Lively banter with Three Dog Night co-founder Cory Wells

From left: Paul Kingery, Jimmy Greenspoon, Danny Hutton, Michael Allsup, Pat Bautz, Cory Wells.
Three Dog Night

In 1974 or 1975 my parents saw Three Dog Night in concert in the Minidome in Pocatello, Idaho. Friend-of-the-family Kim Aldridge baby-sat my brother and I that night and we played poker for hours. I remember my parents returning to the house, saying the show was, “Really loud,” almost as loud as the Chicago show they saw at about that time, which for a generation was the benchmarks for loud concerts in Southeastern Idaho.

You might be wondering, “Point?” Well, yesterday I interviewed vocalist Cory Wells of Three Dog Night, who are performing Saturday night at Star of the Desert Arena in beautiful downtown Primm. Wells is a founding member of the TDN, having helped launch the band more than 40 years ago. Tucked in my list of questions was a reference to the concert in Pocatello. Much of the rest of our lively banter is constructed below:

John Katsilometes: You’ve been at this for 40 years, which is incredible. What’s the most challenging part of touring today?

Cory Wells Travel. It always has been travel. Last week we were in Lincoln, Oregon. We flew into Portland, and it was a two-hour drive, both ways, to and from Lincoln. We’ve been through all the phases of travel – buses, planes. Airport security has gotten really inconvenient. None of it’s easy.

J.K.With all the venues in Vegas, why are you playing out in Primm?

C.W. I don’t know. It just came out of nowhere, to be honest with you.

J.K. It’s actually a pretty nice place. I saw Ringo’s All-Starr Band out there a few months ago.

C.W. Really? What lineup did he have?

J.K. A lot of it has been the same over the past few years. Colin Hay from Men at Work, Billy Squire, Edgar Winter. The guy from the Average White Band who played with McCartney for awhile whose name I can never remember … Hamish Stuart! That’s him.

C.W. Good crowd?

J.K. It was about filled, really excited. What are you listening to now, anyway?

C.W. I go through phases, depending on what mood I’m in. We were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Warren, Ohio, recently and I saw the Flamingos there. They did, “I Only Have Eyes for You,” and a bunch of other hits. They added strings and led the way for a lot of other bands that used strings. I talked to the guitarist and arranger, and he sent me a bunch of CDs, so right now I’m listening to that. It’s great.

J.K. What on your Wikipedia entry is inaccurate?

C.W. (Laughs) I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I’ll have to check that. Probably my last name. My last name is Wellsley, but a lot of people say it’s Lowendowski, which is my mother’s last name and I had it changed to my father’s when I was 18.

J.K. One stat I came across is that Three Dog Night had more top-10 hits than anyone between 1969-’75. That’s remarkable, given the bands that were around then.

C.W. We were the darlings of rock there for awhile. We were the darlings of Rolling Stone magazine, until we got too successful. They loved us until we had success, then we weren’t cool enough or edgy enough for them (laughs).

J.K.You played in Pocatello, Idaho in about 1975. Do you remember that particular show? It was in a place called the Minidome.

C.W. Ha! No. What’s most confusing is, we probably played Poca-tonto, or whatever it’s called, five more times over the years. Too many shows to remember.

J.K. Have you ever tried to calculate how many times you’ve sung, “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” or how many shows you’ve performed over the years.

C.W. Wow, no. I haven’t put those into statistics. I’m not sure I’d want to know (laughs).

J.K. Tom Jones sings a lot of Three Dog Night songs. Ever seen him here?

C.W. He admires us. He’s chosen some songs of ours. “Mama Told Me,” “Never Been to Spain,” “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” I think, he’s still doing. I saw him, years ago, and he sent word out that he wanted to meet me. So I went backstage and waited and waited, but I won’t wait forever. So we never did actually meet.

J.K. You remember your first gig in Vegas?

C.W. As vividly as the day I was there. It was 1966. I worked at Pussycat A’ Go Go, and there was nothing around but desert and this club. I worked with Paul Revere and the Raiders, who played from 6 to midnight. I was with The Enemy, and we did 12 until 6 a.m., doing the whole Beatles thing. We were doing a lot of Beatles stuff and there were all these English showgirls who showed up to see us.

J.K. Only in Vegas.

C.W. You know it. It was a good life.

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