Thank You Cory Wells.

I lost someone recently; someone who meant a great deal to me when I was growing up. This person, a fellow boomer,  was a source of joy for me…an escape from some unhappy times that left me feeling unwanted and lost.

Because I felt I could turn to this person, it gave me a sense of hope and acceptance.

And yet, I never met this man.

Growing up is hard. Feeling accepted is not easy. And when you truly are not accepted at school, not part of the in crowd, not one of the attractive inner circle, it can be miserable.

I know.

I walked that path. I didn’t have much hope at the time.

But what I did have was a record player. And my beloved albums and favorite bands…because for me, music was a transport to all that was possible. One band in particular resonated with me.

Three Dog Night. More specifically, Cory Wells. One of the lead singers and the force behind forming the band. The bluesy, deep-voiced talent whose love for the blues and black music permeated his soulful renditions.

He sang from his bones. He was handsome, quick-witted, and an easy smiler. He was married and faithful to his wife and loved his children.

He was, for me, an outlet of my feelings. He was of course a stranger and  way out of my league. I knew that. But it was fun to imagine. And it was wonderful to listen to him sing.

IMG_0826 - Version 2Over the years, as I’ve grown older of course so did he and the band. But instead of fading into obscurity they kept touring, kept entertaining audiences. They didn’t let gray hair and extra pounds keep them from center stage. They didn’t dye their hair and try to dress like a 25-year-old. They just remained who they were.

Did they rock the wrinkle? Oh yes. To put it mildly.

I loved how I could finally see them in smaller venues, be closer to the stage, and in many ways, get to know who they were as people. They joked about moving more slowly. Recalled their memories from so many years ago. Praised new artists.

And Cory stayed (in my opinion) humble and generous. He supported many charities. He was an outdoorsman who loved to fish in his beloved retreat near Lake Erie. He was still happily married after 50 years with children and grandchildren.

I passed on an opportunity to see him and the band a few years ago, at a neighborhood-type festival not far from where I live. I don’t know what kept me away, but I thought I’d have another chance to see them anyway…I knew I wanted to walk up to him sometime, and tell him he made a difference in my life. He got me through some tough times.

You know, just be a human letting another human know he helped someone that he didn’t even know.

But I did not go. And about a month ago, Cory died. It was quick and unexpected. I’m sure his friends and family are in shock. I know I was, and still am.

It’s like a part of me has died as well. A part that takes me back to a painful and also pivotal time; those years when you’re just trying to figure out who you are, and hang on to any thread of hope.

I admit it also angers me how little recognition he got during his lifetime. Critics always wanted to take away from the band’s success because they rarely wrote any of their songs. Instead, they found (then) obscure writers like Elton John, Laura Nyro, Randy Newman and Hoyt Axton and showcased their songs. This led to 12 gold albums and 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits.

No one else has achieved that.

Yet they’re not in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. And now, too late, so many are coming forward to praise Cory’s talent. I only hope he can hear it, wherever he is.

He’s still teaching me. To not wait to say the things that matter. To not assume I’ll have another opportunity to do something that could touch another person’s heart. To grab each precious moment and find the harmony.

I picture him on the most beautiful stream imaginable, with a fishing pole in his hand, humming a tune. Cory Wells (Wellsley). Rest in peace.  And thank you.


“Music is the medicine of the breaking heart.”

        Leigh Hunt


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  1. Barbara Henderson

    11/16/2015 at 9:22 am

    Do you remember when you and I went to see Three Dog Night in San Antonio? Cory Wells was to you what John Denver was to me—his music helped me through a lot of tough times. I hope these musicians realize how much they touched people’s lives.

    • Laura

      11/16/2015 at 9:30 am

      Yes! I probably saw them about 15 times over the years…always a phenomenal show. I think everyone has a special place in their heart for poets/songwriters.

  2. Dawn Wells-Cussins

    12/05/2015 at 11:44 am

    Fear Leigh, that was a beautiful article. I’m his youger daughter. I’m so sorry you didn’t get to meet him as he really was a fantastic father among other things. If I read this I believe he read it with me. Know that he thanks you and he is in a good place. He deserves that. And thank you from me.

    • Laura

      12/05/2015 at 1:58 pm

      I am very touched at your words…thank you. Deepest sympathies for you and your whole family. I am sure it is a huge loss as he clearly had such a huge heart. I know he is singing with more joy than ever!

  3. Anne Fischer

    01/01/2016 at 5:39 pm

    Laura, I was so touched by this post, this was so much my story as well. I was lucky enough to receive two letters from Cory Wells in response to my fan letters to him – at the age of 11, many, many years ago 🙂 – and they meant the world to me. I was a quiet, shy, young girl, my parents had split up and I was growing up in a house with two overpowering personalities. I always felt small and unnoticed, easily overlooked. But when I received a hand-written letter from Cory Wells, not a fan club “form letter” but an honest-to-goodness letter from the man himself, suddenly I felt visible. Cory Wells took the time to write to me, and that meant the world to me. The music of TDN, and Cory’s voice, has kept me company for most of my life, has never failed to bring a smile to my face, even now when there are tears along with the smiles. Like you, I never had the chance to meet him, although I was lucky enough to see them in concert twice in my life. I wish I could have met him to tell him what that simple gesture meant to me. What a wonderful human being he was, and thank you for sharing your tribute to him.

    • Laura

      01/01/2016 at 10:06 pm

      thank you for your comments….I know there are many of us who feel the loss. I’m glad you got to correspond with him. Even though I never had direct contact, I’m glad I saw them so many times, from their very early days through the recent years. He truly was one of a kind. We can still celebrate his music…which I am sure you do every day! Peace.

  4. Laura,
    I was also very touched by your comments. I never got to meet Cory either but have been a fan since the beginning and have all the music, starting with records (remember those) and moving on to CD’s and DVD’s. I’m 65 years old (talk about rocking the wrinkle) and his loss has affected me like no other since John Lennon died 35 years ago. Since his passing, I’ve discovered the 1975 Soundstage concert on You Tube and can’t get enough of it. His performances on “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Eli’s Coming” are beyond description and my most favorite, “Shambala” has brought me to tears. Not to even mention that smile and how fabulous he looked.

    As the years went by, my love for the music never faded. In fact, the 2002 Tennessee Symphony concert only served to keep it fresh and the hip hop version of “Mama Told Me Not to Come” was great fun.

    To Dawn and your family, thank you all for sharing the special gift of your father with all of us who loved him and miss him now. His music will live on and we can still hear that fabulous voice.

    May he rest in peace and his light will shine in the Halls of Shambala as brightly as the sun forever.

    Sue Shapiro

    • Laura

      01/24/2016 at 12:58 pm

      thank you for your comments…I so agree. I most definitely remember that Soundstage. I also remember Three Dog Night hosting the first “New Year’s Rocking Eve” with Dick Clark…I believe around 1973, I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. I listen to their music all the time still, and I will always consider Cory’s amazing voice one of the greatest in blues/rock ‘n roll. What a wonderful ambassador of character, talent, and love of life he was. And yes…I still have my LPs!

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