Story Behind The Music: Captain & Tennille


When we think back to Captain & Tennille we are immediately thrown back into the 1970s and slow grooving to hits like Muskrat Love, Love Will Keep Us Together and Do That To Me One More Time. They were big when it came to romantic moments by the fireplaces, slow dances at the high school prom and moments of deep contemplation. By the time the 1980s rolled around, these two were pretty much relics of a time gone by. That said, today we’re going to take you on a trip down memory lane and tell you something about this band that you might have never known.

They Put The Queen To Sleep

Few bands get to play for the president and the queen in one go and Captain and Tennille was one of those bands. Back in 1976, Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to President Ford in the White House. Being one of the hottest American acts at the time, Captain & Tennille were invited to play for them.

The Queen wasn’t too keen on the band as she actually fell asleep during their performance. It during the song Muskrat Love while Dragon was making his rodent screeches on the keyboard that Tennille notices the snoozing queen.

Dragon And The Beach Boys

Before Dragon became known as Captain in Captain & Tennille, he was rocking out with The Beach Boys. He was their keyboard player and Mike Love nicknamed him Captain Keyboard. Dragon also got co-writing credits on their 1972 album Carl and the Passions – “So Tough”.

He particularly added a lot of contributions to the songs Cuddle Up and Make It Good. He stayed working with the group throughout the whole early 1970s. Eventually, Tennille was brought on to the Beach Boys as well, but that ended quick.

Starting At The Smoke House

Upon splitting with the Beach Boys Captain and Tennille didn’t immediately become stars, they had to take some time and work themselves up from the bottom. They became a lounge act at the now famous Smoke House, a bar and grill that used to host the likes of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

Today, it still sits in its same location right across from the Warner Bros Studio in Los Angeles. Tennille wasn’t a fan of the experience, “The work was hell. I sang my guts out five hours a night, six days a week. I used to dread going in there,”

Their Variety Show

The 1970s were in love with two things and those were musical couples and variety shows. Much like me saw Sonny and Cher and Donnie and Marie get their variety shows, so did Captain and Tennille. While it wasn’t as famous as the ones mentioned prior, it had a slew of memorable moments.

They had Leonard Nimoy, Raymond Burr, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts all make appearances. This was due to them trying to beat out The Jeffersons for ratings. It didn’t work and after their 1976-1977 season, they were canceled.

Tennille’s Solo Albums

The 1980s proved to be a hard time for Captain & Tennille. Daryl was becoming increasingly paranoid about his health and wasn’t going into the studio as much. Toni wasn’t done in the spotlight. She pushed forward and tried all she could to stay relevant.

This led to thing like her own talk show. She also decided to go solo and release a 1984 album called More Than You Know. The album didn’t bring her much success, but she would try again with a couple more albums in the 80s and 1990s.

Tennilles Brush With Acting

Toni Tennille wasn’t always all about singing. She was fond of most of the arts that surrounded show business and at the height of her fame also took on some acting roles. Seeing as she had her own variety show and was on broadway, acting wasn’t foreign to her.

She acted on six episodes of The Love Boat she played on three episodes in 1978 and three episodes in 1981. She didn’t reprise her initial role but actually played two different characters. She also played a slew of different characters on the show Fantasy Island.

Some Talk Show Success

Talk shows were something that really exploded in the 1980s. We’ve had Oprah, Rickie Lake, Montel and tons more, but the talk show craze really started with Toni Tennille. After her Captain & Tennille’s musical success died down in 1980, they needed to find new things.

Toni Tennille has the idea of a morning talk show called The Toni Tennille Show. She had an array of amazing guest on her show, including names like Chevy Chase and Anthony Hopkins. Sadly, after one year the show was canceled. That said, many other shows would stem from the idea.

Married For Image

Tennille and Dragon didn’t plan on getting married so soon after playing with the Beach Boys. They liked each other and liked working with one another, but marriage wasn’t even something that the young couple was thinking about at the time.

Toni’s parents really urged the two to get married. They believed that the two would garner a bad image if they worked so closely and toured but weren’t married. They complied and didn’t take the marriage very seriously. Eventually, they really learned to take their marriage very seriously.

