We’ve covered quite a bit in the first two parts of this series of interviews with Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron, including why the band isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, big hits “One” and “Joy to the World,” what does Negron want be his tomb and what classic songs he likes better to perform live. Today, we examine when Negron knew he had a good voice, and why the Three Dog Night finally split. Below are edited excerpts from a longer phone conversation.
Jim Clash: When did you know you had a good voice?
Chuck Negron: When I was eight, my twin sister and I were placed in an orphanage. My mom couldn’t take care of us. They had a choir there. My sister got in, but for some reason I couldn’t. I remember thinking, “I’m better than that guy.” When the doo-wop groups sing in the corner, I’d join them from a distance. Finally, they asked me to come and sing with them. So I knew other people liked what I did. Then I realized that I can do things that not many people can do. Plus it was fun. In a weird way, I knew I could sing before I knew I could sing [laughs].
clash: Have you ever picked up a musical instrument, say guitar?
Negron: I fiddled with writing the strings, but I’m really sad that I didn’t go any further. When all the kids were doing their music, I would play basketball. I would come home and eat and go to bed. I’m really sorry now that I didn’t spend time like these guys, but I had this other love for the sport. However, it made me very unconventional in my harmony choices. I didn’t know the rules. At Three Dog Night, the producer will say, “Where did you get this?” I will answer, “I don’t even know what this is [laughs]. “
clash: What a night of running for the three dogs. Why are you all divided?
Negron: The fight is not over, as is the case with many bands. We were close, but that was a competitive tension. You had three solo artists. I made my first recording when I was 15 years old. We actually argued about the songs, but we never got into it until I did drugs and then people got frustrated because the work wasn’t done. Danny [Hutton] He stopped appearing on shows, and was spending a lot of money on the road on cocaine. I was working. Three Dog Night was given its first million sellers [”One”] And most recently, in 1976, “The Show Must Go On”. Danny and Joe Shermy were eventually fired, for drugs. Our last show at the Greek theater in 1976, the only three remaining members were me, Cory [Wells] and Jimmy Greenspoon. There was only one physical altercation when he hit Danny Corey. Corey was a New Yorker, so he punched him in the nose [laughs]. Then Danny said to me, “Chuck, hit me, hit me.” I had no context, I didn’t see what happened. She chases after Cory, asking him what he’s doing. Later, I find out that Danny hit him first.
Danny had a nurse for about a year to keep him on the road. Literally, the poor man was jaundiced, yellow. She gave him B-12 shots and the rest. Finally, she said she couldn’t do that anymore, and that he was dying. We had to let Danny go, not just for us, but for him. The other thing is that Danny didn’t have as much talent as Cory and I, so the band was naturally drawn to those who were producing. As Danny became less powerful, it really affected him. He went from being someone who ran the show to being a frivolous person in the broadest sense. It literally took him from this fun and charming guy to what he has become. At first, I thought Danny would be the driving force in the band. He even brought in Brian Wilson to produce our debut album. After all that was said, he still had a good sense of humor. He had the people who made our clothes design the old nurse’s clothes, and they had her wear them. This poor woman [laughs].
clash: So was Danny and drugs then?
Negron: That and the business, the managers, who kept us on the road constantly. We make two albums a year, a great recording contract where if we make recordings on time, we get big rewards. When we got out of the way they would lock us up in the studio with guards at the door not letting us out, masseuses in, etc. What a life, isn’t it? But this worked us to death. Then, when management saw things were heading south, they didn’t stop. They worked with us more, believing that the band was going to die. It was terrible. We were on cocaine, then went down to sleep. Unfortunately, Danny was the source of things. Turn me into all of that. He knew the right people. I dropped out of college as a basketball player. I was never high until I was in my mid-twenties. I never drank. Anyway, it was a crazy time.