Three Dog Night's Cory Wells Talks Lady Gaga, Wallace and Ladmo, Justin Timberlake, and More

Chances are you're familiar with the music of Three Dog Night. It was either popular while you, or your parents, were in high school, or just enough of it has permeated popular culture (especially TV, movies, and commercials) that you can't help but recognize that opening scream to "Joy to the World" (a.k.a. "Jeremiah was a bullfrog!")


Up On The Suns got a chance to catch up with one of the band's three lead singers, Cory Wells, who lived in Phoenix in the '60s just prior to the formation and mass success of Three Dog Night.

The band is currently working on a new concept record that explores what the band would have sounded like had they continued to record in the '80s and '90s. Some of the songs are covers from the era, and others are originals made to sound like the era.

The rock world veteran talks with us about his new music, how he reacts to music of today, those formative years in Phoenix, and more.

Up On The Sun: You mentioned that for the writing and recording of this new record, the members of the band are in different places, geographically. Does that dynamic change things -- not having people in the same space at the same time?

Cory Wells: No, not really. The different part of it is, if you're working with someone younger than you. The person that produced [one of our latest singles] "Heart of Blues," he's about 23 or 24 years old, and the way he views music is completely different than the way I view music. He's today. He's listening to Swift....Aguilera...the ones that influence him, that he hears.

UOTS: Is there some sort of parallel between those artists and you, in the sense that they were both really popular, really successful, mainstream rock acts of their time? Does that translate production-wise?

CW: I don't know production-wise. Everybody has their fifteen minutes. (Laughs.) Music is always one up-manship from what it was before. Lady Gaga has raised the bar on Madonna. Madonna looks like oatmeal compared to what Lady Gaga does now. That's just the nature of the business/ It just keeps upping the bar every time. And that's not necessarily good, but it's different.

I have to admit, some of the things I hear today are great. Some of the things I hear from the '80s are great! I didn't think so then, but when I hear them now I go, "My God, that was really good!"

UOTS: What artists of today are you a fan of? Of the last ten or twenty years even?

CW: Dave Matthews. I absolutely love Dave Matthews. I think that kid from -- Justin...that Disney kid...

UOTS: Justin Timberlake?

CW: Yes -- thank you! I think he's one of the best young artists today. He should be getting more -- he's really talented.

UOTS: How do you discover new music today? Do you actively seek out new music?

CW: I'm not looking for new music because I don't think I could handle the kind of music they do today.

UOTS: I know you lived in Arizona too, and you had your own band -- the Cory Wells (Blues) Band.

CW: Yeah, I lived there for a couple years. I don't even know if those places are still there, but I worked at a place called JD's in Scottsdale. They had country and western upstairs and rock and roll downstairs. I can't tell you the excitement that happened there, with cowboys and hippies. And then I worked at another place called the Red Dog that was also in Scottsdale, and Mr. Lucky's in downtown Phoenix.

When I did get together with Danny (Hutton) and we put Three Dog Night together, Joe (Schermie,) the bass player, also lived in Phoenix and he came with us and joined.

When I put the Cory Wells Blues Band together, I had a lot of chutzpa in those days, because they said, "We don't know if we want to join this band." I said, "I'll tell you what. What's the biggest club in this city?" They said, "JD's." I said, "I guarantee you will work there." I didn't know what the hell I was talking about! So we did! We worked and learned four songs and got the gig, and now we're stuck cause we only got four songs and we have to do five sets a night! That first night was the worst. We had to keep doing those four songs over and over and over. And every afternoon we'd come in and learn three or four songs more and add it to the repertoire.

But I enjoyed my time there. Wallace and Ladmo -- I got to know those guys. Pat McMahon is still a good friend of mine today.There was another musician, Mike Condello, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. I stayed at his mom's hotel/motel thing forever. It wasn't the best in the world cause they had the old swamp coolers. Those are my memories of Phoenix.

UOTS: Swamp coolers and Wallace and Ladmo.

CW: And going into department stores to cool off. (Laughs.)

Three Dog Night is scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 5 with The Guess Who at The Good Life Festival at Encanterra Country Club in San Tan Valley.