Saturday, April 17, 1971

Three Dog Night “Joy to the World” hit #1

Joy to the World

Three Dog Night

Writer(s): Hoyt Axton (see lyrics here)

Released: February 1971

First Charted: March 5, 1971

Peak: 16 BB, 16 CB, 16 GR, 15 HR, 1 CL, 24 UK, 16 CN, 8 AU 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 3.36 video, 137.0 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Three Dog Night was an usual group in that it featured not one, but three different vocalists. Cory Wells and Danny Hutton first came together and then recruited their friend and fellow singer Chuck Negron. They formed the group in Los Angeles in 1967 with guitarist Michael Allsup, keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon, bassist Joe Schemie, and drummer Floyd Sneed. Their name came from an Australian saying that if it’s cold in the outback, you sleep with one dog to keep you warm. If “the mercury dips so low that your blood turns to ice that’s a three dog night.” FB

Their chart hits relied on outside songwriters. Their first top-40 hit in 1969 was a cover of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” followed by top-10 hits by Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro, and the song “Easy to Be Hard” from the musical Hair. They first reached #1 in 1970 with Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”

Their next #1 song came courtesy country singer Harry Axton. He originally wrote “Joy to the World” for a children’s animated television special called The Happy Song. When it didn’t go into production he shopped the songs independently. FB He was opening for Three Dog Night at the time and showed up to their recording studio one day and played them “Joy to the World.” Cory Wells didn’t like the song, but the rest of the group loved it.

They recorded it with Chuck Negron on lead vocals, but didn’t originally intend it to be a single. The lead single was “One Man Band,” which reached #19. The a DJ out of Seattle named Lary Bergman plucked the song off the group’s Naturally album and started playing it. Within a few weeks it went to #1 in Seattle. SF After reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, it became their record company’s best-selling song of all time. FB

It also gave Hoyt the distinction of being the first songwriter to hit #1 whose mother had also accomplished the distinction. FB In 1956, Mae Axton was a co-writer on Elvis Presley’s first chart-topper, “Heartbreak Hotel.”


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Three Dog Night
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 291.
  • SF Songfacts

First posted 9/14/2023.

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