Although no cause of death has been announced, Three Dog Night recently postponed dates so that Wells could receive treatment for severe back pain.
Three Dog Night announced Wells’ death on the band’s official website.
“It is with deep sadness and disbelief that I must report the passing of Cory Wells, my beloved band mate for over 45 years. Cory was an incredible singer – a great performer, he could sing anything,” Three Dog Night co-founder Danny Hutton said. “Cory was like a brother in so many ways. We had been together since 1965 and I am in shock at this sudden loss.”
An invitation to join Sonny & Cher on tour was the catalyst that eventually resulted in one of the most successful bands to emerge out of the late 1960s. Wells’ group, The Enemys, was the house band at West Hollywood’s Whisky A Go Go, when he met Hutton, a solo artist who was working as a writer/producer at Hanna Barbera Records. Wells, Hutton and singer Chuck Negron formed Three Dog Night in 1967.
The group went on to have 21 consecutive Top 40 hits and helped garner exposure for many songwriters who were embarking on their own careers, including Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, John Hiatt, Hoyt Axton, Laura Nyro, Leo Sayer and Paul Williams. Three Dog Night’s recording of the Elton John / Bernie Taupin composition “Your Song” appeared on the group’s 1970 album It Ain’t Easy, released several months before Elton’s version climbed up the charts.
Songs Wells sang lead vocals on included “Shambala,” “Never Been To Spain” and “Mama Told Me (Not To Come).”
While some biographies list Wells as having been born in 1942, Three Dog Night’s website reports the singer was born Emil Lewandowski on Feb. 2, 1941 in Buffalo, N.Y. The son of a single mother, Wells joined the U.S. Air Force and formed a band of interracial performers. Following his discharge he sang in a group called the Vibratos, which eventually morphed into Cory Wells and The Enemys.
Wells is survived by his wife, Mary, of 50 years, daughters Coryann Wells and Dawn Marie Cussins and five grandchildren. According to Three Dog Night’s management, the group’s next scheduled performance is planned for Nov. 6 at the Paramount Hudson Valley in Peekskill, N.Y.