Daryl Dragon, "Captain" of music duo The Captain and Tennille, dies at 76

By Caroline Linton

/ CBS News

Daryl Dragon, the musician best known as the "Captain" in '70s and '80s husband-and-wife duo The Captain and Tennille, died Wednesday, his publicist said in a statement. The cause of death was renal (kidney) failure, publicist Harlan Boll said. He was 76.

The title track from his debut album with his then-wife, Toni Tennille, "Love Will Keep Us Together," reached the top of the Billboard chart in July 1975 and won Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Their other top 10 hits included "Muskrat Love," "The Way I Want to Touch You," "Lonely Night (Angel Face)" and "Shop Around."

"He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly. I was at my most creative in my life, when I was with him," Toni Tennille said in a statement. The pair were married in 1975 and divorced in 2014. She was with when Dragon when he died, according to Boll's statement.

"Captain" Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille of the music duo The Captain and Tennille, in 2005. Ethan Miller / Getty Images

A classically trained pianist, Dragon got his start as a backup musician for the Beach Boys in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Mike Love gave him the nickname "Captain of the Keyboards" after Dragon started wearing his signature captain's hat while performing.

Dragon met his future wife and collaborator Tennille in 1971, when she hired him to play piano for a musical called Mother Earth. He recommended her for a position with the Beach Boys, and the pair soon began performing together in small clubs and other venues around Southern California.

The pair sold the song, "The Way I Want to Touch You," a love song written by Tennille for Dragon, to local radio stations in 1974, and it soon became a listener favorite. Their first album was "Love Will Keep Us Together." The pair married in 1975.

They also teamed up for a variety series, The Captain and Tennille Show on ABC, which drew 34 million viewers a week, according to Boll. But Dragon didn't enjoy being in front of the cameras, so they declined to do another season. They did do three annual specials for ABC, "Captain and Tennille in Hawaii," then "Captain and Tennille in New Orleans," and ending with 1980's "Captain and Tennille Songbook."

Dragon is survived by his brother, Doug Dragon, and two nieces, Kelly Arbout and Renee Henn of California.

First published on January 3, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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