The year was 1975 and the Captain and Tennille song, Love Will Keep Us Together, was tearing up the charts. Toni Tennille and her husband Daryl Dragon aka the Captain were one of the most popular male/female music duos of the 1970s. The also titled album, Love Will Keep Us Together, went on to win the Grammy for Record of the Year.
Her life with Daryl Dragon, left her longing to bring out the emotional side of her now ex-husband, but she says it was to no avail. In her new autobiography Toni Tennille: A Memoir, the singer shares the highs and lows of her personal and professional life. Worried what her fans would think of her divorce from Daryl, Ms. Tennille clears the air.
From playing at a place called the Smoke House in her early days to performing at the White House, this is Toni Tennille’s story. Living today in Florida near her sister Jane, Toni is happy where her life is and wants to reassure her fans that she and Daryl Dragon are still good friends and speak often.
In a more than 30 minute CYInterview, Toni Tennille shares her story. You can read the highlights below and hear much more by listening to the entire CYInterview below:
Listen to the entire Toni Tennille CYInterview:
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Ms. Tennille tells us it has been a few years since she last performed. On whether she will ever sing again, this is what she told us:
“One of the things that was always tough for me in all of the years that I was signing, I have, my voice under perfect condition is a fabulous instrument that I’m completely in control of. But I’m very, very subject to allergies, smoke, dust, mold, you name it and it’s a constant anxiety for me whenever I’m going to sing. Is my voice gonna be where I need it to be? Am I around any kind of allergens? That kind of thing. I mean I know it sounds ridiculous, but I spent my entire career with fear that my voice wouldn’t be right when I got out on stage. So the chances of my going back into that are pretty slim, pretty slim because I just can’t go through that anymore.”
The early part of her music career brought her to the Caucus Club in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s where a young Barbra Streisand just was in residence before Toni arrived:
“They talked about a gal who had been in there before me and Matt [Michaels] had accompanied her when she was there and he said she was very eccentric and kind of odd. You never knew if she was gonna show up on time or what she’d want to sing. She was always dressed in a potpourri of thrift type clothes, you know, they just were kind of strange looking for what you would imagine a cabaret singer to do, but when she opened her mouth and started to sing, the audience just went bananas and then he told me that it was Barbra Streisand. And of course she went on right after that to New York and made her way.”
On page 157 of her memoir, speaking of her husband, she writes, “In my experience, Daryl was never an emotionally demonstrative man. In fact, I can say without exaggeration that he showed no physical affection for me during our very long marriage.” On why she didn’t leave her marriage sooner, she told us this:
“Because I loved him and even when I got to the point where I realized I wasn’t going to change him, then I began to have second thoughts, but the one way we did connect and the one joy and connection I got with Daryl was when we would create music together. I think I was his muse and he was mine. So many of the songs that I wrote were about my longing for him like The Way I Wanna Touch You and Do That To Me One More Time and you know, all sorts of other songs you can find in our albums that we never released as singles. … What would I have done with my talent if this man had not come along that inspired me so and that was able to interpret the songs that I wrote. … Working with Daryl brought out a whole other creative aspect in my life and really set me off on kind of a wonderful journey.”
It is not every day that a singer gets to work with the First Lady of Song, the now late Queen of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald. It happened for Toni on ABC TV during a songbook special program for the Captain and Tennille:
“She was without a doubt one of the most kind, lovely, humble women I’ve ever met in our business, in my business. I of course when I was a kid had listened to her records. Daddy played her records and so many others. He was my education in the great American songbook. But I loved her, I loved the purity of her voice, the sweetness of her voice, the fact that she gave so much attention to the lyrics and what they mean. And when we did our songbook special for ABC, Daryl and I each had our choice of who we would like to have as a special guest.
And I chose Ella hoping, hoping that she would agree to come on and she did. We did a duet together of torch songs and it was about a 10 minute duet. It was very, very complicated, but it was wonderful and I remember when we were rehearsing it. We went through it the first time in rehearsal and she looked at me and she said, ‘Was that ok?’ Like, I’m supposed to approve her. I said, ‘It was beautiful Ella. It was brilliant.’ And so we went on and we did that torch song duet which you can find on YouTube today and every time I watch it on YouTube, it brings back the memories of me as a little kid singing into my hair brush along with Ella and then to actually be there performing with her, who was such a kind and lovely woman, and it did my heart good and it still does my heart good to go back and watch that.”
When it comes to the biggest honor of her performing career, Toni agrees that her 1976 invite to the White House to sing for President Gerald Ford, First Lady Betty Ford, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip was it. The event also included the legendary Bob Hope.
“I think it was incredible that we were invited by President and Mrs. Ford to perform there. I mean, it was the White House and we were to perform in the East Room. … We were in the middle of sound check when Mrs. Ford walked in and I went off the stage to chat with her for a minute and again lovely, lovely woman. And she said, ‘Well, what are you gonna play?’ And I said, ‘Well, we’re gonna do Love Will Keep Us Together and a couple of other things and she said, ‘You’re not gonna do The Way I Wanna Touch You?’ And I said, ‘Well, well.’ I was stammering. And she said, ‘Oh, but you must. That’s Gerry and my favorite song.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Well, of course, of course we’ll do that song for you.’ And I thought, well, wow, this is a pretty liberal, hip White House.”
Toni Tennille tells us what the Captain and Tennille’s hit song Love Will Keep Us Together means to her today:
“It takes me back to a wonderful time when we were just getting started and when we were just so happy to be with A&M Records and to have these facilities, these wonderful studios that they had there at A&M and all the possibilities that were available to us at the time and just the fun and the joy of recording. That was the beginning for us and that’s what it takes me back to, really, really happy, happy times for me. And then also, you know, Love Will Keep Us Together has always been a very important song to me because that was, you know, that was the beginning of our, what you would call fame I guess.”
On her life today, Toni Tennille wants people to know this:
“I want them to know that the decision I made was a tough one. I made it with a lot of support from my family, from dear friends, from a wonderful therapist in Prescott, Arizona. I moved. I made the big move to Florida to be near my sister Jane who is the closet in age to me and my East Coast Tennille family. And I’m happy. You know, it was a leap. I put my three dogs in the car and with a friend to help with the dog wrangling and driving, drove four and a half days across the country last August to my new house here in Florida, which I had not seen in person. … I want them to know also that Daryl and I are still friendly, we still talk often. He has a fine business mind and he always has and I still defer to him on matters of business. We have, we own our publishing company together and he’s a good man in the way he can, he’s, it’s hard to explain Daryl, but he’s a good person. He’s a good person. He can’t really help the way he is or was or is.”
Photos credited to Flip Minott
You can purchase a copy of Toni Tennille: A Memoir clicking here
Toni Tennille’s official website is here.
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com
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