On January 2, we lost Daryl Dragon, “The Captain” of the hit duo Captain & Tennille. We look back on Captain & Tennille recordings along with Daryl’s work with The Beach Boys and his recording studio years, co-owning Rumbo Recorders.
By Warren Kurtz
Daryl Dragon’s father was Carmen Dragon, a noted arranger, composer and conductor and his mother was singer Eloise Dragon. Daryl was a classically trained pianist but preferred to play boogie and blues music, which was displayed on his instrumental compositions “Broddy Bounce,” “Going Bananas” and “’D’ Keyboard Blues” on Captain & Tennille albums.
Daryl, and Toni Tennille at Daryl’s recommendation, were touring members of The Beach Boys in the ‘70s. Mike Love nicknamed Daryl “Captain Keyboard” due to the captain’s hat he always wore. In addition to touring, Daryl played keyboards and provided arrangements on The Beach Boys’ 1972 album Carl and The Passions “So Tough,” which included a song that he was very proud of and co-wrote with Dennis Wilson called “Cuddle Up,” which was also used as a Beach Boys flip side. A version of this song appeared a few years later, on the debut album for Captain & Tennille, Love Will Keep Us Together. The title song spent several weeks at No. 1 in the summer of 1975, winning a Grammy for Record of the Year. It was written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. On the back cover of Toni’s 2016 memoir, Neil Sedaka wrote, “I’ll never forget the day when I received a 45 RPM in the mail of my song by a new group, Captain & Tennille. I put it on the turntable and almost fell off my chair. It was the most perfect production and performance of a pop song that I had ever heard.” All Captain & Tennille recordings were produced by Daryl.
The duo’s next gold single, also from their debut album, was one which had been a local favorite in Los Angeles, before they signed with A&M, “The Way That I Want to Touch You.” They played this song at the White House in the mid-‘70s at the request of Betty Ford. The debut album also included a couple of Beach Boys covers. Daryl said, “I wanted to make an album without guitars and let us focus on keyboards.”
Their second album, Song of Joy, brought Daryl and Toni three more Top 5 gold singles. Their third album, Come in From the Rain, included the singles “Can’t Stop Dancin’” and the title tune, written by Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager. Its flip side was the album’s finale, “We Never Really Say Goodbye,” written by Daryl and Toni, and is musically gentle, capturing an essence similar to “When You Wish Upon a Star.” It began with the couplet, “Keep a song of joy inside your heart, even though the time has come for us to part.”
Captain & Tennille
Flip side: We Never Really Say Goodbye
A side: Come in From the Rain
Top 100 debut: June 11, 1977
Peak position: 61
One more album from A&M and two from Casablanca followed in the U.S. through 1980. The duo reached No. 1 for a second time in 1980 with Toni’s composition “Do That to Me One More Time.”
Their final two U.S. albums were recorded at Rumbo Recorders, a studio that Daryl designed, and he and Toni owned through 2003. Some of the other acts who recorded at this Canoga Park, California studio include Sheena Easton, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, KISS, Heart, Guns N’ Roses, Ringo Starr, and Eddie Money, who told Goldmine, “I recorded some of my Love and Money album in the ‘90s at Rumbo Recorders. Daryl was great. He practically lived there. I love ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’.”
In 1981, Daryl provided the synthesizer programming arrangement heard on The Carpenters’ single “(Want You) Back in My Life Again,” written by Kerry Chater and Chris Christian. The following year, an Australian independent label Wizard released the final vinyl Captain & Tennille album More Than Dancing, named after the song “Feels Like More Than Dancing,” written by Kerry Chater and Patti Dahlstrom. In 2002, a CD version of the album was released, again in Australia, by the small label Raven, with eleven bonus tracks, noted as “Much More,” which included liner notes written by Daryl on each song. He wrote that Toni’s composition “Love Survives” was written in memory of their dear friend Howie Greenfield and had been sitting on the shelves at Rumbo Recorders for many years. He signed the liner notes as Daryl “The Captain” Dragon.
In Toni’s 2016 Goldmine interview, she spoke of Daryl, “Musically is where we sparked. Daryl’s strength was musical, a great producer and arranger. He brought out the best in me musically.” Toni was with Daryl at the time of his passing in Prescott, Arizona.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with giveaways, interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.