Daryl Dragon, the “Captain” in “Captain & Tennille,” Dies At 76

One-half of a pop music icon in the 70's, the Captain has passed away.

Daryl Dragon, the “Captain” in the 70s pop duo Captain & Tennille, has passed away at 76:

Daryl Dragon, the “Captain” half of the pop duo the Captain and Tennille, whose string of soft-rock hits in the 1970s included ”Love Will Keep Us Together“ and ”Muskrat Love,“ died on Wednesday in Prescott, Ariz. He was 76.

His former wife and singing partner, Toni Tennille, announced his death through a publicist, who said the cause was renal failure.

The Captain and Tennille, whose specialty was romantic ballads featuring Ms. Tennille’s silky voice, reached the Top 10 seven times from 1975 to 1979.

“He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly,” Ms. Tennille said in a statement. “I was at my most creative in my life when I was with him.”

Mr. Dragon’s stage name came from his days as a backup musician with the Beach Boys in the 1960s and early ’70s, when he often wore a captain’s hat onstage. Mike Love, one of the group’s leaders, would introduce him to audiences as the “captain of the keyboards.”

(…)

Daryl Dragon was born on Aug. 27, 1942, in Los Angeles. His father, Carmen, was a composer and conductor, and his mother, Eloise (Rawitzer) Dragon, was a soprano who sang on radio programs.

Mr. Dragon was trained in classical piano but didn’t take to it.

“I seemed to be at war with myself in my musical tastes,” he told The Globe. “I could appreciate the great compositions, but I also liked the boogie beat.”

He played in several bands in the 1960s before signing on with the Beach Boys. He met Ms. Tennille in 1971, when he was brought in to play keyboards for the San Francisco run of an ecology-themed musical, “Mother Earth,” which she had co-written and in which she was performing with South Coast Repertory, a theater company from Orange County, Calif. He in turn brought her onto a Beach Boys tour as a backup singer and pianist.

The two began performing together in nightclubs, and after self-financing a demo, they landed a record contract. Their cover of “Love Will Keep Us Together,” a song that Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield wrote and that Mr. Sedaka recorded in 1973, became a worldwide hit in 1975, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart and winning the Grammy Award for record of the year.

The Captain and Tennille kept turning out hits for the rest of the 1970s.

They also landed a television variety show on ABC as the network tried to duplicate the success that Sonny and Cher had enjoyed with their own show earlier in the decade. But the series, which had its premiere in September 1976, lasted only one season. Mr. Dragon found the whole experience distasteful.

“Television is a great garbage disposal,” he said at the time. “It keeps grinding up artists like us and throwing them away.”

Mr. Dragon produced all 10 of the duo’s 10 albums. They continued to perform after their hit-making run ended in 1979 — “Do That to Me One More Time” was their last gold record — and Mr. Dragon produced other artists. Ms. Tennille, meanwhile, increasingly pursued solo projects.

The couple divorced in 2014. In 2016, Ms. Tennille published a memoir in which she wrote that their marriage had not been the idyllic partnership it had been made to seem.

Their record company, she wrote, falsely announced that they had married on Valentine’s Day 1975; to satisfy expectations, they married for real not long after.

More from Variety:

Daryl Dragon, the hat-wearing musician familiar to 1970s music fans as half of the bestselling duo the Captain & Tennille, died Tuesday in Prescott, Arizona at age 76.

Dragon’s ex-wife, Toni Tennille, “was with him as he took his last breath,” said Harlon Boll, a spokesperson for the singer. In a statement, Tennille said, “He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly. I was at my most creative in my life when I was with him.”

Dragon died of renal failure, according to Boll.

“Love Will Keep Us Together,” the title track from the duo’s 1975 debut album, reached No. 1 in July of 1975 and won the top Record of the Year prize at the following year’s Grammy Awards. “Do That to Me One More Time,” the last of their big hits, also reached the top of the chart, in 1979. In the interval, the Captain & Tennille reached the top 10 with “Muskrat Love,” “The Way I Want to Touch You,” “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” and “Shop Around.”

