Monday, March 26, 2012

Captain and Tennille: Yes, they're still together - but The Captain is ailing

You remember Captain and Tennille, don't you?   He was extremely taciturn, barely said a word.  She was perky and talkative. They had some big pop hits back in the 1970s, the biggest being "Love Will Keep Us Together," a Grammy-winning song composed by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield.

"The Captain," also known as Daryl Dragon, was born in Los Angeles, California on August 27, 1942.  His renowned father, the late Carmen Dragon, was the conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony.  Daryl, a well-trained musician, is a master of all types of keyboard instruments.  He toured with The Beach Boys in the early 1970s as a keyboardist for the band.  It was Mike Love of The Beach Boys who nicknamed him "Captain Keyboard" because he always wore a nautical captain's hat on stage.

A shy man, Daryl struggled to overcome his shyness with the help of a drama coach.  His bug-eyed expression gives the impression that he is afraid and perplexed.  The truth is that he suffers from a congenital disorder and often wears sunglasses.

Cathryn Antoinette "Toni" Tennille is a Southern belle, born in Montgomery, Alabama on May 8, 1940.  She came from a family of entertainers.  Her father, Frank Tennille, was a big band singer with Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats.  His stage name was Clark Randall.  Toni's mother, Cathryn Tenille, hosted Montgomery's first daytime TV talk show.  Her three younger sisters, Jane, Louisa and Melissa, are also singers.  They sang on The Captain and Tenille's television variety show as well as on their recordings.    

Toni studied classical piano and attended Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama where she sang with Auburn's big band, the Auburn Knights, as did her father  A tall woman with a rich contralto voice, she also sang backup vocals on Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." 

In June of 1962, at the age of 22, Toni wed her first husband, onetime rock drummer Kenneth Shearer.  The marriage was troubled from the start but they did not officially divorce until 1972.  Of Shearer, Tennille told People magazine in 1976 that he "is and was a lovely man.  But we both knew it was wrong almost from the first."  She regrets that she did not "shop around" more before marrying him.

Toni first met Daryl Dragon in San Francisco in the summer of 1971.  She was performing in Mother Earth, an ecology-based musical she had written and Daryl auditioned for her as a keyboardist.  She hired him immediately because, as she put it, "he made me laugh."  To reciprocate, Daryl later suggested that Toni be an additional keyboardist for the next Beach Boys tour.  She was hired, giving her the distinction of being the only "Beach Girl."

Toni and Daryl married on November 11, 1975 at the Silver Queen Wedding Chapel in Virginia City, Nevada.  The husband and wife team headlined their own hour-long musical/variety show in 1976-1977 and ABC hoped that they might become another Sonny and Cher.  It didn't quite work out that way.  Despite its popularity, their series, The Captain and Tennille, was short-lived.  Only 20 episodes of the show were ever made and Dick Clark produced the final eight episodes. 

The Captain and Tennille's ratings were good enough to continue into a second season, no easy feat considering the competition.  The show aired at the same time as NBC's formidable Little House on the Prairie and two CBS comedies, Rhoda and Phyllis.  Toni and Daryl, nevertheless, chose not to continue with the series.  They opted to focus on their music and their concert tours instead of renewing their contract.

The couple did, however, star in three well-received follow-up specials on ABC-TV, two in the spring of 1978 ("Captain and Tennille in New Orleans" and "Captain and Tennille in Hawaii") and another in 1979 ("Captain and Tennille: Songbook"). 

The duo's final network special, "Captain and Tennille: Songbook," aired on March 26, 1979.  It contains no comedy skits, just the musical artistry of country star Glen Campbell, jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald and blues icon B.B. King.  One of the highlights of the special is Ella and Toni's medley of torch songs.  To watch Toni's torch song medley with Ella Fitzgerald, click on the lick below.

Toni Tennille hosted her own nationally syndicated television talk show in 1980.  Performers on the Toni Tennille Variety Talk Show included Dusty Springfield, Kiki Dee, The Lettermen, Rita Coolidge, The Temptations, The Spinners and Teddy Pendergrass.  Sometimes Toni joined her guests in their songs.  All musical numbers were accompanied by Tennille's seven piece band and her three sisters sang background vocals.  Toni and The Captain performed many of their hits and Toni interviewed an array of popular entertainers including Jaclyn Smith, Lily Tomlin and Viki Carr. 

To watch Toni Tennille's interview with Daryl Dragon on her 1980 talk show, click on the link below.

In 2007, Toni and Daryl purchased some land in Prescott, Arizona, built a home, and settled there.  On November 11, 2010, they celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.  Sadly, however, Daryl, 69, is battling a debilitating health problem and it has hampered his ability as a musician.  His condition was first thought to be a mild form of Parkinson's disease.  In September of 2010, however, Toni Tennille announced that her husband's illness was actually "a neurological condition that causes him to have tremors." 

