Love Will Keep Them Together18 May, 2007 By: John Latchem
The Captain & Tennille
The husband-and-wife team of Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille, better known as Captain & Tennille, carved out their share of musical history with such hit songs as “Love Will Keep Us Together” and “Muskrat Love.”
But the couple also holds a place in TV history, which will be commemorated this year with Retroactive Entertainment's release of three of the their TV specials on DVD.
Captain & Tennille in New Orleans, Captain & Tennille in Hawaii and Captain & Tennille Songbook hit shelves Oct. 9 (prebook Sept. 11) at $19.99 each, or in a $49.99 boxed set, The Captain & Tennille: The Specials, which streets Nov. 6 (prebook Oct. 9).
The three specials stemmed from the couple's short-lived variety show, which aired on ABC from 1976 to 1977. Dragon and Tennille ended the show after its first season due to creative differences with the network.
ABC wanted a musical-comedy show similar to “Sonny and Cher” or “Donny and Marie,” Tennille said, with 40% music and 60% sketches (such as the infamous pie fight).
“That never really made sense to us, but we got them to 50-50,” Tennille said. “It wasn't great, but we thought we could handle it.”
“We wouldn't do the put-down humor,” said Dragon, who has performed under the moniker “Captain” since his days as a keyboardist with The Beach Boys.
“It was a constant battle,” Tennille said. “Every week, the script would have us putting each other down, and every week we'd have to take it out.”
Adding to the trouble was Dragon's lack of acting experience.
“Looking back at the shows, I can kind of see why people would make fun of him,” Tennille said. The series was released on DVD in 2005.
The first follow-up to the series, the New Orleans special, aired April 3, 1978, and featured Tennille performing “Black Water” with her sisters Louisa and Melissa, as well as “Barney Miller” star Hal Linden playing his clarinet with Murphy Campo and The Jazz Saints.
A highlight of the program is a dual piano performance between Dragon and Fats Domino.
“[Fats] had these gigantic rings on each of his fingers,” Tennille said. “I didn't know how he could play the piano while he was wearing those.”
Dragon said the special is particularly poignant in light of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“You get to see what New Orleans was,” Dragon said. “A lot of those places aren't around anymore.”
The Hawaii special aired May 5, 1978, with guest stars Kenny Rogers, David Soul and Don Knotts, as well as a performance by native group The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau.
“It was like a historical documentary,” Dragon said.
Songbook aired March 26, 1979, with the focus on music, with performances by B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald and Glen Campbell.
“Finally, we got to do a special without all those stupid sketches,” Tennille said.
Appearing with Fitzgerald was a highlight for Tennille.
“We sang a medley of jazz and torch songs that lasted about 10 minutes,” Tennille said. “It was such a thrill.”
Dragon said the special turned out so well because they tried to make it different from run-of-the-mill network studio music shows.
“I saw B.B. King on these network shows, and he always looked uncomfortable because the studios are always so stuffy,” Dragon said. “I asked if it was legal to put real booze on the set, and they did it. And everyone was so relaxed. They basically set up a club, and it turned out great.”
In addition to the specials, the couple's 1976 Christmas special will be released on DVD Oct. 2, the same day as their Christmas CD, The Secret of Christmas, which has four new songs.
“I truly think it's the most collaborative thing Daryl and I have done together,” Tennille said.
The couple has limited their appearances in recent years, but is planning a concert series next year.
“There are fans who would really love to see us perform again,” Tennille said.
Tennille also stays in touch with the duo's fans through her weekly blog, “Toni's Take,” at Captainandtennille.net and invites anyone to drop her a line.
“But keep it brief,” she said.