Three Colors was formed in 1981 at Connecticut College in New London as a post-punk trio by guitarist
Chris Harford, bassist Hub Moore, and drummer Barry Stringfellow. After recruiting Hub's brother Max to play keyboards, they moved to Boston and began playing locally at clubs such as the Rat, Storyville, and the Channel -where they managed to open shows for the likes of the English Beat, Bowowow, and Jah Wobble within a mere eight months of their arrival. For the first few years of their development, the band touched on a number of musical styles; starting from a punk and ska influenced 'new wave' and culminating in a virtually unlistenable mutation of Mission of Burma and XTC that one local critic at the time, known for scoring tapes on a one to ten scale, called 'un-ratable'. This first chapter of Three Colors' story closed with the band being knocked out of the WBCN Rock 'n' Roll Rumble by Smegma and the Nuns.

Living together in a house in Brighton that is somehow still standing, the group pressed on and finally came up with/down to a much simpler, more direct pop style that would become their signature sound. With the timely addition of the fluid sax playing of Dana Colley, they recorded their first E.P. -produced by Paul Q. Kolderie of the young Forte Apache Studios- and released on the band's own Soul Selects label in 1985. The disc contained the local radio/video hit "One Big Tree" and went on to sell an estimated 5,000 copies in the states and in the U.K. where it was licensed by the Making Waves label.

At this point the group was playing extensively up and down the East Coast and had created a good sized following among the clubs and colleges there. They were truly a 'party' band with a live show that featured the showmanship of Harford, the sax playing of Colley, and the many songs of Hub, Chris, and Max -as well as a large number of cover songs ranging from Bill Withers to Roy Orbison and Howlin' Wolf. They had created a unique pop sound based on bouncing rhythms, saxophone, and a lot of vocal harmony. One critic aptly described it as 'ear candy'. They shared a lot of bills with local bands Lifeboat, Miracle Legion, O Positive, and Treat Her Right as well as opening for national acts as diverse as Toots and the Maytals and the Violent Femmes. One highlight from this period was having the Femmes' Gordon Gano sing his "Blister In The Sun" with the band at T.T.'s in Cambridge.

After reading an unfathomably positive review in England's NME the group decided to try their hand in London; having felt that they had done about all they could do in Boston and wanting to take what they saw as the next step. They then took on the writer of said review, an Englishman by the name of Tony Fletcher, as their manager and, with the help of a publishing deal with Virgin Music U.K., relocated (against Tony's better judgement) to London. This stint began well, with the band doing shows with Billy Bragg and the Alarm and recording for the BBC, but proved to be somewhat troublesome; not only because the pubs closed at eleven, but also due to the fact that the Making Waves label went bankrupt about a month after they got there -thus removing their one calling card (the aforementioned E.P.) to the clubs and colleges of the U.K.

Somewhat undaunted, they took it upon themselves to make another record, which they did in 1987. This disc, titled "This Is Norwood" -after their grayer than gray adopted neighborhood- was also released on Soul Selects and found the band spelling Colours with a 'U' which got them a fair amount of (deserved) flak when they finally returned home.

Three Colors came back to the states later that year and took up temporary residence in an old schoolhouse in Princeton, NJ as they had all moved out of their apartments the previous year and had nowhere to go. Upon returning to Boston, they found that their popularity had increased due to their new 'international' status and despite the fact that their second record was only available as an import from Britain.

Though they continued to play extensively, the band's musical direction was beginning to splinter as a more rootsy/folky element -that had first been developed while playing numerous acoustic shows in Boston- started to surface in the songwriting of Chris, Hub, and Max. The sonic cohesion of the band's first record was becoming less and less applicable to the songs they were writing at this later point. Despite some interesting collaborations including recordings featuring Mick Taylor and Corky Lainge, the end was near.
The last leg of the Three Colors story featured the addition of the infamous J.G.Goetchius on piano
who replaced the departed Max Moore. The band finally called it a day in late 1988 and, for the most part, are still good friends. In fact,
Chris and Hub have continued to work on projects together including Chris' 1992 Elektra debut "Be Headed" and the 1998 cd, "HUB", released on Slash/London and produced by Chris. Dana, of course, went on to rock stardom with Boston's own Morphine.

-George Mcgillicutty


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