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INTERVIEW: CHUCK NEGRON – September 2017

According to a recent press release: “Chart-topping music icon Chuck Negron known as the voice of Three Dog Night’s biggest hits made time in his busy touring schedule with the Happy Together Tour to visit with CNBC’s Squawk Box, Imus in the Morning, BeTerrific!, Do You Remember? and SiriusXM 70s on 7 channel recently. Negron guest hosted an hour of hits on one of his favorite Sirius XM channels, 70’s on 7. Subscribers can tune in to hear him sharing his favorite tunes from Three Dog Night and their peers anytime to online subscribers On Demand using the Sirius XM app or at siriusxm.com.” I recently spoke with Chuck regarding new music, recently discovered gems, his daughters, and more.

Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out for us, Chuck. We really appreciate it. There’s so much going on with you right now. But let’s talk about more of the latest fun pieces, and that is your new release, your new album, Negron Generations.

Chuck: Yeah, yeah. Very excited. My two daughters are singing background. They do a duet together on the remix of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and “Do I Love You.” And they sing lead on a couple of other songs with me.

Toddstar: It’s very cool to be able to work with your kids.

Chuck: Yeah, it was. When we started Annabelle was only 13. When we finished she was 16. And her sister was 21 to 23. So, they were young, they are young. And it was a wonderful experience. I wanted them to see what it was like for Daddy in the studio. Although they had worked with me a little when they were very young. Both of them have appeared on stage. Charlotte, the older girl, appeared with me at the Hollywood Bowl when she was ten, nine or ten, and her sister’s appeared with me in Vegas on several occasions. So, it’s a wonderful thing to share what I do with what they enjoy doing. So, it was a great experience.

Toddstar: Well, that said, and I’m sure you got to see your daughters in a different light. What do you hope their take-away was, or what did they bring to the table to say to you “Hey, Dad, I didn’t know this about you or what you did.”?

Chuck: Well, I think that they found out how much I enjoyed it, that it was an atmosphere where I was very relaxed and really enjoyed what I was doing, but yet I worked very hard. I would have to remember to take breaks so we’d eat and stuff, because I can’t just keep working. And they would, “Dad, we’ve got to stop and eat.” I think they learned that Dad works real hard.

Toddstar: That’s something every parent wants their child to know. You are blessing all of the Three Dog Night fans with three unreleased tracks on this. How did you happen to come across stuff that you maybe forgot about?

Chuck: Well, several years ago, right around 2000, seven of the Three Dog Night masters reverted back to me and Danny and Cory, individually, independent of one another. And I happen to have gotten a master of one of those records, so I went in and had it baked and everything, and I noticed, I thought – ‘What are these songs? We don’t even know what these songs are.’ So on this tape that I had were these three songs. And Universal had had a fire so the other masters were burnt, they were gone. So it was lucky I had this, because it was the only copy of these remaining songs. And it was three songs that we’d done with Jimmy Ienner up at Caribou Ranch in the 70’s, so it was very, really exciting, and thank God they were saved.

Toddstar: How do these songs fit now? Looking back, how would they have fit into the material back then in your opinion?

Chuck: Oh they were perfect Three Dog Night songs. And they’re very fascinating. Two of them really kind of speak to where Three Dog Night was at the time. Three Dog Night at the time we were doing this album, there was a lot of turmoil. We were kind of burnt out in the sense that we were doing two albums a year. We started, the band started in ’67. From ’67 to I don’t know what time this record was done, I think ’74, ’75. We needed a break. So the material was speaking of, “my Captain calling, and I think we’re going down”, and all this kind of stuff, and “save our ship, I think we’re going down”. And then “The Letter,” the one I did that was just kind of a love song.

Toddstar: Looking back over these songs, and the career that Three Dog Night had with the different material, you guys had twenty-one Top 40 hits. You topped the charts with “Joy to the World.” Looking back over all of that, how do you now pick songs that you are going to put into your repertoire on top of new stuff that you’ve done since Three Dog Night?

Chuck: When I do my solo show, I’m doing from seventy-five to ninety minutes, so there’s room for almost everything. The difficult ones are the shows that I do for like the Happy Together tour, where I do twenty-five minutes and then I’ve got to do four or five songs. So I just pick the biggest ones that I did. Because back then we had three charts. We had the Cash Box, Record World, and Billboard. So a lot of songs were number one on those other charts. So, in the end, we had a lot of number one records. So I kind of do those, do “Easy to be Hard,” and “Joy to the World,” and “One,” and celebrate old fashioned love songs… the ones that I did. That’s how I do it.