Editor's Update (January 23, 2014):  After more than 38 years of marriage, Toni Tennille, 73, filed for divorce from Daryl Dragon, 71, on January 16, 2014 in Yavapai County Superior Court.  A shocked Daryl said he had no idea why she filed.  He told TMZ that "I gotta figure it out for myself first."

The petition for divorce states, "The parties' marriage is irretrievably broken, (and) there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation."

Editor's Update (April 18, 2016):  According to an Associated Press story by Mike Cidoni Lennox, Toni Tenille reveals in her book Toni Tenille: A Memoir that her marriage to Daryl Dragon was a flop.  In a phone call from her home near Orlando, Florida, Toni, now 75, told Lennox that she "never felt loved by him.  "He just did not seem able to do that."  

Toni stated that the Captain's behaviour became increasingly "eccentric" and that he isolated himself in his bedroom.  She stayed with him because "I didn't want to let the fans down." She lamented that "it's sad to me when I think of what Daryl could have been - what more he could have contributed."

Daryl, 73, who still resides in Prescott, Arizona, receives full-time care at home.  He refused a request for an interview.  (Toni said that his illness is not life-threatening).

Editor's Update: (April 25, 2016): There is an excellent recent Skype interview with Toni Tenille.  She is interviewed by Bob Andelman.  You can watch the interview on YouTube

- Joanne


  1. Best song ever my mother used to sing to me all the time. my favorite memories of her thanks Captain and Tennille for help creating some of the best memories of my life from my childhood. Jimmy Gross Louisville,Ky.

  2. I love their music and loved watching them when they performed on TV. I was just thinking about where they are now as I heard on the radio the other day that they had divorced. Happy to hear they are still together. Get well Captain. xo

  3. I hope Daryl is okay. We will pray for him. The career was great, but there's more to life than a career. Take care.

  4. Same here, thank you Captain n Tennille for all the great music and entertaining us. I just sat here for 3 hours going through all the videos on you tube, what a pleasure to have seen their lives together. I'm real happy to have seen that they are still together, they are great together. Captain we wish you well.

  5. I thank the Captain 'n Tennille for wonderful music that I will always remember as a happy time in my life. I have always adored you as a couple and loved your music. I will pray for Daryl's health and for strength for both of you...with love.

  6. I love the Captain & Tennille. e My favorite song is Love Will Keep Us Together. I grew up and fell in love with many other songs done by them. Wish many years of happiness for both.
    Luane Redman Mataya

  7. I had the pleasure of meeting The Captain and Tennille when I was probably only 9 years old, and then at least once after that. I remember sitting in the living room with my headset on listening to their songs for hours, as well as watching their TV show. I wish I knew what kind of disorder the Captain is dealing with; I think it's the same thing my mom has been dealing with for several years.

  8. Their first huge hit Love will keep us together, it just wouldn't be right if they EVER got divorced, now would it?

    1. i med tony at nbc midnight special aroound the 70's wonderful person talked to her for 20 minutes before going on stage .

  9. Love you both so much beautiful people and music will live forever in my heart thanks for the memories!

  10. I love the Captain and Tennille they made great music, I pray that Daryl gets better.

  11. I just rediscovered vinyl records and bought Captain and Tenille's greatest hits. They're a great couple. Toni looks great in the cover of their Make Your Move album. I've been buying their old records on vinyl to further discover their style and enjoy their talent. Take care Captain!... and Toni, I love your voice!!!!

  12. TO: Daryl and Toni, THANK YOU for all your music and your love shared with everyone throughout the years. God Bless you both. And everyone, please pray for Daryl's health. Muskrat Love

  13. So glad you're still together. Making lovely music.

  14. Now that staying power good for them

  15. I guess love won't keep us together

  16. Thinking about all the happy times in my childhood and one of them is the Captain and Tenille. You brought our family a lot of joy. I'm sorry to hear of your trials, especially the Captain. My prayers will include you both.

  17. Anonymous
    saw you guys live at Knotts Berry farm in Calif long time ago. My wife and I enjoyed you guys performing in my opinion the best live show we ever saw. My wife and I been together 56 years. Been through lots together including my open heart surgery. As you get older its difficult to find anyone like the one who knows you best. Come on guys keep it together. You dont know how much you are loved. Thats why they call you captain you can sail on through this. I know its hard to imagine a future together but if you have ever loved each now is the time tomlet it all hang out. Trust me youll never regret it as you face the most beautiful of times together as one. Sounds like you may have to struggle to get through it but do it because you are unafraid to truly say love has kept us together.

  18. Our daughters both danced and played to muskrat love .they grew up listening to this one of a kind duo. My wife and I still collect their music. We will love them no matter what.

  19. I think Daryl's name was Dennis originally. Or he had a brother I don't remember. He was part of the neighborhood in Studio City I grew up with. I remember his father and later graduated from Hollywood High in the bowl. Lots of show biz people there but it didn't mean anything to me as a kid. A wonderful childhood in a special place. Tes, those were the days.
    Bruce Winter
    Lived on Mound View Ave.