By Eric Renner Brown
October 21, 2015 at 07:59 PM EDT
Jon Elswick/AP

Cory Wells, the American musician best known for his work with the band Three Dog Night, died unexpectedly on Tuesday in Dunkirk, New York, according to a statement from the band. Wells was 74.

“Cory was like a brother in so many ways,” Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton said in the statement. “We had been together since 1965 and I am in shock at this sudden loss.” The band’s keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon passed away earlier this year.

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Born Emil Lewandowski in Buffalo, New York, Wells formed a band while serving in the U.S. Air Force and continued playing music in various ensembles after returning home. Wells later nabbed a gig as a member of the Whisky A Go-Go’s house band, The Enemys, and after Sonny and Cher invited him and Hutton to tour with them, the two decided to form a new band with three lead singers.

Joined by their backing band, Three Dog Night had 21 conescutive Top 40 singles, including the No. 1 hits “Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” “Joy To The World,” and “Black and White.” Many also remember the band for its 1969 cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One.”

Wells is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary; daughters Coryann Wells and Dawn Marie Cussins (William); and 5 grandchildren.