As reported by Variety, musician Daryl Dragon—the “Captain” half of Captain & Tennille—died earlier this week of renal failure. A spokesperson says that Dragon’s ex-wife Toni Tennille, who divorced Dragon in 2014 but had been in contact with him in recent years, was at this side when he died. Dragon was 76.
Dragon grew up in a family of performers, with his father being composer Carmen Dragon, his younger brother growing up to be a member of ‘60s pop group The Dragons and ‘80s band Surf Punks, and his godfather being actor Danny Thomas. Dragon played in a handful of bands in the early ‘60s, and by the end of the decade he had become the keyboard player for The Beach Boys. As the story goes, it was actually Mike Love from The Beach Boys who first started referring to Dragon as “Captain,” with him decided to lean into the nickname by wearing a captain’s hat onstage.
In 1972, during a break in touring with The Beach Boys, Dragon auditioned to be the keyboard player for a musical that was co-written by Toni Tennille. He got the gig, and he later recommended Tennille to The Beach Boys when they needed a backup piano player. Tennille and Dragon recognized that they collaborated well, and after the Beach Boys tour they formed their own group: Captain & Tennille.
As the duo began to develop a following in Los Angeles, they landed a record deal and eventually released a version of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” as their first single and got married a few months later. The song was a massive hit, selling over a million copies in 1975 and solidifying Captain & Tennille as an iconic part of ‘70s culture, though subsequent singles like “The Way I Want To Touch You,” “Muskrat Love,” and “Do That To Me One More Time” (despite being big hits on their own) failed to make such a lasting impact. Still, Captain & Tennille stuck to it for decades, touring and releasing new music right up into the 2000s and continuing to play into the dynamic of Dragon being cool and quiet while Tennille was loud and vivacious.
In the late-2000s, Dragon developed a tremor that limited his ability to perform live music, and in 2014 he and Tennille filed for divorce. They reportedly remained friends, though, and in early 2017 his condition had begun to improve along with his relationship with Tennille. In a statement, Tennille asked fans to remember him “with love,” as she does.