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The Mostly-Complete, CAPTAIN & TENNILLE Story...


CAPTAIN & TENNILLE
General Overview

Continued...
- Captain & Tennille recorded numerous follow-up, hit singles after "Love Will Keep Us Together", including: “Muskrat Love”, “Shop Around”, “The Way I Want To Touch You”, “You’ve Never Done It Like That”, “Do That To Me One More Time”, "Come In From The Rain", and many others.

In 1976, the duo landed their own weekly variety television series on ABC, “The Captain & Tennille Show,” which was followed by three highly rated TV specials for the network. In 1980, Toni hosted her own daily talk show - the nationally syndicated “Toni Tennille Variety Talk Show.”

Toni continues, every so often. to enhance her career by going “back to her roots” as she expresses it. At Auburn University in Alabama, she earned her way through college by singing the great standards of the ‘30s and ‘40s - backed by the full rich sound of the college’s big band, the Auburn Knights. "

Daryl used to stay busy with his diverse career & internet-based interests as well;

Daryl....

  • occasionally composed film scores,
  • Back in 1997 thru 2004, he was, passionately involved in development of - and seeking funding for an internet-based, 'entertainment portal' he has labeled, 'SurferzRule', which Daryl envisions as an alternative e' business model to today's, cut-throat entertainment industry - offering a viable, totally-democratic (internet-based) launching pad for 'the gifted' in all fields - including, of course, the field of music.. Daryl sadly proclaims, today, that the extremely popular VIDEO-BASED website called YouTube, which emerged via GOOGLE.COM, really put an abrupt halt on Daryl's continuing to search for prospective investors for the (sort-of, remotely similar to his above-mentioned) website entitled, SURFEZRULE.COM. "Oh well," (Daryl proclaims...) "...maybe in my next life...?"
  • occasionally used to produce other musical artists.

The Captain & Tennille were happily married since 1974, & had lived quietly in northern Nevada since they relocated there in 1984. In 2008, they moved to another beautiful, serene area in the town of Prescott, Arizona. It comes as no surprise that in their spare time, they enjoyed hiking, cross country skiing, mountain climbing and golf. Always a supporter of fine arts, Tennille was named Ambassador For The Arts for the state of Nevada by Governor Bob Miller.

Unfortunately, & quite unexpectedly, Daryl, who, since the age of 26, had made it almost 'a religious commitment', to eat natural healthful foods, avoid what's described as 'fast foods', or junk food containing chemicals, etc,; was basically a true vegetarian from the age of 26 yrs. old thru today, and he always made it a priority to 'stay in good physical shape as well ..... then around 1995, the bottom started to 'fall out..'

DARYL'S SLOWLY-PROGRESSING, PHYSICAL DECLINE:
As mentioned just above; during a live performance in Las Vegas, NV, in 1995, Daryl noticed that his left foot / leg was slightly trembling, & that foot was always trusted for the use of controlling of 'volume-output levels' for his many keyboards. But, to 'cut to the chase...' - the trembling started to very slowly spread to the entire left side of his body, & around the year 2007, (after many examinations by many qualified neurologists), they all agreed that Daryl was suffering from some sort of "Parkinsonism" condition. Not really 'full blown PD, or Parkinson's Disease, but enough of a handicap to stifle (stop) his kybd. playing, as well as his typing skills, etc. The Neurological field is always announcing the latest advances / technologies in treating 'severe tremor'. which has now spread to Daryl's entire body ... the right side of his body is in 'full-tremor-mode' as well. Anyway, at the date this "DARYL HEALTH UPDATE" announcement was released, a couple of the latest, non-invasive brain-oriented operations were still in 'clinical trial' mode, & one is called , "NON-INVASIVE BRAIN STIMULATION". Perhaps that risky treatment may turn out to be Daryl's invitation to once-again performing, & basically re-entering the music business, as well as feeling comfortable just simply 'going out to dinner, now & then.

,
Moving on ... Previous to Daryl's ongoing battle with his ever worsening tremor, one must admit that during this legendary, duo's heydayz, there was / is a unique chemistry that existed between Toni and Daryl that has made The Captain & Tennille a major force in contemporary music. “We never tried to hold each other back in any way,” says Toni. “We encouraged each other to explore and expand our individual talents to the undefined limits”

CAPTAIN & TENNILLE
- Career Highlights & Discography -

by: Lisa Sutton, Courtesy of Hip-O Records

The early 1970s was a great time in pop music for family acts. Sibling singers like Carpenters, the Jackson Five and the Osmonds were some of the top acts of the day, paving the way for a whole genre that drove hit radio through the decade. From this era also emerged one of the most successful husband and wife teams in music history, the Captain and Tennille.

