Back to Faces 14
From a humble Bronx, New York apartment to success and wealth far beyond anything he could imagine, the Chuck Negron story is an amazing saga. For what could have ended on a deadly downbeat is today a wonderful story that gives us all hope and faith that miracles do happen.
Rock-n-Roll first made a difference in Chuck’s life in the late 1950’s. By the age of 15, he had recorded his first single record and performed at the world famous Apollo Theater with his vocal group “The Rondells.” A stone cold dead silence ensued as the curtain rose on the Rondells. “We were not just the only white group on the bill,” Negron recalls, “we were the only white people in the building. But by our second verse, something magical happened. The audience started to cheer us on.” That night Negron learned an important lesson, that music transcends all barriers and differences that people might have. “That’s the power of music.” Soon after his Apollo triumph, the teenage Chuck Negron and the Rondells began haunting Manhattan’s famous Brill Building. “I came to believe that the difference between a good singer and a great singer was the songs they sang. I looked to see who was writing the great hits of the early rock-n-roll years. The same names came up over and over again; Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Mann and Weil, Bacharach and David, among others.” They would go from office to office in hopes of meeting some of these great writers to sing for them. They performed 10 to 20 times a day for publishers as well as record companies.
COLLEGE OR MUSIC
By 1961, it was decision time for his future. Chuck had received several scholarships to play college basketball. In addition, he had a desire to pursue a music career. Chuck decided to do both. He accepted an athletic scholarship from Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California, which was just a few hours from Hollywood. Chuck was later recruited by Bill Sharman, coach at Cal State, Los Angeles, a “stones throw” from Hollywood and the recording industry. Now in California, attending college and playing basketball, obtaining a recording contract was next on Chuck’s agenda. Columbia records came calling after Chuck and the Sorenson Brothers had radio success in central California with two single releases, “Sharon Lee” on the Marlinda Records and “I Dream Of An Angel” on the Heart Van Label. In 1965, Columbia Records signed Chuck Negron-Rondell to a recording contract. With his hoop life now behind him, Negron arrived in Hollywood to make a reputation as a recording artist and performer. “I learned a great deal while on Columbia. The producers and A&R people had total control. They picked all my songs, the arrangements and ultimately how the world would see me. I learned you must be more than just a singer. You must be able to define yourself in some special way. A unique vocal style, image or presence, through your song writing, or ability to pick great songs, arrange and produce them.”
REACHING BACK TO HIS ROOTS
In 1967, Chuck Negron became a founding member of Three Dog Night. A vocal trio whose roots would be in R&B, rock-n-roll and urban doo wop, but, whose music would be totally new and unique. Chuck felt one thing might be missing. Great Songs! Chuck went back to the publishers who represented the great writers he loved as a teenager. These publishers would also introduce Chuck to new, up and coming writers. Chuck brought Harry Nilsson’s “One” (Is The Loneliest Number) to the group. Chuck also selected and sang lead on Elton John’s first song to be released in the U.S., “Lady Samantha.” He also picked and sang Paul Williams’ “Old Fashioned Love Song” and “Out In The Country,” Laura Nyro’s “Eli’s Coming,” David Loggins’ “Pieces of April” and Hoyt Axton’s, “Joy To The World.” Chuck also discovered many other new writers as well. Built around the pop soul vocals of Negron and Wells, great songs, brilliant musicians and a powerful three part harmony – few bands were as consistently popular in concert or on the music charts. In an era when Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Motown were competing for chart position, TDN dominated the charts and sold 50 million records by 1975 – 90 million records sold to date.
A CAREER WITHIN A CAREER
The world was introduced to Chuck Negron and Three Dog Night in 1969 by the breakthrough – and the band’s first million seller “One.” Driven by Chuck Negron’s solo lead vocals on 4 million selling singles, three #1 records, (one which topped the charts for six weeks, “Joy To The World,”) five top 5 hits and seven top 40 hits, Negron put and kept Three Dog Night on the charts for six years. His soaring, soulful, four octave range and unique vocal styling became a part of the American landscape. His gut wrenching performance on the band’s follow up hit to “One”, “Easy To Be Hard” is now a pop classic, as is his beautiful and smooth vocal on “Old Fashioned Love Song.” Chuck’s unmistakable voice exclaiming “Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog” on the multi-Grammy nominated and 1971 Record Of The Year, “Joy To The World” is today a part of Americana, securing a place for Chuck Negron as one of the great singers in rock and pop.
While Chuck was with Three Dog Night they had a phenomenal 18 consecutive top 20 hits, 21 top 40 hits, 8 top 10 hits and 4 number one hits - not to mention 5 top 10 albums and 11 top 20 albums. “We were a self-contained band who performed all the music on our records,” Negron explained. “We picked all the songs, arranged them and were totally involved in production. We never had an A&R person or any record company interference. The band contractually had artistic control.” Few bands were as popular in concert. They pioneered stadium extravaganzas, prompting Rolling Stone Magazine in its 1972 cover story to exclaim “More Gold Than The Stones!” “Bigger Crowds Than Credence!” “Fatter Purses Than Elvis!” Some of their opening acts were the likes of Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, ELO and co-headliner billing with Led Zeppelin.
BEGINNING TO END
By 1975, two original members were unable to continue and had to be replaced. In fact, the sex, drugs, rock n roll existence, had taken its toll. Soldiering on after their last million selling single, ironically titled “The Show Must Go On,” the band released their last top forty hit “Til The World Ends” which reached number 32 on the pop charts. Both recordings were selected, arranged and sung by Chuck.
THE LONG ROAD BACK
Chuck’s best selling book “Three Dog Nightmare” chronicles his personal life and death struggle with addiction and the miracle that saved his life on September 17, 1991. Chuck has remained clean and sober ever since.
“In 1994, I studied voice for the first time in my life! I wanted to learn and be better than I had ever been. I discovered a new and wonderful passion for life and my music.” Chuck dedicated himself to a strenuous training regiment that made him stronger than he has ever been. “Live performances can often be like an athletic event, if you’re giving the audience everything you have.” Negron explains with a laugh, “I still train and utilize my vocal coach whenever necessary.” Negron performs upwards of 70 shows a year giving audiences the opportunity to hear his impressive volume of hits plus an exciting repertoire of new songs from his 4 solo CD’s. “Am I Still In Your Heart” was his first solo release in 1995. Then came a beautiful Christmas CD “Joy To The World” released in 1996. Chuck spent over two years writing his book “Three Dog Nightmare” and recorded the accompanying soundtrack CD entitled “The Long Road Back.” His fourth solo effort was “Chuck Negron – Live In Concert” recorded at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Chuck will be recording his fifth CD and filming his first DVD scheduled for release in 2004.
GIVING IT BACK
“I would have nothing without the people who cared for me and helped me find my way,” Negron says. Chuck remains active with several of the organizations whose aim is to keep drugs out of the music industry. Chuck also spends time helping the addicted. Cri-Help in North Hollywood, California has been most important to Chuck’s on going recovery. “I’ve been singing, performing and recording for over 40 years. I’ve always been grateful for my voice and my life as a musician. I look at it as a gift from God. It has afforded me the opportunity to touch so many people in such a beautiful way. Music has brought me joy, inner peace and comfort that I thrive on. I feel very blessed to be in the game again.”
1 As reflected On “The Billboard”, “Cashbox”