The Captain and Tennille The Captain and Tennille

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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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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