‘The Captain’ Remembered: Pop Duo Performed Locally
His real name was Daryl Dragon, but as one half of the 1970s pop duo Captain and Tennille with his wife Toni Tennille, he was known simply as “The Captain.”
Dragon died Wednesday in Prescott, Arizona. He was 76.
Captain and Tennille played locally in 1978 at the height of their popularity. Before their performance at the Allentown Fair on Aug. 30 of that year, local DJ and entertainment writer Joe Middleton interviewed the duo in an Allentown hotel room and talked with them again backstage after the gig. Tickets for the show were $4 to $8. The tour also stopped at the Kingston Armory in November.
Middleton, now retired, said Dragon was friendly, smart, loved to talk about music and anything else. They talked about Dragon’s early life, his classical music background, his time as a keyboardist with the Beach Boys and how Mike Love gave him the name “Captain.” They talked about their television experience, recording techniques and even food. They were vegetarians.
Love gave Dragon the name “Captain” for the naval cap he always wore. Dragon brought Tennille to the Beach Boys as a keyboardist calling her “The first Beach Girl.”
Middleton said looking back now it’s amazing to think over 40 years ago Dragon was using computers to craft his music.
“I’m really hot on computer mixing now,” Dragon said in the interview which appeared in the Wyoming Valley Observer. “The computer memorizes everything you do. It’s really the future of music mixing.”
Middleton said the duo had mixed feelings about their music being labeled lightweight or what was then called MOR, for Middle of the Road.
“We don’t think our music warrants being stuck in that category,” Tennille told Middleton, “Some of our songs maybe lightweight, but if you break them down, they are incredibly well done. Just the bass parts alone are as funky as anything on the radio today.”
On stage Dragon sat surrounded on three sides by keyboards and synthesizer, while Tennille moved around singing in canary yellow slacks, tan boots and a turquoise jacket.
The duo’s breakthrough hit was the Neil Sedaka song “Love Will Keep Us Together” which was the first of their five gold singles. They also had five gold albums and a platinum album and single. Their other most recognizable hits were “Muskrat Love,” “Do That to Me One More Time,” and “You Never Really Done it Like That,” which was a Top 10 hit when the duo met with Middleton.
“Love Will Keep Us Together” led to the Captain and Tennille to their own television show which debuted in the fall of 1976 on ABC. Tennille said while TV created a demand for them and led to a lot of work, “it definitely hurt our record career.”
“He was a fabulous musician,” Middleton said of the Captain. “He wanted the music to stand on its own.”
As he told Middleton that day in Allentown, “the best thing to do is get out there and be honest and do what you do the best way you can. That’s what we do on stage. We’re what we are.”