By Jane Wollman Rusoff
City & Shore PRIME
Together, Captain & Tennille made beautiful music, notably their sensational 1975 and 1980 No. 1 hits, Love Will Keep Us Together and Do That to Me One More Time. The married pop duo hosted their own TV variety series, too.
Offstage, however, the combo was strikingly off-key. For nearly four decades, Toni Tennille struggled to reach her withdrawn and controlling husband, Daryl Dragon, an introvert bedeviled by phobias and odd behavior.
Divorced in 2015 after 39 years of marriage, the ever-ebullient Alabama-born singer-composer, 75, has written Toni Tennille: A Memoir (Taylor Trade Publishing, $21.95), revealing her life with “Captain.”
Last August she moved from Arizona to Lake Mary, Fla., to be near her family.
PRIME Magazine: How do you like living in Florida?
TT: I’m in my dream house – a darling yellow house in a quiet, private neighborhood.
PM: You divorced after being married for 39 years. There must have been a good part to that union.
TT: The one thing we had together was music. That was really joyful. Daryl needed me for the music, and I needed him because what he did with the music was brilliant. As a producer, he was wonderful.
PM: But as a husband, he was woeful, you say. Why stay?
TT: I was in love with him. I believed I could teach him what love was. But he didn’t reciprocate. He shut me out. I kept writing songs [like Do That to Me One More Time] that were about him and for him, only he never paid attention to the lyrics.
PM: Why did you write a memoir?
TT: Because of all the lies that were written about me [in the press] when I filed for divorce. I hope that women who are in similar situations will read my book and get out sooner than I did.
PM: In your memoir, you write that Daryl was emotionally inaccessible and a difficult person to live with throughout your marriage. Did he seek help from a therapist?”
TT: Daryl is perfectly sane. He’s just eccentric. Ever since I’ve known him he’s been a hypochondriac: ‘I shouldn’t eat this, I shouldn’t eat that.’ For a while he believed that purple foods were ‘negative.’ Once, he put us on a 21-day grapefruit fast supposedly ‘to fix our damaged genes.’
PM: Early in your career you two toured with The Beach Boys. You were hired to sub for their acoustics piano player. How was that experience?
TT: I was hired unheard on Daryl’s recommendation. It was really helpful to see how the responsibilities of the lead act of a tour were handled.
PM: What did you do with your time after you and Daryl moved, when you were in your 50s, to Arizona?
TT: I worked in the hospital doing therapy work with my [now-deceased] dog, Smokey. We worked there for six years visiting patients and their families.
PM: What were your feelings toward Daryl back then?
TT: My love for him was gone. But regardless of how unhappy I was, I never had an affair. And Daryl was always faithful to me. I know that for sure. But I needed to do something with the rest of my life.
PM: What held you back?
TT: I kept thinking that if I left him, what would our fans think? But my therapist said, ‘This is your life. The fans will get over it.’
PM: Daryl still lives in Arizona. Are you in touch?
TT: I check on him every couple of weeks. He has a neurological condition and is thinking about trying deep brain stimulation. He’s still a major part of my life.
PM: Is there a new man in your life?
TT: Never again. I’ve got my two dogs and my family. That’s all I need. I still have joy in life.
PM: Do you sing?
TT: I sang the National Anthem at the Australian Shepherd Club National Specialty in Tennessee. And I sing in the shower.