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Wells came from a musical family and began playing in Buffalo-area bands in his teens. His father, who was married to someone else, died when Cory was a small child, leaving his mother to struggle financially until she eventually remarried. She gave Cory her maiden last name so not to implicate his natural father, although Cory did eventually change his last name to Wells (which is a shortened version of his birth father's last name, Wellsley). His full stage name "Cory Wells" was suggested by "The Enemy's" manager who had a son named Cory.
Having survived childhood in a rough, racially polarized neighborhood and an even more brutal home environment fueled by an abusive stepfather, this according to then manager Joel Cohen's band biography, Three Dog Night And Me, Wells joined the United States Air Force directly out of high school. While in the Air Force, he formed a band of interracial musical performers, inspired by his boyhood love of a similar popular band called The Del-Vikings, who had a national hit with the doo-wop song, "Come Go with Me."
Following his military tour of duty, Wells returned to Buffalo and was asked to join a band named the Vibratos. It was here that he was heard by Gene Jacobs, brother-in-law to the Vibratos guitar player, Mike Lustan, who suggested to him if he was serious about making it in music that he travel to California with the band. They changed the name to "The Enemys", and took his advice. They soon began working all the clubs in the LA area, San Diego, Las Vegas and Sacramento. After being the house band at the Whisky a Go Go for a year and being in several movies and TV shows (The Beverly Hillbillies, Burke's Law, Riot on Sunset Strip, Harper with Paul Newman and Shelley Winters), Wells was asked by Cher at the Whiskey a Go Go to tour with Sonny and Cher. It was on that tour that Wells met Danny Hutton, his future partner in the rock band, Three Dog Night. At a time when many bands, who were about to become household names, were taking their formative steps - groups such as The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds and Spirit, The Enemys had minor hits with recordings of "Hey Joe" and "Sinner Man". Wells moved to Phoenix in 1967 where he formed The Cory Wells Blues Band, whose bass player was future Three Dog Night bass player, Joe Schermetzler (stage name Joe Schermie), By the following year he had returned to Hollywood where he "couch-surfed" while Danny Hutton worked to convince Wells of the feasibility of forming a group of three lead singers and a back-up band. According to an interview in Goldmine Magazine in 1993, Hutton originally wanted the three singers to perform and record with backing tapes rather than fellow musicians, while Wells disagreed.
Three Dog Night
Hutton and Wells got together to form Three Dog Night in 1968. When they looked for a third singer, they found him in Chuck Negron, whom Hutton had met at a Hollywood party. Hutton, a former songwriter/performer for Hanna-Barbera Productions, Wells, and Chuck met The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. The three recorded demos under the name "Redwood" with Wilson as producer (this at the same time when his brother Dennis Wilson was producing songs for a rather unsettling singer/songwriter named Charles Manson). The sessions produced a potential single, "Time to Get Alone" but was stopped by Beach Boy member Mike Love who wanted to save the song for the next Beach Boys album. Having perfected their three-part harmony sound within Redwood, Wells, Hutton and Negron, with the addition of a four-piece backing group made up of friends and others they had worked with, began performing as Three Dog Night in 1968. That group became one of the most successful bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Unlike many other rock musicians of the day, Wells was able to abstain from serious drug and alcohol problems, nor did he squander his earnings on the lavish life style of a successful rock star, choosing to live a somewhat more moderate existence. After Three Dog Night broke up in 1976, Wells tried a solo career, recording the album Touch Me for A&M Records in 1978. Wells helped re-launch Three Dog Night in the mid-1980s, recording an EP called "It's a Jungle." A falling out with Negron left Hutton and Wells with the name "Three Dog Night" as an entity, under which they continue to perform successfully today, and the pair (along with original members Mike Allsup and Jimmy Greenspoon) tour regularly each year.
As of 2007[update] Wells, who also is an avid fisherman, continues to tour with the band. His longtime marriage to wife, Mary, has resulted in two daughters, Coryann and Dawn Marie, who has worked as an effects animator for Walt Disney Pictures.