Friday, 4 January 2019

Daryl Dragon RIP

Daryl Dragon
Daryl Dragon, singer and pianist from the Captain and Tennille, dies aged 76
Former wife and other half of the easy listening duo, Toni Tennille, was by his side when he died of kidney failure in Arizona

The Guardian
Thu 3 Jan 2019 00.28 GMT

Daryl Dragon, the cap-wearing “Captain” of easy listening duo the Captain and Tennille, died Wednesday at age 76.

The singer and pianist died on Wednesday of kidney failure in Prescott, Arizona, publicist Harlan Boll said in a statement. Toni Tennille, his partner in music and wife for nearly 40 years, was by his side.

Dragon and Tennille met in the early 1970s and soon began performing together, with Tennille singing and Dragon on keyboards. Their breakthrough came in 1975 when they covered the Neil Sedaka-Howard Greenfield song Love Will Keep Us Together, for which they won a Grammy in 1976.

They had further hits with the song Muskrat Love in 1976, and Do That to Me One More Time in 1980. They also hosted their own television variety series from 1976 to 1977.

“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,” Tennille said in a statement.

Dragon and Tennille divorced in 2014 after nearly 40 years of marriage but remained close. Tennille said in a 2010 blog post that Dragon was suffering from an unspecified neurological condition that gave him hand tremors, seriously affecting his ability to play keyboards. Dragon said in 2017 that his problems were a result of medication and that he was better. Tennille had moved back to Arizona to help care for him.

A Los Angeles native, Dragon was the son of Oscar-winning composer Carmen Dragon. He was a classically trained pianist but preferred to play blues and boogie music instead of Bach and Beethoven. He played with Fats Domino and BB King and was also a backup keyboard player for the Beach Boys in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. It was with the Beach Boys that Dragon got his stage name, thanks to his habit of wearing a ship captain’s hat while performing.

He met Tennille when they both toured for the Beach Boys, and they began performing together. They signed a record deal in 1974, releasing Love Will Keep Us Together, which held on to the number one spot on the charts for eight weeks in the summer of 1975. Captain and Tennille also toured England, Australia and Japan. In 1976, they sang at the White House during the bicentennial celebrations of the American Revolution.

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

Wednesday’s obituary notice said that at Dragon’s request there would be no services, and suggested donations to organisations conducting research into neurological conditions.

The Beach Boys, including Daryl Dragon, on the cover of this Dutch/German release of Marcella

Daryl Dragon: The Cat in the Hat
Frank Black
21 October 2010

Singing and playing to a backing tape on the Old Grey Whistle Test, 1972

There’s more than one hat here, but the one we’re interested in is that worn by the piano player (though he didn't play on the actual track...)– the one that’s not Dennis Wilson. Daryl Dragon, son of the composer and arranger Carmen Dragon, was a member of The Dragons, a psychedelic jazz rock group, along with his brothers Dennis and Doug in the 1960s (see Around 1967, Doug was asked by his friend Bruce Johnston, to audition (in front of Carl Wilson) to become members of the Beach Boys’ touring band. Although Doug did play with the band, it was Daryl (who had played on Bruce and Terry (Melcher's) version of Four Strong Winds in 1965) who ended up contributing more and almost became a fully fledged Beach Boy. They were later joined by their brother Dennis, who played percussion.
With Carl Wilson

In 1970, Daryl became the band’s ‘musical director’, putting together brass sections and arranging brass for the tours and brass and strings for songs on albums, as well as contributing keyboards. Although he was offered a more permanent position with the band around the time of Holland, he turned it down. Daryl is on 20/20 (Bluebirds Over The Mountain - marimba), the Cotton Fields single (keyboard) and he and Denis Dragon are on Sunflower (Daryl plays vibraphone on Deidre, possibly tubular bells and harpsichord on This Whole World, piano on Got To Know The Woman, vibraphone on Tears In The Morning and piano on Cool Cool Water).

According to people who knows far more than I do (that'll be Craig Slowinski and Andrew G. Doe), Daryl probably played  the 'boogie-woogie' piano on Got To Know The Woman, H.E.L.P. Is On The Way, Sound Of Free and played on several songs from Surf's Up: Don't Go Near The Water, Student Demonstration Time (bass and possibly keys), A Day In The Life Of A Tree, 'Til I Die, and two from Carl and the Passions: Cuddle Up and Make It Good. See

He is profusely thanked on the sleeve of the Holland album for his earlier work.

Although he’s not credited in the liner notes, he’s more than likely on the 1973 In Concert album, because some of it was recorded over the Winter 1972 tour when both he and his future wife, Toni Tenille, were with the band.

During this period, Daryl worked a lot with Dennis Wilson and is credited as helping him develop his piano playing. In 1970 the pair released a single in Europe, Sound of Free/Lady, credited to Dennis Wilson and Rumbo and he worked extensively on Dennis' unreleased solo project from the early 70s.

