Friday, October 23, 2015

Cory Wells R.I.P.

Cory Wells, one of the three lead vocalists of Three Dog Night, died on October 20 2015 at the age of 74.

Cory Wells was born Emil Lewandowski on February 2 1941 in Buffalo, New York. He was raised by a single mother, his father being married to someone else. His father died when he was still a small child. After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Air Force. After he left the service Cory Wells returned to Buffalo and sang with such bands as The Fidelitones and The Satellites. Eventually he joined a band called The Vibratos. The Vibratos moved to California where they adopted the name "The Enemys". It was while Cory Wells was with The Enemys that he adopted the stage name "Cory Wells". "Wells" was a shorted form of his father's surname (Wellsley) and "Cory" was the name of the son of The Enemys' first manager, Gene Jacobs.

The Enemys performed in various clubs in Los Angeles,  San Diego, Sacramento, and Las Vegas. Eventually The Enemys became the house band of the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The Enemys released their first single, "Sinner Man"/"Say Goodbye to Donna" on Valiant Records in 1965. Their next single, "Glitter And Gold "/ "Too Much Monkey Business" was released on MGM Records. The Enemys toured with Sonny & Cher. Their third single was a cover of the Billy Roberts song "Hey Joe", backed by the song "My Dues Have Been Paid". "Hey Joe"/"My Dues Have Been Paid" was produced by Cory Wells's future Three Dog Night bandmate Danny Hutton. The Enemys' last single was "Mo-Jo Woman".

While The Enemys had relatively little success as recording artists, they did make appearances on television and film. The Enemys appeared in the Burke's Law episode "Who Killed The Strangler?", along with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, in 1965. That same year The Enemys appeared in the Beverly Hillbillies episode "Hoe Down A-Go-Go". In 1966 The Enemys appeared in the movie Harper starring Paul Newman and Lauren Bacall. They made one last film appearance in the movie Riot on Sunset Strip (1967).

The Enemys broke up in 1967. It was about a year later that Cory Wells and Danny Hutton formed a new band with vocalist Chuck Negron. They considered various names, including Six Foot Three and Tricycle. They recorded demos under the name Redwood. It was Danny Hutton's girlfriend at the time, actress June Fairchild, who suggested the name "Three Dog Night" after reading a magazine article about aboriginal Australians, who considered a "three dog night" a particularly cold night.

Signed to Dunhill Records, Three Dog Night's eponymous debut album was released on October 16, 1968. The first single from that album, "Nobody", only went to no. 116 on the Billboard singles chart. A second single, their cover of "Try a Little Tenderness", did quite a bit better, going to no. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their third single would prove to be a charm for the band. Their cover of Harry Nilsson's "One" went to no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold. With "One" a hit, the song's title was soon added to the album cover.  The album peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard albums chart.

For the next four years Three Dog Night would have an impressive string of hit singles. They hit the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 with the singles "Easy to Be Hard", "Eli's Coming", "Liar", "An Old Fashioned Love Song", "Never Been to Spain", and "Shambala". They hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their cover of Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)", "Joy to the World", and "Black and White". From 1970 to 1973 their lowest charting song was "One Man Band", which peaked at no. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. From 1969 to 1976 Three Dog Night released ten albums. Their albums It Ain't Easy, Harmony, and Seven Separate Fools hit the top ten of the Billboard albums chart.

Unfortunately Three Dog Night's string of hits would not last. While in 1974 their cover of Leo Sayer's "The Show Must Go On" went to no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and their cover of John Hiatt's "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here" went to no. 16, their final single of the year, "Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)", peaked at no. 33. Their next single, "Til the World Ends", only peaked at no. 32 in 1975. Their only single released in 1976,  "Everybody Is a Masterpiece", did not chart at all. Their albums also fared badly. All of their albums had previously hit the top 20 of the Billboard album chart except for 1973's Cyan, which peaked at no. 26. Their 1975 album, Coming Down Your Way, peaked at no. 70. Their 1976 album, American Pastime, fared even worse. It only peaked at 123.

In 1976 Three Dog Night broke up. Cory Wells released a solo album, Touch Me, along with the single "Starlight", on A&M Records. He recorded another solo album, Ahead of the Storm, in 1978, but it remained unreleased until 2002.

In 1981 Three Dog Night reunited. In 1983 they released a new EP , It's a Jungle, along with the single ""It's a Jungle Out There". The band made an appearance in the television special Scrooge's Rock 'N' Roll Christmas in 1984.  In 1985 Chuck Negron left the band, and  Cory Wells and Danny Hutton continued Three Dog Night without him. The band continued to tour and released their third live album, Three Dog Night: Live, in 1988.  In 2002 Three Dog Night released their final album, Three Dog Night With The London Symphony Orchestra. In 2009 they released the single "Heart of Blues"/"Prayer of the Children".

There can be little doubt that the success of Three Dog Night was largely due to the vocal strength of its lead singers. Cory Wells, Danny Hutton, and Chuck Negron created three part harmonies that have rarely been matched before or since. Cory Wells himself had a soulful voice with a good deal of range. It was also extremely adaptable. He could sing anything from the rhythm and blues infused rock he sang with The Enemys to the more folk oriented sound of  Three Dog Night's cover of "“Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here”. In fact, it was this adaptability that perhaps allowed Three Dog Night to have so many hit songs. The band ranged from American standards ("Try a Little Tenderness") to pure rock 'n' roll ("Nobody"). Three Dog Night recorded songs by such songwriters as Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro, Hoyt Axton, Randy Newman, and Paul Williams. Arguably Cory Wells's death marks the end of the one of the most successful and versatile bands to emerge from the United States in the Sixties. 

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