When Daryl Dragon, part-time Beach Boy and son of Oscar-winning orchestra arranger/ conductor Carmen Dragon, met Toni Tennille, budding composer and daughter of Big Band era singer, Frank Tennille, it was a fateful event that would shape their entire future. They first met in 1971, in the lobby of a theater in San Francisco where a musical play, called MOTHER EARTH, that Toni had written with Ron Thronson,(a local playwrite-director in Orange County, CA), was playing. She was looking for a keyboard player for the show, and Daryl (nicknamed "Captain Keyboard" due to his penchant for wearing a skipper’s cap) applied for the job in person while on a break from touring with the Beach Boys. It was partnership at first sight, as Toni took a quick liking to Daryl and hired him on the spot. When the show closed a couple of months later, Daryl returned the favor, asking Toni to join the Beach Boys as their only female member.

Daryl and Toni toured with the Beach Boys for a season, and returned to Los Angeles together, where they began performing as a duo. As a nightclub act, the pair began to attract a healthy local following as regulars at The Smokehouse, in Encino. They recorded a demo tape of seven songs, and Daryl began to shop them to labels as the local buzz grew. While Toni and Daryl were still examining their options, a pair of local DJs came to see their act, and told them if they could get a record to them, they’d play it on the air.

Toni’s composition "The Way That I Want To Touch You" backed with Bruce Johnston’s tribute to more innocent times, "Disney Girls," became their first record. 500 copies were pressed on their own imprint, Butterscotch Castle, and circulated to radio stations. The song was well received, and became a local hit in Los Angeles. With the help of some independent promotion, and a distribution deal with Joyce Records, it became a regional hit in a number of small markets. Meanwhile, the Captain & Tennille continued shopping for a record label.

"We then proved to most of the large record-labels, located in the L.A. area, that we had a confirmed hit recording. We then could almost take our pick from varied recording offers that 'magically' came our way. Fiive labels came to see us at "The Smokehouse Lounge," Daryl says, "though they didn’t all pan out." "CBS decided to pass, because they said they already had a blonde singer, (referring to one-hit-wonder Chi Coltrane.)" says Toni. "Terry Melcher and I got them a deal with RCA" says fellow Beach Boy, Bruce Johnston, "but RCA backed out after seeing them live, saying they didn’t realize they were an older lounge act." Happily, A&M Records, home of the Carpenters, offered the perfect harbor for the duo. "We decided to go with A&M because they said I could produce the first album," says Daryl." "It was perfect," adds Toni. "If it was a hit, Daryl could continue to produce all our music. If it failed, A&M would assign us a producer for the second album."

With Daryl at the helm, the first album was a meticulously produced pop gem, driven by Daryl’s keyboards and Toni’s powerful vocals. The album became a real family affair, as Toni’s sisters, Melissa, Jane and Louisa sang background on the album. Daryl’s brother, future Surf Punk Dennis Dragon, contributed his gift as sound engineer, as well as playing drums and percussion on a couple of tracks. In addition to producing, the multi-talented Daryl played the bass, piano and various synthesizer parts on the platter, accompanied by Toni on keyboards on many of the tracks. In anticipation of the first album, A&M reissued "The Way I Want To Touch You," though it received a smaller fanfare this 2nd. time around.

As the album neared completion, the duo realized it was in need of another up-tempo number. A&R man Kip Cohen at A&M suggested "Love Will Keep Us Together," a track from Neil Sedaka’s then-recent comeback LP, "Sedaka’s Back." The duo went back into the studio, and worked up their own arrangement of the Sedaka/Greenfield tune, and the result was a total knockout. Everyone involved knew it was a hit, and the first Captain & Tennille LP was named after the sure thing. The single and LP titled "LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER" were both released in April of 1975. The single debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 on April 19, and catapulted from #98 to #1 in nine weeks, remaining in the top position for a phenomenal four weeks. Eventually, it went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Toni and Daryl also recorded the song in Spanish, and it was released as a single later that year. "Por Amor Viviremos" charted, peaking at #49 on the Billboard pop charts in September, making it the first #1 single ever to chart simultaneously in different languages by the same artist. At the request of the label,Toni and Daryl recorded the entire first LP in Spanish at the end of the year.

"The Way I Want To Touch You" was released for its fourth time, now backed with LP cut "Broddy Bounce," an instrumental, musical tribute to their beloved pet bulldog, Broderick. It was certified gold on December 17, 1975, establishing the Captain & Tennille as one of the top acts of the year. No other singles were released from the album, though it did contain the very first recording of a Bruce Johnston offering titled "I Write The Songs." Although it was not a hit for the Captain & Tennille, the song was a #11 hit for David Cassidy in the UK in the Summer of 1975 and became a Grammy-winning, #1 hit for Barry Manilow in January of 1976.