“My real function with Dennis was to give him encouragement. The band didn’t see the value in his writing because they didn’t see it as commercial. They were looking for the next hit, because this [1969-72] was when the hits had stopped coming. Dennis didn’t think on those terms. My contribution to his songs has been somewhat overstated, to be frank. My relationship with him was more like Salieri’s with Mozart. I’d sit there and try and write down what was coming out of his head. There was never any thought but that we were shaping his musical inspiration. If I did anything, it was really just to help him commit to his ideas, which was not always easy for a guy with his constant energy overload.” (

In 1972, his future wife, Toni Tennille joined the Beach Boys’ tour to play keyboards alongside Daryl, who had been christened Captain Keyboards by Mike Love because of his penchant for wearing a sea captain’s hat. Later that year, rather than accept an invitation to join the band on a permanent basis, he left with Toni to form the sub-Carpenters soft-rock/pop duo, the Captain and Tennille.

The Captain and Tennille, with prog-rock keyboards, sing Neil Sedaka's Love Will Keep Us Together

Their first album, Love Will Keep Us Together (1975), included material by their former employers: God Only Knows, Cuddle Up and Disney Girls; it also had the first released version of Johnston’s I Write The Songs. The Captain and Tennille are still married, although Daryl has unfortunately recently been diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s Disease.

Tennille doesn’t seem to have recorded much with the Beach Boys during her tenure with the band, but she did provide backing vocals to Mike’s Everyone’s In Love With You on the 15 Big Ones album in 1976.

Here’s a rare photo of her playing keyboards with the band, sitting behind a Mike in a hat at the University of Georgia in 1972

For good measure, here are two more photos from that gig: Dennis at the keyboards

Dennis and Carl

Daryl’s name turns up as arranger for that song and as keyboard player (with Dennis on drums) for Susie Cincinnati; the latter, however, dated from the Sunflower sessions in 1969. Daryl and maybe Dennis are probably on Good Time from 1977’s Love You, but only because it was recorded during the Sunflower sessions too. The last Beach Boys’ album Daryl receives any credit for is Keeping The Summer live (1980); he played keyboards on the new track Some of Your Love and probably featured on When Girls Get Together, another track from the Sunflower period. Part of the album was recorded at his Rumbo Recorders studio.

On 3 June 1972, the Beach Boys played Crystal Palace Bowl in London. The cats in the hats are Al Jardine and a a elderly-looking Mike (all of 31 at the time); that’s Dennis Dragon playing percussion behind Al. The other Beach Boys present were Carl and Dennis Wilson, Blondie Chaplin and Rikky Fataar. Elton John and Keith Moon appeared with them that day, but Elton’s appearance at the start of this clip doesn’t seem to be related to the song. Carl and Daryl are on keyboards.

Some “Rock Family Tree” moments for those in a Pete Frame of mind:

1/ This shot from the Crystal Palace show in the Getty Archives shows Elton with the band, and emerging from his head is Billy Hinsche, Carl’s brother-in-law, who had been part of the band Dino, Desi and Billy, which also featured "Dino" Martin (Dean Paul Martin, son of Dean) and Desi Arnaz, Jr. (the son of television stars Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball). Although he turned down an offer to replace Bruce Johnston in the late 60s, he was a key part of the Beach Boys band from 1967 onwards, singing Sail On Sailor on stage and being given the first crack at the vocals of Honkin’ Down The Highway for the Love You Album (1977) before being replaced by Al Jardine. He has toured with Al Jardine and been his musical director and has recently played in Brian Wilson's touring band, appearing alongside Al, Blondie Chaplin and Brian.

2/ After Carl’s marriage to Annie Hinsche broke up, he remarried Dino Martin’s sister, Gina.

3/ Back in the 60s, a young guitarist Tim Weston auditioned for the band that became Dino, Desi and Billy, but was turned down; thirty years later, an accomplished jazz guitarist, he produced and played on Wouldn’t It Be Nice: A Jazz Portrait of Brian Wilson (1997).

4/ Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Toni Tennille and Billy Hinsche sing backing vocals on Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (1974).

5/ One of the Dragons’ sisters, Kathy, played flute on Bruce Johnston’s Going Public album (1977). The other, Carmen, was an accomplished harpist, as is Mike Love’s sister Maureen, who played on the Beach Boys’ Catch a Wave and In My Room and on presently unreleased material by her brother.

6/ The Dragon’s father, Carmen, wrote music for a number of movies, the most famous being Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

Here's a recent - 2016 - interview with Toni in which she discusses her relationship with Daryl and briefly discusses The Beach Boys:

"Very saddened to hear of the passing of Daryl Dragon. Toni Tennille and Daryl joined The Beach Boys in the late 60's and met each other in our band. They then became The Captain and Tennille and love kept them together all these years. Darryl was a great musician and songwriter (he co-wrote Cuddle Up with Dennis Wilson) and a very special person but what I value most, he was always a true friend. Rest in peace Darryl."

- Al Jardine on Facebook

For further indulgence about matters Beach Boys, see: 

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