and if I were John Kay I would have fired us because after the first show they could not follow us. John let us open for him and without him no one would have known us. So I’m very grateful to him and the fact that he kept us on the tour, because if I was him, I wouldn’t have.”
Ray Shasho: On your website bio, you said that you never had record company interference in the band … explain why?
Chuck Negron: “We had a couple of producers, Brian Wilson being the first one, and it never worked out because of the family …in any rate, then we went to Steve Barri who was their big guy (The Grass Roots) and he didn’t work out, then we did Van Dyke Parks (Brian Wilson) and that didn’t work out. So by the time we were getting our last producer we told the record company, look, just let us do what we do. They said okay. What happened next is that we had a million- seller (“One”) and the record went like triple platinum. So when we went in to renegotiate the next album, we said we needed artistic control because it worked for us. And they said … no problem it works. So we had artistic control and the only time they ever called us was when we were late on one album and didn’t think we were going to make it on time, but we did.  But we had total control, and as long as we were having hits, which we did from day one to the end, they didn’t interfere.”   

“When it all ended is when Jay Lasker decided to move on to Motown and they brought in an accountant. It was the years when all the artistic people were eliminated or fired and they brought in accountants. The guy said you can’t have artistic control and we said we already do and it was the end of us. We couldn’t work like that.”
Ray Shasho: Chuck, I did read your book Three Dog Nightmare and it scared the crap out of me.
Chuck Negron: “It scared the crap out of me too.”
Ray Shasho: My cousin David and I shared a rock and roll journey together when we were teenagers including attending a ridiculous amount of rock concerts together and unfortunately he didn’t survive his addiction. I’m so glad you made it man.
Chuck Negron: “This is a fact, the difference between an addict and a normal person… the normal person can get far enough away from it or a moment of clarity where they just clean up. But an addict is mentally and physically addicted and obsessed and some never get to walk away and they die.”
Ray Shasho:  My cousin went to several different rehabs but unfortunately it didn’t help.
Chuck Negron: “I used these places as places just to get the pressure off.”
Ray Shasho: Chuck, I’m so glad you’re back on the straight and narrow, there’s been too much cataclysm in rock and roll.
Chuck Negron: “It will be twenty two years in a couple of months. I have been blessed with that.”
Ray Shasho: I heard an interview that you did explaining why you couldn’t reunite with Three Dog Night because Danny Hutton didn’t want to feel irrelevant or like a second or third wheel again?
Chuck Negron: “It never will because he’s the guy who put the band together and he saw it all slip out from under his fingers and there’s nothing sadder than a guy trying to cling on to something or control something that is out of his control. It was really hard on him and he really suffered many years because of that and coming from number one to becoming kind of irrelevant. He will never let that happen to him again. It’s a shame and the fans lose out. We can never duplicate that harmony again unless the three of us sing it.”
Ray Shasho: Chuck, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview, If you had a “Field of Dreams” wish, like the movie, to play or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Chuck Negron: “Jackie Wilson”
Ray Shasho: Chuck, thank you for being on the call today and more importantly for all the incredible Three Dog Night music that you gave us and music you continue to bring. We’ll see you on the Happy Together Tour.
Chuck Negron: “Thank you so much Ray!”

The Happy Together Tour 2013 will spotlight Chuck Negron along with The Turtles (featuring Flo and Eddie), Gary Puckett of the Union Gap, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere & the Raiders and Gary Lewis of The Playboys. The tour kicks off on June 8th (Chuck Negron’s birthday) in Biloxi, Mississippi and arrives at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Friday June 14th. Tickets for the Ruth Eckerd Hall show are available at www.rutheckerdhall.com or by calling 727-791-7400.

Chuck Negron official website www.chucknegron.com
Check out Happy Together Tour dates at www.pollstar.com
Chuck Negron on Facebook  www.facebook.com/chucknegron
Special thanks to Jeff Albright of The Albright Entertainment Group

Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at rockraymond.shasho@gmail.com

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