3's a Crowd was a folk rock band originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, that existed from 1964 to 1969, spending most of that time in Toronto and Los Angeles. The group had some moderate Canadian chart success, but is particularly notable for the wide range of Canadian musicians who passed through its ranks and would later establish successful music industry careers of their own, including Bruce Cockburn, Colleen Peterson, David Wiffen, Trevor Veitch, and Brent Titcomb. 3's A Crowd is also remembered for its association with Cass Elliott, who co-produced the group's sole album release.
The group was formed in 1964, and was originally called the Bill Schwartz Quartet (though no one named Bill Schwartz was actually in the group.) The group initially consisted of Donna Warner, Trevor Veitch and Brent Titcomb. In 1966, the group moved to Toronto, released two singles, and acquired new members Richard Patterson, David Wiffen and Comrie Smith. Smith was later replaced by Ken Koblun. In 1967 and 1968, 3's a Crowd played the folk music clubs in Southern California, including the Ash Grove in West Hollywood and the Ice House in Glendale, sometimes bringing Jim and Jean as an opening act.
In the mid 1960s they were spotted performing at the Riverboat (Toronto, Canada) by one of the entertainment co-ordinators for the Ontario Pavilion, Expo '67 (held in Montreal, QC, in 1967) and were subsequently hired for a gig at the Pavilion in late August and early September. The drummer for at least part of the gig was introduced as Cubby O'Brien (not a Canadian). He can be seen breefly in a video clip taken during a visit to their booth by Mama Cass (Elliot). Also in mid-September they went to Bell Studios in New York where they recorded three songs that were produced by Rick Shorter.
In 1968, they recorded Christopher's Movie Matinee, their only album. The band broke up shortly after its release. The album was produced by Cass Elliot and Steve Barri. Bruce Cockburn, who briefly joined a later version of the group, does not perform on the album, though three of his songs are included. Fellow Canadian folkie/rocker/musician Murray McLauchlan also contributed one song, "Coat Of Colors" which was his first recorded songwriting credit. The song doesn't appear to have been recorded anywhere else, and was issued as the b-side of the bands "Bird Without Wings" single (A-side written by Cockburn). McLauchlan does not appear to have joined the band at any point. Donna Warner was the primary singer, but other band members, particularly David Wiffen and Brent Titcomb, also sang lead. They did a slow, military rendition of "(Let's) Get Together" by Chet Powers, and had a minor hit with their own song "Bird Without Wings".
Noted reviewer Richie Unterberger considers their lone album to be "an average, melt-into-the-crowd pop-folk-rock album, somewhat similar to The Mamas & the Papas and We Five (though closer to the We Five)." He also notes the presence on the record of Ken Koblun, Canadian bass player, associate of Neil Young during his early career and sometime bass player with Buffalo Springfield. Koblun had chosen to join 3's a Crowd rather than continue with an early version of the Buffalo Springfield.
A related documentary, Christopher's Movie Matinee, under the sponsorship of the National Film Board of Canada, was released in 1968, using some of the same songs and some of the same musicians. The film is about 1960s Canadian counterculture.
A revised version of the band reformed briefly in 1969, and appeared on a Canadian variety television program entitled "One More Time". By this point, however, none of the three original members remained in the group; the lineup consisted of Bruce Cockburn, Richard Patterson, David Wiffen, Colleen Peterson, Sandy Crawley, and Dennis Pendrith. The group toured for most of the first half of 1969, with Crawley dropping out very early on. Cockburn soon left to pursue his solo career, and the group disbanded permanently in 1969.
Since the group's demise, Bruce Cockburn has had significant success as a solo act, as did Colleen Peterson and, for a time, David Wiffen. Sandy Crawley and Brent Titcomb also developed solo careers, while Richard Patterson, Dennis Pendrith, and Trevor Veitch continued their careers as accompanists for many years after the breakup of the group. Donna Warner did not continue her music career after her departure from the group. Comrie Smith's subsequent involvement as a professional musician does not appear to have been documented, although he was quoted extensively by Mojo magazine in a feature article about the release of Neil Young's Archives CD boxed set - because Smith had backed Young on some of the early recordings. (Young's associations with the group create their own fascinating web, what with both Smith and Koblun playing with him in his early days, and Donna Warner having sung with him in Toronto.)
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1966||"Bound To Fly"||34||Non-LP singles|
|"Bird Without Wings"||61||Christopher's Movie Matinee|
|1968||"Let's Get Together"||70|
|"Coat Of Colors"||—|
|Release date||Title||Chart positions|
|May 1968||Christopher's Movie Matinee||—|