Contrary to public perception, Toni and Daryl were not married until after the success of their first LP. They were hitched in November of 1975 at the Silver Queen Saloon Wedding Chapel in Virginia City, Nevada in a small ceremony, with no guests or hoopla. "We’d been living together since 1972" says Toni. "After we had the big hit, we thought we should probably go ahead and get married, since everyone probably thought we were already married, anyway."

A few months after the wedding came their second album, SONG OF JOY. The first single released was another Neil Sedaka–penned tune called "Lonely Night (Angel Face)." Revamping the somewhat soulful sounding original into a bouncy, pop tune, the Captain & Tennille took the single to #3 on the pop charts in March of 1976. They quickly followed up with an effervescent cover of the Smokey Robinson hit "Shop Around." "I heard Daryl playing this slow, classical piece" says Toni. "I asked him, ‘what is that?’ and he sped it up. I was surprised to hear it was ‘Shop Around.’" Toni now recalls. "We decided it would be fun to do it from a woman’s perspective, so that’s how it ended up on the album." It became their fourth gold single, topping out at #4 on the pop charts.

The third single released from Song of Joy was an unlikely number called "Muskrat Love." Loved and loathed, the revamped version of country composer/singer Willis Alan Ramsey’s "Muskrat Candlelight" was another million seller for the duo. "We were driving around one night when we heard (the group) America’s version of the song on the radio," remarks Toni. "I said to Daryl ‘did you hear that? I swear they’re singing about muskrats.’ I had to know what the lyrics were, so the next day we went out and found the sheet music" Toni reminisces. "I said to Daryl, this song is hysterical, why don’t we add it to our club-act? And people went nuts for it." Daryl continues "We just threw it on the second album because we had room for one more tune. We knew it was a hit in the clubs, but we had no idea it would be a hit record." The label had no intention of releasing a third single from the album, but after a radio station in Madison, Wisconsin called the A&R people at A&M begging them for a copy, telling them the phones were ringing off the hooks for it, a 45 was issued and became their third biggest hit.

With three singles already circulating from the second album, A&M halted plans to release "The Wedding Song" backed with "Song Of Joy" as the fourth single. Written by Paul Stookey of Peter Paul and Mary, "The Wedding Song" was eventually released as a single by popular demand, though much later. "It’s a beautiful song" Toni says, "and I can’t tell you just how many people have come to me over the years and told me they played it at their wedding."

Amid all the success came an opportunity to do a television series. It debuted in September of 1976, at the height of the television variety show craze. Pop groups Sonny and Cher, the Carpenters and Tony Orlando and Dawn all had previous success with a series, and the family-friendly Captain & Tennille fit the mold perfectly. The Captain & Tennille Show featured "Love Will Keep Us Together" as its theme song, and "We Never Really Say Goodbye" as their closing theme. "I’ve always been particularly proud of the song," says Toni of their composition. "A lot of high schools have made choral arrangements and used it in their graduations." An appropriate connection, as the TV series was no less than a learning experience for them.

Although the show was successful, it was an enormous amount of work, especially for Daryl who was the show’s music over-seer. "Because of union rules in those days" Daryl says, "I had to go in and do the music the day (or night) before we video-taped the show. It was exhausting. I suggested that we rename the show, "The Zombie and Tennille." Which is pretty much how poor Daryl was portrayed on the show. "I am shy" Daryl says. "So they made me the quiet one on the show. But how many hat jokes or "he’s-so-quiet" cute-comments can you do?" The duo actually asked to be let out of the show mid-season, though executive producer Fred Silverman was not ready to let go of the hit show. As a compromise, they brought in Dick Clark as a producer and made it more music oriented, where it had previously been sketch/comedy-heavy. When the season ended, they took their bulldogs, Broderick and Elizabeth (also regulars on the show), home and fulfilled the contract with a series of television specials.

Their next album, COME IN FROM THE RAIN, was released while the TV series was still on the air. The first single, "Can’t Stop Dancing" benefited from the exposure. The Ray Stevens and J. Pritchard, Jr. track was not one of their stronger offerings, though the perky two-stepper peaked at #13 hit on the pop charts in May of ’77. It was followed up with the beautiful and torchy title track, "Come In From the Rain," backed with "We Never Really Say Goodbye." Although the Melissa Manchester./Carol Bayer Sager penned ballad only made it to #61 on the pop charts, "Come In From the Rain" came in at #6 on the Adult Contemporary charts, and became a fan favorite, always heard as the encore number at the Captain & Tennille’s live shows. The third and final single released from the album was Toni’s exuberant love-poem to Daryl, "Circles," which hit big on the AC charts, while missing the then disco-saturated pop chart.

The Captain & Tennille remained a popular live act, though their chart success began to wane. Their fourth and final album of original material for A&M, DREAM, was released early in 1978, though it was eclipsed by the late-’77 release of their GREATEST HITS LP. The first single from the album was "I’m On My Way," paired up with the previously released "We Never Really Say Goodbye." It petered out at #74 on the pop charts in May of ’78, though was warmly received by the AC charts. Surprisingly, the syncopated "I’m On My Way" crossed over to the Country charts, topping out at #97.

