Sunday, July 31, 2016

Three Dog Night's Chuck Negron has message for music industry

This morning at church, our acting music director asked the question (in front of dozens of youth there for a weekend retreat), "How many of you remember Three Dog Night?"  If you are down here at the front, I'm sure you don't," he said.  "They had a song call ONE, 'One is the loneliest number that you'll ever know..."

I punched Howard, and whispered, "Wow the choir is going to sing ONE or maybe JOY TO THE WORLD, Jeremiah had a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine, or TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS or MAMA, TOLD ME NOT TO COME."  But I really couldn't see how those wonderful old tunes would fit in the church service.

He went on to point that Jesus was the One way to salvation, the one savior.

But I couldn't help but think of my own Three Dog Night experiences.  I was bad and not listening to most of the rest of the service.

When I was a young teenager, 15-17, my group of friends and I loved Three Dog Night.  We followed them from concert to concert, in stops including Memphis (many times), Shreveport, Jackson and Greenville.  If we could't drive that far we could buy a ticket on the small Southwestern Airline, the one with the smiley faces, for about $50.  Off we went.

My absolute favorite of the three was the beautiful, perfectly mustachioed Chuck Negon.  He could hit those high notes like no other, and with his long hair and fringe, he was IT. Or so I thought.

When we were in Shreveport to see them, one of my friends and I got up to go to the restroom and walk around.  We spotted one of their roadies and spoke to him by name.  He gave us two back stage passes and go sit on those drum cases right off stage.  My heart was pounding, but I was also a little scared.  I might have been 16 at the time.  So off we went to the stage.  It was magical. I could see the sweat when he flung his long hair and the fringe swayed with the music.

I was having the time of my life until I spotted our other friends sitting in the audience.  They must have wondered where we were, and when they saw us one in particular looked like she might throw up.

Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Corey Wells, who died last year. Photos by

After the concert the roadie looked at us and asked us to come back to the hotel with them.  While this was cool and all, my radar said no.  Big Mistake! I looked at my friend, and we disappeared. We saw the same roadie at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis the next year and he didn't remember us or gives another backstage pass.  Good decision.

The band grew apart as most bands do.  Chuck's gigantic heroin habit, mostly to blame.  After going to rehab countless times, he finally hit bottom.  In his biography "Three Dog Nightmare" he recounts his addictions, failed relationships, trips to rehab and the journey back.

In 2013 Chuck released the third edition of his best-selling autobiography, Three Dog Nightmare, which chronicles his personal life and death struggle with addiction and the miracle that saved his life on September 17, 1991. Chuck has been clean and sober now for nearly 24 years.  Chuck spent over two years writing his book Three Dog Nightmare and recorded the accompanying soundtrack CD entitled “The Long Road Back.” from Three Dog Nightmare 

“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 ongoing recovery. “I’ve been singing, performing and recording for over 50 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.” Three Dog Nightmare
Chuck Negron still tours as "Chuck Negron, formerly with Three Dog Night." The band tours under their original name.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Great summer read found in Circling the Sun

I love to just stumble upon a great book, not one whose author I have already read and like, not one that is on the top ten list, not one that just sounds good, but one that just finds me.

I am an Out of Africa fan.  I was mesmerized by the 1985 account of Karen Blixen (Karen Dinesen, Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke), who wrote under the pen name of Isak Dinesen, and her love affair with aristocratic big-game hunter Denys Finch-Hatton.

If you were a fan of the movie, you remember that their affair came to an end when Karen began putting pressure on Denys for more commitment in their relationship. What we don't know that he was ready to begin a relationship with Beryl Markham, and she is worthy of a book on her adventurous life.  In Out of Africa, Markham's character is named Felicity.

The daughter of famous British horse trainer Charles Clutterbuck, Beryl moved with her parents to Kenya.  Her mother did not like the African way of life, and soon returned to England taking Beryl's brother with her and leaving her in Kenya with her father.

Barely an adult, she became the first licensed female horse trainer in Kenya.  Besides her fame in the horse world, she became a master aviator and was the first person to fly the Atlantic east to west in a solo non-stop flight.

Beryl was a stunning woman, blonde, almost six feet tall.  She wore slacks and trademark silk shirts. She was married three times, and her list of lovers was impressive—including her friend Karen's husband Bror von Blixen-Finecke.  Her affair in 1929 with Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was allegedly cut short by the Windsors. And there are many others.

But back to Finch-Hatton.  When her friend Karen's relationship with him began to fail, Markham began her affair with him which lasted about a year until his fatal flight.

On a personal note, I don't see the appeal of old Denys.  Besides leading aristocrats on safari, he is not noted as having achieved much of anything, except being the lover of interesting women, according to one report.  He was no Robert Redford in my book.

Denys Finch-Hatton

Well I can't tell you much more about this work of wonderful historical fiction. McLain makes the dialogue sound like old Hollywood, wonderfully British except for Blixen. Markham, herself, wrote an account of those days in her memoir, West with the Night.

This book is a thrill from beginning to end.  McLain is also the author of The Paris Wife, another historical fiction account of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage to Hadley Richardson.

I can't wait to check out more of McLain's works.

Robert Redford and Meryl Streep as Finch-Hatton and Karen Blixen in the 1985 movie Out of Africa.