Daryl Dragon, the hat-wearing musician familiar to 1970s music fans as half of the bestselling duo the Captain & Tennille, died Tuesday in Prescott, Arizona at age 76.

Dragon’s ex-wife, Toni Tennille, “was with him as he took his last breath,” said Harlon Boll, a spokesperson for the singer. In a statement, Tennille said, “He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly. I was at my most creative in my life when I was with him.”

Dragon died of renal failure, according to Boll.

“Love Will Keep Us Together,” the title track from the duo’s 1975 debut album, reached No. 1 in July of 1975 and won the top Record of the Year prize at the following year’s Grammy Awards. “Do That to Me One More Time,” the last of their big hits, also reached the top of the chart, in 1979. In the interval, the Captain & Tennille reached the top 10 with “Muskrat Love,” “The Way I Want to Touch You,” “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” and “Shop Around.”

While there’s much to criticize about the pop music of the 1970s, it’s hard to deny that, for a time at least, the Captain & Tenille were a large part of that scene, especially in the pre-disco era. At the time, their relationship was sold to the public as being both professional and romantic, something that we didn’t learn until many years later was to some extent a contrivance invented by publicists that Dragon and Tennille ended up going along with at least until they separated just a few years ago, although Tennille said in subsequent interviews that the two remained close. At the very least, they were quite popular and one can still hear their music on radio stations inclined to play music from that era from time to time. Since I was a kid back then, it was certainly a sound that I was exposed to whether voluntarily or not. In any case, as always, the best way to remember those who have contributed musically to our world is through their music:

Dragon was not the only celebrity to pass away yesterday. Prior to his death being announced, it was revealed that Bob Einstein, who became famous as “Super Dave” Osborne during the 1970s and 80s and later appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm as Marty Funkhouser and the brother of noted comedy writer and actor Albert Brooks, had passed away, and that “Mean” Gene Okerlund, who became the announcing face of the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s had also died. Like Dragon, Einstein and Okerlund were also 76 at the time of their passing.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Super Dave Osbourne and Mean Gene Okerlund also died yesterday, and were also 76.

    ReplyReply
  2. I mention both of them at the bottom of the post.

    ReplyReply
  3. HelloWorld! says:

    Funny and true story –

    My southern Baptist church gave me a book when I was a kid that said they were satin worshipers. Years later when I was in college on a ski trip we were on the same plane from Denver to Utah. I recognized them and told my friends about the book.

    When we landed in Utah I was freaked out because all of their luggage had “Dark Dragons” scribbled in large letters across the top. then my friends said to me, “his name is Daryl Dragon!”.

    I told them the story, and they lauhed and said they knew the book. They were both very nice and I got a pic with them.

    ReplyReply
  4. Mister Bluster says:

    test

    ReplyReply
  5. Mister Bluster says:

    SATIN WORSHIP
    Satin’s back, and it’s adding a sensuous shimmer to everything from hair clips to handbags.

    ReplyReply
  6. James Pearce says:

    Like Dragon, Einstein and Okerlund were also 76 at the time of their passing.

    Guess who’s going to be 76 soon?

    ReplyReply
    1
    2
  7. Mister Bluster says:

    ..Happy Birthday to me. 1948.

    Thanks Mom! RIP

    ReplyReply
  8. al Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    Guess who’s going to be 76 soon?

    Trump’s I.Q. ?
    Also, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison

    ReplyReply
  9. Kathy says:

    @HelloWorld!:

    My southern Baptist church gave me a book when I was a kid that said they were satin worshipers.

    In the 70? More like denim and glitter 🙂

    Toni Tennille has an awesome voice.

    ReplyReply
  10. James Pearce says:

    @al Ameda: Honestly I was thinking RBG. But then it occurs to me: She’s gonna be 86!

    It’s a tasteless joke and I formally withdraw it.

    ReplyReply
  11. HelloWorld! says:

    @Kathy: I deserve that.

    ReplyReply
  12. Kathy says:

    @HelloWorld!:

    If you do, it’s because you didn’t blame it on auto correct.

    BTW, I typed “the 70” rather than “the 70s.” Have at it. 🙂

    ReplyReply

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