CONCERT PREVIEW: Three Dog Night bringing ‘Joy to the World’ and Batavia Downs

Aug 2, 2018

On Friday night, Batavia Downs welcomes one of the most popular bands of the late 1960s and early 70s, Three Dog Night. The group had a remarkable string of 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits during their initial run.

There has never been three dogs in the band, but there were three lead singers in the original lineup, Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Buffalo native Cory Wells. The name of the band comes from an article actress June Fairchild was reading in Mankind magazine about aboriginal groups that slept with their dogs for warmth. A “three dog night” was a really cold night. Fairchild was dating Hutton at the time, and the band was halfway through the recording of their self-titled debut album when the record company pressured them to come up with a band name.

Hutton, Negron and Wells traded lead vocal duties on the band’s singles. The group recorded songs by some of the best songwriters in the business at the time, including Paul Williams, Laura Nyro, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Elton John.

The group’s most popular songs include “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “One,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and “Joy to the World.” Three Dog Night also recorded the first commercially available version of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Your Song.” They chose not to release it as a single as a courtesy to Elton John, whom they had met when he was an opening act for the band.

By 1975, Three Dog Night released their last album with the trio of Hutton, Negron and Wells. In 1976 they broke up, reuniting again in 1981 and releasing an EP on an independent record label that went bankrupt soon after the record’s release. By the end of 1985, Negron was fired from the band, and Danny Hutton and Cory Wells carried on the band’s legacy well into the 21st century.

In October of 2015, Wells passed away in Dunkirk, eliminating the possibility for a reunion of the original three vocalists. David Morgan, formerly of The Association, took over for Wells in November of 2015. The current lineup also includes longtime guitarist Michael Allsup.

The band’s song “Joy to the World,” a Hoyt Axton composition, was featured prominently in the hit movie “The Big Chill.” It has also been adopted by The Denver Broncos as their victory song at home games.

“Joy to the World” was originally rejected by Danny Hutton and Cory Wells, possibly because the original opening line was “Jeremiah was a prophet” as opposed to the now iconic state of “Jeremiah as a bullfrog.” It was Hoyt Axton’s first number one single, and it made him part of the first mother and son to have their own number one hits. Hoyt’s mom Mae Axton wrote the Elvis Presley classic “Heartbreak Hotel.”

By Thom Jennings, Batavia Daily News