They had much greater success with the second single from Dream, "You Never Done It Like That." Another Sedaka/Greenfield composition, "You Never Done It Like That" returned the Captain & Tennille to the top of the pops, peaking at #10 in November of 1978, remaining on the charts for a total of 21 weeks. The third single from the album, was a song brought to the duo by Toni’s sister, Jane, called "You Need A Woman Tonight." It squeaked into the top 40, peaking at #40 in January of 1979, while songs like "Le Freak" by Chic and "Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?" by Rod Stewart were dominating the charts.

Pop radio was undergoing a revolution in the late ’70s. Pop and Rock music were being eclipsed by Disco, and New Wave was a rising force as the cutting edge alternative. A&M Records embraced the New Wave movement with open arms, alienating many of their traditional artists, "I had a conversation with Karen Carpenter out on the lot at A&M around the time they signed the Sex Pistols" says Toni. "She was incensed about the direction the label was going. ‘We were the kind of music that made the label,’ she said, ‘and how could they do this?’ "Then they gave the Sex Pistols a parking space, and we NEVER got one," wryly adds Daryl. The writing was on the wall (& pavement…).

Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records welcomed the Captain and Tennille with open arms, wanting to diversify the perceived all-disco image his label had garnered. Before going into the studio, Daryl and Toni invited Casablanca president, Bogart, over to dinner at their home, and played some of the proposed material. When Toni played her composition "Do That To Me One More Time" on her electric piano, Bogart jumped to his feet and proclaimed it a hit right there on the spot. The sultry ballad became their first single on their new label, and soon became their second #1 hit the week of February 16, 1980. The follow-up single from the MAKE YOUR MOVE LP, "Love On A Shoestring" only registered tepidly on the AC charts, though they surprisingly had success with Daryl’s bizarre and theatrical disco arrangement of the old Turtles hit "Happy Together." Daryl and Toni laugh about that one today. "Did we really do that?" Daryl contemplates. "I completely destroyed that song. It slipped out of our live repertoire real fast."

Around the time they recorded the Casablanca album, Toni made a special vocal appearance on Pink Floyd’s The Wall LP. ("My claim to hipness" she says of it now.) It was not the first time she did guest vocals, as she sang on Elton John’s "Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me" and on Art Garfunkel’s "Break Away" LP. Her appearance on The Wall turned some heads, especially when Toni turned up at a Pink Floyd concert in Los Angeles. "I went to see the concert at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles." Toni says. "There was a 15-year-old boy sitting in front of me who recognized me. He turned around and snottily said ‘What are YOU doing here?’ So I told him I sang on the album. He ran off to find a friend who had brought the LP to the show, and looked at the back to see if my name was really on there. A few minutes later, he came back and apologetically said ‘Can I have your autograph?’"

The second and final album for Casablanca was KEEPING OUR LOVE WARM. It yielded two singles, though the chart success was minor. An updated version of Toni’s "Gentle Stranger" (originally recorded on the album Love Will Keep Us Together) backed with the title track was released as their first single, though it did not register on the charts. A second single, "Don’t Forget Me," was also issued with "Keeping Our Love Warm" on the flip side, though neither side charted. The album did well enough, but it turned out to be their last major label release. Sadly, Neil Bogart died, and the record company went bankrupt. "We came to find out a lot of money went up people’s noses," Toni elaborates. "This is stuff we never knew was going on. We were so straight, no one ever did any drugs in front of us or offered us any." "We were at a party once," Daryl adds, "and people kept going upstairs. We wondered what was going on up there, but for some reason, we had no real 'urge' to find out."

Ultimately, Casablanca was bought-out by PolyGram, who wasn’t interested in keeping the Captain & Tennille on their roster. "The head of CBS signed us, but six months later, he was fired and we became artists-non-grata" says Toni of the situation. "We had lost so much momentum, that was it."

With the pressure off from a major label contract, Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille were afforded the luxury of mapping their own future. Toni began recording albums of her favorite songs from the 30's 40's, and performed this repertoire with symphony orchestras several times a year. She also has kept up her other skills, hosting her own TV talk show for a time and starring on stage in the First National Tour of the Broadway musical, Victor/Victoria. As for the Captain & Tennille, they did perform 'now & then', perform live "only on very special occasions," preferring the quiet life at their Prescott, AZ home - in northern Arizona.

So, until the umexpected announcement, that divorce-proceedings were officially in motion in JAN. 2014, the seemingly, happily married couple, gave the true impression that, "love had kept them together", but, any way one might look at it; their music remains a lasting legacy of beautifully crafted pop gold.


Contact Information:

Frank Dragonninni
Prescott, AZ



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This Page Last Updated: January 19, 2014

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