Captain and Tennille

Toni Tennille was born in Montgomery Alabama, where she had nine years of classical piano training as a child. Her first professional experience was with the South Coast Repertory Theater, where she and friend Ron Thronson wrote a Rock musical called Mother Earth. The show received good reviews when it played in Los Angeles and when it moved to San Francisco, the call went out for a new keyboard player. A friend recommend Daryl Dragon, who was in between tours with The Beach Boys. Daryl was the son of conductor Carmen Dragon, and had studied classical piano for ten years. During the run of Mother Earth, Daryl was impressed with Toni's writing and singing and persuaded her to join the Beach Boys' next tour, making her the first "Beach Girl." Daryl had been nick named "Captain" by Mike Love because he always wore a Navy captain's hat on stage, and when he and Toni teamed up, they simply called themselves, Captain and Tennille.

Toni and Daryl were unable to land their own recording contract, so with $500 of their own money, they cut a single and released it on their own Butterscotch Castle label. That first effort was "The Way I Want To Touch You" and got enough regional air play to get them signed to A&M Records. Searching for a follow-up, vice president of A&M Records, Kip Cohen, called them into his office and played a song from a Neil Sedaka album called "Love Will Keep Us Together". They loved it at once and it was decided to record and release it as a single. "Love Will Keep Us Together" broke on American radio in April of 1975, and climbed steadily through May. It reached number one in June and spent nearly six months on the charts, selling over two and half million copies in both English and Spanish. Their success continued with a re-issue of "The Way I Want To Touch You" (#4 in 1975), "Lonely Night (Angel Face)" (#3 in 1976), "Shop Around" (#4 in 1976), "Muskrat Love" (#4 in 1976), "Can't Stop Dancin'" (#13 in 1977) and "You Never Done It Like That" (#10 in 1978).

In 1978, they moved from A&M to the Casablanca label, and kept their hit string alive when the sensual ballad "Do That To Me One More Time" reached number 1 in the USA in 1979. By now, however, Captain And Tennille were established in television with their own prime time series that took much of their time away from touring. Unable to support subsequent singles, their record sales tailed off dramatically. A single called "You Need A Woman Tonight" stalled at #40 in February, 1979. When the night time show was cancelled, it was followed by a day time show called The Toni Tennille Variety Talk Show, hosted by Tennille, with Dragon as musical director, in the early '80s.

In the years 1984-1986, Toni recorded two big band albums which contained some of the most famous, classic Jazz standards ever written. This chance that Toni took with her career paid off. Radio stations around the country played her beautiful renditions of these timeless songs, and Toni traveled the country singing the great standards with symphony orchestras and big bands. Starting in 1984, Toni became one of the most popular and critically acclaimed symphony guest artists in the U.S. and Canada. She performed with eight to ten symphony orchestras a year, including those of Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Edmonton. She was also a favorite guest artist of the United States Air Force Symphony Orchestra and Airmen Of Note. Her first two solo albums, "More Than You Know" and "All Of Me", were conceived by Toni and then finely tuned with the assistance of Count Basie's musical arranger/orchestrator, Sammy Nestico. Both albums were critically praised by Billboard, The Los Angeles Times, Cashbox, The Chicago Tribune, People and Us magazine. In 1991 she released a third album, a sampling of classic Jazz ballads entitled "Never Let Me Go", which again gained favorable reviews.

In later years, Toni became an even more versatile performer. In 1992 she starred in the Los Angeles production of the musical, Stardust, for which she received outstanding reviews from virtually every major publication and trade magazine. In 1995, Captain & Tennille released a collection of their hit singles along with other romantic ballads from the last two decades. The release of "Captain & Tennille - 20 Years of Romance" also happened to coincide with their 20th wedding anniversary.

As the new millennium rolled around, Captain & Tennille's popularity remained evident in the release of their "Ultimate Collection: The Complete Hits" in 2001 and "More Than Dancing... Much More", a 2002 CD. In November 2003, Toni performed a benefit concert for the Reno, Nevada Chamber Orchestra, where her surprise guest was Daryl Dragon, marking the first time they had performed publicly as Captain & Tennille in many years. As a result, their first live recording, "An Intimate Evening with Toni Tennille", was released to commemorate the event. 2005 marked a resurgence for the duo when Brant Berry, the vice president of Respond 2 Entertainment, agreed to issue three separate projects featuring them. The first was the release of Captain & Tennille's 1976 variety series on a three-disc DVD set. Second, R2 re-released all six of their albums, both from the original A&M and Casablanca labels, on newly-remastered CDs. The third was a three-song Christmas CD entitled "Saving Up Christmas". This effort was followed by "The Secret of Christmas", released on Captain & Tennille's own label, Purebred Records, on November 1, 2006. This was their first complete, original album in more than a decade, and their first-ever Christmas album.

In October 2006, two of Captain & Tennille's songs appeared on the Cartoon Network's animated special Casper's Scare School, on which they also recorded dialog for the characters Aunt Belle and Uncle Murray. Other voices featured in the film were provided by Phyllis Diller, James Belushi, Dan Castellaneta and Bob Saget. In 2007, three new DVDs were released of Captain & Tennille's ABC TV specials: Captain & Tennille in Hawaii, Captain & Tennille in New Orleans, and Captain & Tennille Songbook. In 2008, Toni and Daryl built a house and settled down in Prescott, Arizona. They continued to perform occasionally with popular appeal in the Lake Tahoe resort area and enjoyed the following of large numbers of fans across North America.

In mid-January, 2014, fans were shocked to learn that 73-year-old Toni had filed for divorce from 71-year-old Daryl after 39 years of marriage.

Be sure to read Gary James' interview with Toni Tennille