He talked to his smart watch. He squinted to read the set list. And he battled a case of the sniffles.
None of it mattered when Chuck Negron reached deep down in his blue-eyed soul to sing those joyful, immortal words: “Jeremiah was a bullfrog/Was a good friend of mine/I never understood a single word he said/But I helped him drink his wine…”
Negron, 76, was the top dog – lead singer – in Three Dog Night and he showed Monday in Savannah Center he can still howl with the best of ’em.
That’s what he did on “Joy to the World,” which hit the top spot on the record charts for nearly two months in the early ’70s. Three Dog Night was a hit machine, cranking out best sellers from the late ’60s to the mid-’70s.
Negron – along with Danny Hutton and the late Cory Wells – fronted the group. Three Dog Night combined rock and R&B to make its mark at the top of the charts.
“I was in my 20s when I made these songs and I didn’t know I’d still be singing them in my 70s,” Negron said with a smile. “I never expected to still be here tonight, but here I am.”
Sometimes, he needed a little help. Early on Negron carried on a conversation with his smart watch. “Your name is Chuck Negron; you are in Florida” he joked on stage, speaking in the robotic smart watch tone.
The Three Dog Night music catalogue is no joke and Negron pumped out the hits. He opened with “The Family of Man” and followed that with some more upbeat numbers: “Shambala” and “The Show Must Go On.”
The pace slowed when Negron – with help from his tight four-piece band – sang a couple of ballads. He brought emotion to “Pieces of April” and then offered a song from the musical “Hair.”
Negron explained that “Easy to be Hard” was recorded at the last minute when the record company needed a couple of songs in a hurry.
Negron really hit is vocal stride on “Eli’s Coming,” another song from “Hair.” He started the number slowly but kept building intensity and hit the high notes at the end. The audience, which also enjoyed the sounds of Rocky and the Rollers as the opening act, gave him a standing ovation.
Three Dog Night possessed a sly sense of humor and it showed in the group’s music. Negron was suitably freaky on “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” He sang like a guy who wanted, as the lyrics state: “whiskey in your water and sugar in your tea.”
“Never Been to Spain” is one of those songs with an irresistible hook that rocks into a pop symphony. “Liar” had a bit of a psychedelic edge, while “Celebrate” turned into a communal sing-along.
Harry Nilsson wrote “One,” which became another Three Dog Night hit. Negron sang it with a bluesy intensity.
But the big finish came with “Joy to the World.”
“It was No. 1 for six weeks in 1971,” Negron said. He gingerly moved from side to side of the stage as the people stood up from their seats to add voice to the music and show
Negron their appreciation. And the feeling was mutual.
“Thanks for coming out and I’m so happy to be here with you,” Negron said.
Tony Violanti is an award-winning journalist and writes for Villages-News.com.