Marriage Problems

Toni described the beginning of their marriage by saying, “Here I was a newly married woman with a hit record and a Grammy, living the dream that so many artists aim for. The man whom I’d thought was my soul mate was in many ways just as remote as a stranger passing by through the fog.”

While their marriage was good, she said in her book something that puzzled everyone. “I can say without exaggeration that he showed no physical affection for me during our very long marriage,” Apparently they often slept in separate beds.

Why He Wore The Hat

Rarely can you find many pictures of Daryl Dragon without is trademark captain hat? It may have something to do with his aggressive receding hairline. As far back as the late 1970s, he began losing his hair. You can find pictures of him with long hair in his Beach Boys days.

It is something that Toni covers in her book. Daryl was very self-conscious about losing his hair. We definitely understand his pain as the 1970s and 1980s was a time when hair meant almost everything. He was also a rockstar. That means it meant so much more.

Toni Writes

Toni Tennille is currently 78-years-old. Her career isn’t having quite the impact that it did about 40 years ago. I don’t think she sees any major comebacks waiting for her in the near future. That said, she has taken it upon herself to write an autobiography.

We always had a certain image of Captain & Tennille. They were sweet, innocent fun and always kind of happy. This book does a good job of revealing a truth that none of us saw coming. This is a must-read for any Captain & Tennille fan.

The Big Split

The marriage between Daryl and Toni didn’t last. They weren’t able to live up the lyrics in their song Love Will Keep Us Together. After 39 years of marriage, the two split in 20014. She said, “He just couldn’t be affectionate, he couldn’t just give me a hug.”

She further stated, “I don’t blame him because he came from a very, very difficult family and he had a famous but overbearing father. I kept trying and trying and thinking I could bring this man who has so much to give into the light,” Ultimately she couldn’t and gave up.

Toni’s Finger Injury

Toni is known for her amazing piano skills. This is something that almost never happened. During a childhood wheelbarrow accident, she crushed her index finger and left it in a mutilated state. Several reconstructive surgeries helped it but it was never the same.

She was always very conscious about her finger and would never bring attention to the finger. She stated during an interview, ‘It was a secret that I carried with me everywhere and I would know immediately if someone happened to look at my hand’.

Outcast In The Music World

Captain & Tennille often found themselves on the outside of the popular circle in the music world. They weren’t completely hip with what was going on back in the 1970s and 1980s. Both of them were completely straight edge and didn’t drink or take part in any substances.

Most other musicians and people from inside the industry found the boring and this left the pair feeling isolated even despite their massive success. They were labeled as a safe poppy band, one that would ultimately be seen as possibly corny in the future.

Daryl Was A Hypochondriac

Once the music career crashed to an end, Daryl found himself living in hard times. He began fearing for his health and would explore a number of different diets. One consisted of whole wheat pasta and steamed vegetables.

Once the internet came out, it got a lot worse for him. He’d spend hours at a time looking up possible illnesses he might have and what he could avoid. The man was practically fighting a war in his mind, but Toni stayed with him every step of the way.

Rome Gone Wrong

Tennille recounted what was supposed to be a beautiful trip to Rome together and how his conditions really ruined the entire trip. Tennille had big dreams of eating amazing Italian dinners and having the time of her life. Sadly, this wasn’t about to happen for her.

Daryl was so paranoid over the food and wanted his meals to be so specific that basically, the two spent a majority of the time eating alone in their hotel. To make things even worse, they didn’t go to the Vatican City because he refused to take off his hat.

Daryl’s Eyes

Daryl always had very large eyes. It is a condition called megalophthalmus and as he got older it became more of a problem. This one of the reason why they stopped performing and one of the reasons why their variety show had to be cut off the air.

He had several surgeries which involved removing cataracts and control glaucoma. He had to wear his glasses everywhere and this is something that wasn’t liked by others. The studios went on to say that he couldn’t wear them on set. His eyes just would adjust.

Toni’s First Marriage

When most people think of Toni, they couldn’t possibly imagine her being with anyone else besides Daryl. The had nearly existed as one since the 1970s. That said, she first got married back in 1962 to a drummer named Ken Shearer.

