One of the highlights of my childhood was when my family would get to go shopping at the hometown G.C. Murphy variety store in Ohio. It was there that I bought my first records, 45-rpm singles that I would play on a small portable record player over and over again. One of the early records I bought was “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night. So, I was saddened to learn when Cory Wells passed away in October 2015 at the age of 74 in Dunkirk, New York.
I would later discover and love other Three Dog Night songs, but I suppose it is not surprising that a kid would first be attracted to a song with the opening line, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”
According to Wikipedia, some band members felt that the song written by Hoyt Axton was a silly kid’s song. But either way the song topped the charts when it was released in 1971. Although Wells sang backing vocals on “Joy to the World” while Chuck Negron sang lead, the voices of the whole band rose to make the song memorable.
Cory Wells did sing lead on other songs for the band, like another song written by Hoyt Axton, “Never Been to Spain.” When Wells hits the high notes, it sends shivers down your spine.
Cory Wells also hits the big notes in Three Dog Night’s version of “Try a Little Tenderness,” which was made famous by Otis Redding. This performance is from a local Philadelphia show in the band’s earlier years.
Finally, in the video below, Cory Wells answers questions from audience members. One question leads to an explanation about how Three Dog Night got its name. The video is taken from a Continuing Education program entitled “Woodstock: The Music of the First Amendment” hosted by the Robert H. Jackson Center on April 26, 2011.
Cory Wells and Three Dog Night will long be remembered for great songs like Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” “Shambala,” “Eli’s Coming,” and “Never Been to Spain.” But for me, it all began with a 45 rpm on a portable record player, listening to a song about a bullfrog who had some mighty fine wine.
What is your favorite Three Dog Night song? Leave your two cents in the comments.
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