In the '70s the Captain and Tennille reigned supreme in the world of pop music with high-sheen tunes like "Love Will Keep Us Together" and "Muskrat Love." The quirky husband-and-wife team of Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille were even positioned to be the next Sonny and Cher with a wacky variety series in '76, but after squabbling with ABC about the direction of the show (C&T wanted more music, execs wanted more comedy), the two decided to sail away after one season and leave the lowbrow yuks to Donny & Marie. The couple would soon return to TV with specials that had them In New Orleans and In Hawaii and then back to Los Angeles for an all-music Songbook. This week these lively specials come to DVD (along with The Captain and Tennille Christmas Show) and have the Captain and Tennille singing again.
TV Guide: Were you surprised in 1975 when "Love Will Keep Us Together" became such a massive hit?
Toni Tennille: Well, I knew if the climate was right and radio stations needed an up-tempo song, they would add it. It was just a great radio record — it really popped out on the radio, and A&M, the record label, really did a great job promoting it.
Daryl "The Captain" Dragon: And we did our job, too, by driving around to radio stations with our pet bulldogs and the record. [The DJs] started playing the single and they would say, "Hey, aren’t those the two crazy people who came in here with their dogs?"
TV Guide: What's something people might be surprised to know about the Captain and Tennille?
Tennille: Well, the biggest surprise to people is that I sang background on Pink Floyd’s The Wall album. It’s funny, because I knew the name but didn’t really know their music; I guess I expected it to be a bunch of guys sitting around smoking dope.
Captain: Oh, how terrible that would have been.
Tennille: Shut up, Daryl! [Laughs] But when we walked in, David Gilmore [Floyd’s lead guitarist] greeted us (and this was a Sunday morning), and he said, "I was just watching you on TV with my kids." They were watching Kids are People Too — a kiddie show we were guests on. So, there went the stereotype I had of Pink Floyd right out the window!
TV Guide: And you, Captain?
Captain: I played the piano for the opening theme of The Young and the Restless for $50. They’ve been playing that for 30 years, but I never got royalty checks because I did it as a scab. As you can tell, I’m not upset about not being paid.
Tennille: No, you’re not upset at all — just still talking about it 30 years later.
TV Guide: And, Captain, you were also part of the Beach Boys touring band, right?
Captain: Yeah, I went on the road in 1967 and was with them for six years. I was keyboard player first and slowly graduated to music director. They couldn’t believe when I left them to play with Toni for $25 a day at a club, but I thought there was a future for us.
TV Guide: Being with the Beach Boys, do you have any good Brian Wilson stories?
Captain: Not really. It basically took three people to replace him on the road — that’s what I was hired for. Once in a while I would go to Brian’s house and he’d show me the [musical] parts, but at that time he was mostly up in his room sleeping. I was there right after he took the sandbox out of his living room, but just before he painted the house purple.
TV Guide: With Marie Osmond doing Dancing with the Stars, Toni, would you ever put on your dancing shoes?
Tennille: Absolutely not! My years of ballet and jazz dance lessons didn’t make me any more graceful — they just helped keep me from bumping into the furniture on stage. I only danced on our old television show because I had to. That was what you had to do on variety shows. Besides, after all my years on stage tromping around on three-and-half-inch heels, my feet are killing me!
TV Guide: These specials coming out on DVD are really fun to watch. They’ve got everyone from Don Knotts to B.B. King. Which show is your favorite?
Tennille: Hmm... the third special is Songbook and it’s the one that we finally put our foot down and said no more silly sketches.
Captain: And they said, "There go the ratings!"
Tennille: That show is a real treasure to us because we each got to pick our dream musical guest. I picked Ella Fitzgerald and we got to do a duet of torch songs together. Even when I watch it now I get the shivers, because she was such a brilliant singer, but also the nicest person. Daryl’s dream guest was B.B. King, and we set the audience up like it was in a club.
Captain: The audience got drunk, B.B. got loose and it all really worked.
TV Guide: Do you ever regret wearing the Captain’s hat?
Captain: We wouldn’t have our house without it. Honestly, if we had been Daryl and Toni, it would have lasted about six months and people would have forgotten my name. But it was a marketing ploy: Even today when someone says "Captain" people think of Captain and Tennille. About every 10 years I go to a [secret location] in Los Angeles and update my hats.
TV Guide: Did you ever have a boat?
Captain: No, I’m a total phony.
TV Guide: Did either of you ever get upset when critics would make fun of the Captain and Tennille?
Tennille: I don’t mind ribbing, but I don’t like when people are cruel. I just don’t read reviews, because it can really hurt you.
Captain: You know what dysthymia is? It’s a disorder that I have. When something is negative, I make it more negative. It’s been good because I always looked out for problems in our career, but to me the world is always gray and the glass always half empty.
TV Guide: Wow, all those years of upbeat, fun songs and now I find out that the Captain is depressed. Toni, do you feel like the Captain’s cheerleader?
Tennille: Oh, yes, all the time. If you lived with him, you’d feel the same way, too.
Catch scenes from The Captain and Tennille in our Online Video Guide.
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