At the time of their marriage, Toni knew that they weren’t in love and this eventually took the toll of the marriage and they split in 1972 after ten years. It was heartbreaking, but she recovered. She would be single for two years before meeting Daryl and marrying him.

Daryl Meets Toni

The Beach Boys is a band of personalities. We all know about the fun love Mike Love and the rest of the band. They put on a show and have a great presence. Amongst them, Daryl was the quiet mysterious one. He’d sit in a corner and have very little to say.

When Toni joined the band, she could have fallen for anyone, but she found herself into the quiet and reserved Daryl. She wrote in the book, “I felt myself more and more intrigued with the enigmatic young man who said little but watched me with his large, liquid-brown eyes”

Hitting The Road Solo

Daryl was constantly on the brink of thinking he had one illness or another. At one point he thought he had Parkinson’s disease and would spend hours searching for cures and foods that would help. At one point he believed he had extended left arm syndrome.

With a need to escape her loneliness and to earn some extra money, Tennille hit the road alone. All his diets and illness scares were costing a lot of money and they could no longer afford to live off of their past success. Daryl would stay home all alone.

Her Work With Pink Floyd

Captain & Tennille was never the kind of band that the cool crowd listen to. That said, Toni got her cool points by singing back up vocals for Pink Floyd on The Wall,  their most famous album. It wasn’t something they planned, it just kind of fell together.

It was a Sunday morning in Los Angeles and Tennille got a call saying that Pink Floyd was in town and if she would be interested in doing backup vocals. Up to that point, she had never heard their music but was very impressed with the band.

Did She Regret The Marriage?

“Tennille was asked during an interview with FOX News that if she felt the years spent in a loveless marriage were worth it. She said, “When Daryl and I were working together, even though I didn’t get the nourishment or the love, it was the most creative I have ever been.”

“The singer further stated, “I was just filled with songs, and I couldn’t wait to get out there and do. That is what I loved. I loved the music. Because of Daryl and our working together, I was able to get out there and do that. That was my joy and still is.”

Accused Of Cheating

Once news broke that the bond between Daryl and Toni was loveless, many people believed that she was having an affair and that she had a long time lover on the side. It only made sense seeing that she had been married to Dragon for so long with very little affection involved.

Ultimately, she would claim that she had never cheated on her husband and that she had always been determined to make the marriage work all the way up until the end. At some point, she even gave up and decided that it was time to end things.

The Big Divorce

After 39 years of marriage, Toni filed for divorce against Daryl. It took her so long to realize that their marriage wasn’t going to work. In 2015, Tennille left their Arizona home and moved away to Florida to live with her sister. Daryl stayed behind and was left in the care of their maids.

When asked why she had left him, she claimed it was because she was tired trying. Their marriage was void of any kind of love. She realized that love was something that Daryl just wasn’t capable of. His childhood had crippled him in that department.

Dragon’s Health Decline

In 2015, Dragon’s health took a turn for the worse and Tennille moved back into their Arizona home to help care for him. His health got even worse once the two divorced. He began having tremors so bad that he could make music anymore and had to step away from his career.

In his sickness, he became more paranoid than ever. In a panic, he made a phone call to the police in 2016 and told them to come quickly because he believed his caregiver was trying to harm him. They showed up on the scene but found no evidence of this.

No doubt, the divorce was something that Dragon never saw coming. He stated during an interview, “This divorce was Toni’s idea and I don’t understand it. I was never unfaithful to her. I always thought her and I were like ravens – monogamous for life.”

The musician further went on to say, “I can’t figure it out. She says she’s divorcing me for ‘spiritual reasons’, but she also says that over time her philosophical beliefs have changed…she hasn’t been any clearer than that.”

The Captain Passes

The last half of Dragon’s life wasn’t easy. His body and mind were both slipping and his one safe haven was his wife and his music. Sadly within the last few years he lost them both. From that point on it was a slippery slope for the talented musician.

On January 2, 2019, Daryl Dragon passed away due to kidney failure. Tennille was right by his bedside as he left us. With that, Captain & Tennille will always be remembered for their romantic songs from the 1970s. It was completely their thing.