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Captain & Tennille

About Captain & Tennille

In 1972, Toni Tennille was a co-writer of the musical Mother Earth. Daryl “Captain Keyboard” Dragon, who got his nickname while touring with the Beach Boys from his signature skipper’s cap, took a job as the keyboardist for Mother Earth and the two hit it off romantically and musically, forming a nightclub act that charged $70 a night.

When two radio DJs urged the duo to record their cover of the Beach Boys song “Disney Girls” in 1974, they also recorded an original song “The Way I Want to Touch You” which attracted interest from several record labels. A&M Records, home to the platinum-selling male/female duo The Carpenters who had scored ten top 5 hits in the US from 1970-1974, signed them.

Captain & Tennille’s 1975 debut album featured seven originals, three Beach Boys covers and – at the suggestion of A&M’s A&R man – a cover of Neil Sedaka’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”. The latter was released as their first single and found massive success in North America. It reached #1 in the US & Canada, won a Grammy for Record Of The Year, and was the biggest song of of the year in the US. Even their Spanish version of the song “Por Amor Viviremos” reached #49 in the US. A&M followed it up with “The Way I Want to Touch You” and it reached #4 in both the US and Canada. Both songs also found success in New Zealand and the UK. The two married in November 1975.

Song Of Joy followed in 1976 and its three singles “Lonely Night” (another Sedaka cover), “Shop Around” (a Miracles cover) and “Muskrat Love” (heavily based on Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Muskrat Candlelight”) were all top 5 hits in the US and Canada, and gave the duo continued success in New Zealand. US President Gerald Ford and his wife asked Captain & Tennille to perform their favorite song “The Way I Want to Touch You” at the White House for the 1976 Bicentennial. British royalty was in attendance and Queen Elizabeth famously nodded off during “Muskrat Love”. The Captain & Tennille Show, a variety show hosted by the couple, aired on ABC TV for one season beginning in the fall of 1976, but Captain was camera-shy and adding the show to his existing workload was ‘exhausting’.

The group’s next two albums for A&M offered one successful single each: the disco-oriented Ray Stevens cover “Can’t Stop Dancin'” and another Sedaka cover “You Never Done It Like That”, but the duo’s popularity began to wane. Feeling shunned as their label hopped on the New Wave music craze, they left A&M for Casablanca Records and released Make Your Move in 1979 featuring the international smash hit “Do That To Me One More Time”. But Casablanca was collapsing at the time with the loss of Donna Summer from their roster and the general decline of disco, so a lack of promotional funding was partially blamed for their next album Keeping Our Love Warm and its two singles not charting at all. Casablanca founder Neil Bogart passed away and the label went bankrupt.

More Than Dancing was released on a small Australian label in the early 80s to little fanfare, so Tennille launched a solo career singing traditional pop songs, scoring two modestly charting albums in the mid-1980s. Captain built and ran a successful recording studio in LA that he owned for over 20 years. The two released a collection of covers and re-recordings of their hits on 1995’s Twenty Years Of Romance and performed together at a benefit concert in 2003. The duo remained married until 2014 with Tennille telling Billboard in 2016, “I’ve never felt loved by him” and stating she stayed in the marriage because she “didn’t want to let the fans down”. Captain passed away in early 2019 with Tennille at his side.

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