Three Dog Night - Cory Wells

Time to talk about favorites from among the albums. As I recall, when we talked way back when you had two main favorites - "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Yellow Beach Umbrella." Talk about your favorite TDN albums and songs.

"A Change Is Gonna Come" was a favorite because it was another great singer most people forgot about after he died (NOTE: "Try A Little Tenderness" was also recorded as a tribute, to Otis Redding. -- T.W.).

Yep. We've talked before about how great Sam Cooke was. If we ever get together in an informal setting again, I'd love to hear you sing "Bring It On Home To Me," "Having A Party" or one of those other great Sam Cooke songs. But, you're right, "A Change Is Gonna Come" is really special.

Those lyrics spoke to me also. I just knew things were gonna change for me someday, too. I was born near the Niagara River and the rest falls in line.

And I remember you mentioning "Yellow Beach Umbrella" because you said "it takes to a different place."

"Yellow Beach" was not a favorite as much as it was outstanding in my mind. It was one of the lowest times in my life. A time when I just wanted to run away. No one was sober in the group and half were gone off to other places. The new guys were confused and scared it was all going to fall apart at any moment - and it did. We had new people producing, new manager, new musicians. It was not what it had been. I wanted out.
"Woman" was one of the sexiest songs I did with TDN. I really felt that song.   The only other song I felt that (about) was "Midnight Lady" off my solo album
(NOTE: The solo album was Touch Me, released in early '78. -- T.W.).

I'm sure the ladies will agree.

"Can't Get Enough Of It" was fun and again another song Jimmy and I liked a lot. I liked "Heavy Church" too. I think Danny brought that in.

Michael and Jimmy have both mentioned that one, so it seems that you all liked it.

It had a strange feel to it, like I was in the church. I think "Good Feelin' 1957" was one of the most fun songs I had making. We all laughed so had doing it. Danny was the first "Godfather" because he stuffed his cheeks with paper to get some different sounds, and I couldn't sing from laughter if I looked at him. We were singing about five o'clock in the morning, so we were all dingy. That was a great moment. Most of the songs I liked were not the hits. "Freedom For The Stallion," "(I'll Be) Creepin'," "Sittin' In Limbo."

It did seem that Three Dog Night, in tandem with Richard and Bill, had that Midas touch. So why did you change producers in '73, and was that a move you regretted later?

Yes, Richie and Bill had the Midas touch, and we were right there to make it all happen. No, I never regretted that. I thought it was time to try and get some sanity to our recording and thought someone else would have the power to help make it work, but I was wrong. It was Three Dog Night that was screwing things up, the producers just went along, including Bill and Richie. It became a party, and not recording.
I think that the last producer we had didn't have a clue about how to record (an album). He was there to soak up some money. Jay Gruska never got the shot he should have had with us as a producer. I think he did the best he could with what he had.
In the 80s I wanted to use this guy that worked as a piano player on my solo album, Touch Me. He was now producing for others. He was voted down in favor of Richie and American (studio). He was David Foster, who became - and still is - one of the hottest producers in Hollywood.

We've talked about this before, but you lost some friends and fellow performers to drugs. I remember you mentioning Sly Stone, who didn't lose his life, but his did lose his career. And there were others who lost it all ...

Yes, I never paid a lot of attention to what people were doing in their lives, but I started to realize that drugs and alcohol were starting to take their toll on people I knew directly and indirectly. I lost a friend and bass player in the Enemys. Rick was creative, funny and from San Francisco. He didn't get past 27.
Sly was on top of the world, a powerhouse in the music business. He was fresh, powerful and different. He traded all that for cocaine. We almost lost a few of our own, and, thank God, they let a higher power take over their lives. I never got into the drinking and drugs thing. I got into it for music. That was my passion and love, not being a party guy and trying to be "Mr. Popular." To me that took away from what I wanted to do and that was singing and playing music.

What does the future hold for Three Dog Night, and for Cory Wells?

To quote John Lennon, "If we knew that, we would all become managers and become rich." I think we are headed in some new musical territory. A time to experiment again, to create, to take chances. "If I don't do this, I will surely die."

But you don't have a record company breathing down your necks for four hits a year now.

I don't feel we have the pressure we had in the beginning. No deadlines to make. We do it when we feel it. I have things I want to do and I know Danny does, too. To push the edges and yet stay centered is a tough thing to do. But it can be done, I know ... we did it once ...

And you can do it again.

For me, I want it all. I want the new and exciting, but I want the simple life, solid ground, a comfort zone and safe harbor for my grandkids. To throw a baseball to my grandson or taking a summer walk with my granddaughter holding her hand and telling her all the wonders there are. These are the things they will remember, not that grandpa sang in a rock and roll band.

I'm sure you're right, but somehow, I think they'll remember that grandpa was a pretty good singer, too.

For more on Cory Wells, visit

(Portions of this interview first appeared in the Three Dog Night newsletter. Thanks to Madonna Nuckolls for her support and assistance.)

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