The Show Biz Pedigree of Captain and Tennille (R.I.P. Daryl Dragon)

Everything goes in three: today we lost wresting announcer Gene Okerlund, comedian Bob Einstein (son of Harry), and also musician Daryl Dragon (1942-2019), better known as the “Captain” of Captain and Tennille. I was a big fan of the husband-wife pop duo during their heyday (1975-80), though my only post on them to date has been a pretty derisive one about their worst song — possibly the worst song ever — “Muskrat Love” (post is here).

On this occasion though I thought something more respectful was in order, and as I investigated the team’s background I learned that they both have some fairly old school show biz genes in ’em. Toni’s father Frank Tennille sang with Bob Crosby’s Bob-Cats in the 1930s (Bob Crosby was Bing’s younger brother); her mother Catherine had a local tv show in Alabama. Carmen Dragon (Daryl’s father) was an orchestral conductor and Oscar-winning film score composer, whose works included the soundtrack to the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Daryl’s Godfather was Danny Thomas.

Daryl Dragon became a keyboard player for the Beach Boys, both in live performance and in recording sessions. Mike Love nicknamed him “Captain Keyboard”, which, shortened to “Captain”, became his persona. Dragon met Tennille when she was hiring musicians for a musical she had written at the South Coast Repertory Company. Later he got her work playing for the Beach Boys as well. Then the pair formed an act and got married, and a had a string of hit singles: eight top 20 songs over five years. Tennille combined soulful, Southern style singing with a borderline softcore porn lyrical sensibility that was very much in tune with the times.  Dragon was also very present in the music. I think in particular of the keyboard riff (possibly a clavinet?) in “Love Will Keep Us Together” that drives (pretty much makes) the song. Captain and Tennille also had their own TV variety show from 1976 to 1977 seemingly modeled on Sonny and Cher’s. As with ALL variety shows, I tuned in every week, though the pair could hardly be described as uproarious sketch comedians. I’m pretty sure Dragon was stoned behind those tinted sunglasses.

In 1980, Tennille shifted gears drastically by launching a syndicated talk show which lasted a year. The pair continued to perform live and to record (together and separately) for another 30+ years, though never again with the same success they enjoyed at their peak. Tennille’s autobiography revealed that Dragon was full of neuroses and genuine health problems. In 2014 they divorced, although Tennille returned in recent months to nurse Dragon through his final illness.