The Captain & Tennille

Captain & Tennille  photo In 1972 an ecology-themed musical, “Mother Earth,” was about to open in San Francisco’s Marines Memorial Theater when the producers discovered they had to quickly replace one keyboard player.  Toni Tennille, the show’s co-writer, put out a call which was answered by Daryl Dragon, who sometimes performed with the Beach Boys.  As thanks to her for hiring him for the gig, Daryl introduced Toni to the Beach Boys, who later had her join them as an extra keyboard player on tour.  That meant that for a solid year Toni Tennille served as the group’s first and only Beach Girl.  One thing few of Toni and Daryl’s fans ever knew was that even during their peak years the couple often backed other artists on records — everyone from The Beach Boys and Art Garfunkel to Pink Floyd and Elton John.  You can clearly hear Toni on Elton’s 1974 million-seller “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.”

After their year touring with The Beach Boys, the duo decided to stay together and perform in night spots such as Encino’s fabled Smokehouse Restaurant.  As the Beach Boys had dubbed Daryl “The Captain” after he frequently wore a captain’s hat onstage, Daryl and Toni decided to bill themselves as “The Captain & Tennille.”  The pair soon recorded a single, “The Way I Want To Touch You” (Butterscotch Castle 001), which became a local hit in Southern California.  That lead to a contract with a major label, A&M, and the recording of what became the team’s first national hit, “Love Will Keep Us Together” (A&M 1672).  That chart-topping single not only won the Grammy for “Record of the Year” in 1975 but featured a tribute to Neil Sedaka, the song’ composer. In the fade out.  Toni sang, via an overdub, the words “Sedaka’s back” — a reference to Neil’s surprise return to the Top 40 after more than a decade away via his recently released million-seller, “Laughter in The Rain.”  Remarkably, The Captain & Tennille also charted later in 1975 with “Por Amor Viviremos” (A&M 1715), a Spanish language version of “Love Will Keep Us Together.”  The couple concluded that year with a re-release as A&M 1725) of “The Way I Want To Touch You,” which soared to #4 and became the couple’s second gold single.

Three more Top 10 million-sellers followed in 1976: “Lonely Night” (A&M 1782), “Shop Around” (A&M 1817) and “Muskrat Love” (A&M 1870).  That September the Captain & Tennille became stars of their own ABC-TV music and comedy variety series.  Despite high ratings, the duo decided to forgo television after a single season to concentrate on their music and touring schedule.   Doing so, though, took The Captain & Tennille out of the major league spotlight – and their hits became harder to come by.  “Can’t Stop Dancin’” (A&M 1912), released among the disco frenzy of 1977, peaked at #13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.  Another Sedaka song, “You Never Done It Like That” (A&M 2083) climbed to #10 in 1878.

In 1979, The Captain and Tennille left A&M and signed with Casablanca Records, for which they recorded the steamy “Do That To Me One More Time” (Casablanca 2215).  It returned the duo to #1 early in 1980 but that single turned out to be their final Top 40 hit.  That same year Toni came back to TV without The Captain as hostess of her own daytime talk show for one season.   Over the next quarter century the duo and sometimes Toni alone played clubs and sporadically recorded.   Toni also spent a year in the touring company of “Victor/Victoria.”   Daryl eventually gave up performing altogether and in 2014, after 39 years of marriage, The Captain & Tennille broke up – professionally and personally.