Three Dog Night's Cory Wells dies at 74; Ribfest performance still on for now
Like a lot of bands from the '70s, Three Dog Night saw a lot of members come and go over the decades. Unlike a lot of those bands, they were anchored by not one, not two, but three lead singers, who soundtracked the '70s with a steady feed of hit singles: One, Joy to the World, An Old Fashioned Love Song, Black and White.
One of those singers, Cory Wells, died unexpectedly on Tuesday. He was 74, and had stopped performing with Three Dog Night only last month due to severe back pain.
“Cory was an incredible singer – a great performer, he could sing anything,” his bandmate of nearly a half century, Danny Hutton, wrote on Three Dog Night’s website.
Having three lead singers – Wells, Hutton and Chuck Negron, who left the band for good in 1985 – may have played a role in the band’s general lack of critical acclaim; they were always viewed primarily as a vocal group that covered others' songs. It may also be why some fans who know Three Dog Night songs by heart might only now be learning Wells’ name. (For the record, he sang lead on some of the group’s biggest hits, including Eli’s Comin’, Mama Told Me (Not to Come), Try a Little Tenderness and Never Been to Spain.)
But it didn’t diminish Three Dog Night's commercial viability. In fact, they were due to headline the second night of St. Petersburg’s Ribfest on Nov. 14, and ticket sales for that night were already through the roof.
“It is horrible news,” said Tom Whiteman, who books the music for Ribfest.
Whiteman and other organizers only learned of Wells’ back problems earlier this week, and Hutton was already working on finding another lead singer.
"They knew Cory was not coming on Monday, so they were looking for a replacement," he said. "However, the shock of death as compared to a month on sick leave is a big difference."
Still, Whiteman said that despite Wells' sudden passing, he has been assured Three Dog Night will perform in St. Pete as planned.
For more details on Ribfest 2015, click here.
-- Jay Cridlin