Toddstar: Very cool. Recently you’ve done a song “I’m on Fire” and released a very cool video for it. This song, as well as many of the songs on the latest release are a lot more personal and introspective than maybe some of your earlier stuff. What made you decide to kind of take that introspective and spiritual look at your life and your journey, and really put it out there for your fans?

Chuck: When I was writing it, it just kind of started flowing out of me. It was a time of my life where I was looking at my life and how blessed I was. When I thought about things, what was important to me, it kind of came out of me. It was stuff that I wanted to say and tried very carefully not to be preachy or say it in a way that was comfortable for me… talking about God, and just my life.

Toddstar: You’re on a healthier course. Celebrating twenty-five years of sobriety is no small feat. You’re coming out the back side of that. You said you had daughters sixteen and twenty-three, so they never knew that side of you. What was the pivotal turn for you to really push the fact that, “Listen, it’s been twenty-five years.” Is it pride? Wanting others to be healthy? Is it wanting to make sure everybody understands where you were and where you’re at now?

Chuck: It’s not so much just that I want people to know. People, there’s a lot of people that know, and they celebrate it. They usually mention on Facebook it’s twenty-five. So if I didn’t mention it, acknowledge it, they’d wonder if I was OK. So the reason I do it is so many people are. Each year they follow my sobriety. And I wrote a book, Three Dog Nightmare, so just kind of follow it up, it’s out there… my journey, and that I got sober… it’s already out there, so I want to just follow up and let everyone know I’m still doing it.

Toddstar: I’m glad that everybody still knows that you’re out doing it, because that’s how you’re able to get on things like the Happy Together tour. Chuck, looking at the songs on the new disc, and again the songs from your catalog and your storied career, what songs off the latest disc do you think blend the best with your catalog?

Chuck: They’re kind of all me, so what most of them do, “I’m on Fire” fits good, it’s musically I think a beautiful ballad. But there’s “I Live Alone,” it’s very kind of R & B rock. So I think the songs kind of blend into what I’m doing. They’re very eclectic, they’re very different, but yet they’re all me. So I think they fit well.

Toddstar: What is the one song that you almost have to play when you perform live, that you just kind of wish you didn’t have to play?

Chuck: I’ll be honest: none of them. Some nights “Easy to Be Hard” is very hard because it’s such a technical song. Not anyone can just sing that song technically, besides the fact that you’ve got to have a real voice just to sing it. Technically, it’s not an easy song. It goes from very, very soft to very big, back to the very, very soft again. So it can be very difficult. Plus, especially when I open up my voice on a seventy-five, ninety minute show, and some of the song are real, real big, so my voice is totally open and I’ve kind of pushed my natural voice a little past my falsetto, it’s technically difficult. So, technically some nights “Easy to Be Hard” is very difficult to do. But there’re no songs that I really just am tired of singing. And I think that the reason for it is that they’re all challenging to do. I do them in the same keys. When I was younger I put stuff in keys, so I had to work so I could perform them live and not look like some boring guy singing boring songs. So, no. I don’t mind. I would have thought “Joy to the World” I would have gotten tired of, but the people love it so much they’ll sing along. It’s just so exciting to hear them. They’re louder than I am. So that’s become a real joy to do every night. And I’m very lucky. I’ve not been tired of doing any of them.

Toddstar: That speaks to the power of each of those songs, that they held up that well, not only in the fans’ minds, but also in your mind.

Chuck: Very true.

Toddstar: You’re doing in excess of seventy, eighty shows a year. What inspires you to still get out there and do it year after year?

Chuck: I really love to sing. As my vocal coach, which I’ve never had in my life until I got older and my voice started getting tired after doing seventy shows, I started learning some techniques and stuff. My coach says that she’s never heard anyone that enjoyed making sounds than I did… the expression on my face when I sing. I just love to sing. And I love to really try to get better or to maintain what I did when I was forty, fifty years ago, maintain that. The only way to make the connection, this is my feeling, the only way to make the connection from the head to the heart where you make that beautiful connection… you’re in your head thinking, and then you let it flow into your heart, so it comes out real and honest as live. Because people are letting you know how they feel about it. That can’t happen in the studio because you’re not getting standing ovations in the studio. It can’t happen when you’re writing a song in a hotel room. It only happens on stage. That wonderful experience is part of a singer-entertainer’s life. On stage certain things happen there that will happen nowhere else. If you don’t do it, if I don’t do it, I’m missing out on a great part of the joy of singing.

