These two groups had parallel careers. The Guess Who broke into the Top 40 in April of 1969 with their first Top 10 hit “These Eyes”(#6). Three Dog Night’s first Top 10 hit, “One”, entered the chart a month later, and made it to #5.
Three Dog Night featured three lead singers…Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, & Chuck Negron.
The Guess Who…Jim Cale (bass & vocals), Burton Cummings (lead vocals, keyboards & guitar), Garry Peterson (drums), and Randy Bachman (lead guitar & vocals).
Both bands have interesting stories about how they got their names.
Three Dog Night’s name was suggested by Danny Hutton’s girlfriend, June Fairchild, who had read how native Australians used dogs to keep warm. On an extremely cold night it might take three dogs to keep warm…thus a “three dog night”. Maybe the name sounded appropriate because of the three lead singers.
In 1965, The Guess Who was actually named Chad Allan & The Expressions. They had a modest hit with “Shakin’ All Over” that year. When they released an album, printed on the cover were the words…Guess Who? It was meant to be a marketing ploy (to add some interest and mystery), but Instead, DJ’s called the band The Guess Who, so the group made it official.
From 1969 to 1975, Three Dog Night had 21 Top 40 hits, 7 million sellers, and 3 #1’s. Interestingly, each of the lead singers had a #1…Cory Wells with “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, Chuck Negron with “Joy To The World”, and Danny Hutton with “Black & White”.
The band relied on outside songwriters, and knew how to turn the songs into hits. They used clever arrangements and great harmonies. Harry Nilsson wrote “One” (#6), Randy Newman wrote “Mama Told Me Not To Come” (#1), Laura Nyro wrote “Eli’s Coming” (#10), Hoyt Axton wrote both “Joy To The World” (#1) & “Never Been To Spain” (#5), Leo Sayer wrote “The Show Must Go On” (#4), and songwriter Paul Williams helped them out with three hits “Out In The Country” (#15), “The Family Of Man” (#12), & “An Old Fashioned Love Song” (#4). Paul Williams also wrote big hits for The Carpenters (“We’ve Only Just Begun” & “Rainy Days And Mondays”), and for Kermit The Frog (“Rainbow Connection”).
Some of Three Dog Night’s other significant singles included “Shambala” (#3), “Liar” (#7), and “Easy To Be Hard” (#4). Although Three Dog Night never had another Top 40 hit after 1975, their hits catalog was so strong that various versions of the band have been touring ever since.
From 1969 to 1975, The Guess Who had 13 Top 40 hits, 3 million sellers, one #1, and a total of six songs that made the Top 10. While the number of hits for The Guess Who is lower than for Three Dog Night, you could add in another 7 for Randy Bachman’s BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive), and another 2 Top 40 solo hits for Burton Cummings. So, the number of hits of the two groups is very similar, but Three Dog Night had more hits at the top of the charts.
One advantage for The Guess Who is that Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman were the songwriters for “These Eyes” (#6), “Laughing” (#10), “Undun” (#22), “No Time” (#5), “American Woman” (#1) and “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” (a favorite album cut). Besides touring, songwriting is the major money maker for musicians.
It seems ironic that this Canadian group’s only #1 hit in the U.S. was the anti-American song “American Woman”. Maybe it was the line “I don’t need your war machines” that struck a chord with young Americans who were protesting the Vietnam War. Besides, it has a great guitar riff by Randy Bachman.
After “American Woman”, Randy Bachman left and formed BTO. The Guess Who’s songwriting was then done by Burton Cummings and Kurt Winter. Their significant hits were “Hand Me Down World” (#17), “Share The Land” (#10) and novelty song, “Clap For The Wolfman” (#6) [with spoken bits by DJ Wolfman Jack].
Meanwhile BTO had their seven hits from 1974 to 1976, including “Takin’ Care Of Business” (#12), “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” (#1), and “Roll On Down The Highway” (#14). The main single for Burton Cummings was “Stand Tall’ (#10) in 1976.
I use a combined playlist for these bands, with their songs alternating. I do the same thing with other bands that are associated in my mind…including The Buckinghams & The Grass Roots, The Yardbirds & The Zombies, and The Police & INXS. That way, there is a refreshing style change from one song to another, and yet the songs share an era.
3 Replies to “Three Dog Night / The Guess Who”
Thanks Phil. You know Mary loves Three Dog Night. And The Guess Who’s ‘Share the Land’ is one of my favorite albums.
Need to know, I need to know if Joe Peterson ever played piano for the Three Dog Night during the years of 1960’s, 1970’s, & 1980’s?
Editor: I’m not seeing Joe Peterson listed online as having been a member of Three Dog Night, or listed as an extra musician on their albums. Don’t know if he might have been a hired player for any live performances.
Three Dog Night and Guess Who performed at the same outdoor concert in SoCal back in the 1970s. There is no record of this anywhere. Why ?
Editor: A quick search showed a 1971 concert in Toronto that included both bands. I didn’t see one in California, but the listing of concerts looks to be very hit-and-miss for the 1970’s. So, the record keeping seems to be the problem.