|Left to right: Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, Chuck Negron|
The septet was huge for a long period of time and had a stable lineup for most of their major hitmaking years of 1969 to 1974. Three Dog Night had an unusual configuration: three singers who took turns singing lead backed by a four piece rock band who did not sing.
While 3DN was insanely popular the group never won any critical support because almost all of their singles rocketed into the top forty (a serious error in those days), they didn't write their own music, and they didn't have the image the music intelligentsia demanded from musicians of the era. No self respecting hippie would have anything to do with them.
The band's trademark and ace in the hole was the vocal trio of Wells, Danny Hutton, and my favorite, Chuck Negron. However, Wells was no slouch as his leads on "Try A Little Tenderness," "Eli's Coming," Mama Told Me Not To Come," "Never Been To Spain," Shambala," "Let Me Serenade You," and "Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)" all prove.
The singers were dynamic. All three could rave like a soul man and could woo the girls with a good love song or ballad. They could sing rock and scream like a banshee. Most bands didn't have one vocalist who was that versatile but this California outfit had three.
I met my future wife at college and the first off campus concert I ever took her to was Three Dog Night at The Spectrum, Philadelphia's big concert arena at the time. The band was at the height of their popularity and I was thrilled when they opened the show with a hit that was one of my favorites, "Family of Man." Later in the evening Negron sang their greatest album track, a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer." The memories have faded but I remember it as a great night.
So, here's to you Cory Wells, may you rest in peace.