Toddstar: Joy is a word you repeat a lot which kind of speaks to where you’re in life now. But, that said Chuck, looking back professionally, is there one or two steps that you made that you wish you could redo, or you just regret, or just wish you had that redo so to speak?

Chuck: Right around the third, fourth or fifth album, we started realizing that we should be writing more. When we started writing the very beginning, but we weren’t getting anywhere and we needed to get an album out there, and we were fighting, and I realized that we’d better get some material to get this album done. And we’d probably break up if we continued writing under that kind of pressure. So, the fifth album, we started writing. We got some great, great tracks. And it was taking more time because it was original stuff. You can’t put a time limit on it. We’re not talking a lot of time. We made two albums a year. What I regret is accepting the pressure from the record company and from our management to finish an album doing some of the material we already had and put the original stuff on the side. And I really regret it, because we never got back to it. Because we just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. We toured 210, maybe more days a year, putting two albums out a year. We just never had any time to write. So, I regret putting that on hold.

Toddstar: That makes perfect sense. On the other side of that coin, instead of something that you wish you could redo, professionally what is one of the things you’re most proud of, Chuck, what’s something you want to be remembered for?

Chuck: What Three Dog Night did, and Three Dog Night because we didn’t write, we didn’t get the credit that we deserved. I mean, 55 million records, 21 consecutive top forty hits. We sold out stadiums. No one did that. Actually Led Zeppelin was a guest at one of our stadium gigs because our management, not our management, our promoters wanted to sign him to do stadium gigs and they wanted to see what they were like. So, they came in the year so later they did them. But, we changed the business. Besides the Beatles, we did a couple of stadiums. We did nothing but stadiums. We did all stadiums. No one had done it before. We made it work. We brought rock and roll into the big time venues, bigger than had ever been before. Three Dog Night really doesn’t have that kind of cachet or we’d get credit for it. Even in Rolling Stone when they did our cover story, they say more tickets sold, more records sold, more money than Elvis, more than the Stones, and all this stuff. But for some reason we’ve kind of fallen through the cracks as far as one of the great groups from the sixties and seventies. It’s amazing that this group’s kind of fallen through the cracks as far as the recognition they should get.

Toddstar: Well the biggest thing about that, and this is where I was kind of going with it, is you guys weren’t together a million years.

Chuck: We had ten years.

Toddstar: You won’t find a band recording twelve albums in twenty-four years, let alone in the ten years that you guys did it. What was it, was there something besides the label that, I don’t want to say forced, but propelled you guys to where you were recording that much material that often?

Chuck: We came from a generation that was not afraid to work. We came from a generation that we were the first successful things in our family. We came from humble beginnings, our families did, everyone did well, but no one was rich. So, we embraced that, and with the ethic that we had for work; this was what was in front of us, and this is what we had to do. We believed that the management and the record company, because we were young, we were in our twenties, knew what they were doing. When they said two albums a year, we were like wait a second, how do we do that? They said, Well, your first two years you did. We had One, then we had Celebrate. That was ’68 and ’69. And then we did Live at the Forum in ’69. In that period, we had three albums in a year and a half. The band was a hard working band. We loved to rehearse. We loved to work on new stuff. We came from a background, we learned how to work. Our families worked hard. It was part of what life was about. And I think that had a lot to do with it – that we just knew how to work.

Toddstar: There’s no doubt about that, Chuck. And it’s good to see you’re still working at it. So, we wish you well with furthering the reach of Negron Generations, your new album.

Chuck: Thank you so much.

Toddstar: Here’s hoping we can get you up near Detroit sometime soon.

Chuck: I would love it. I love Detroit. Grande Ballroom, that’s where we made our break-out in Detroit. I don’t know if you know the Grande but a great venue.

Toddstar: Wish I could say it was still there.

Chuck: No, no, I know it’s not. Anyway, thank you man.

CHUCK NEGRON LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INTERVIEW: CHUCK NEGRON - September 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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