Saturday, January 5, 2019

DARYL DRAGON: A Personal Tribute to a Music Legend

A Personal Tribute
to a Music Legend

His look was iconic.
His talent was incomparable.
And his music — timeless.

The sound was fresh and exciting — the infectious debut single by the new pop duo with a name I couldn't initially pronounce properly. It was May 1975 — I was just 12 years old. While the honey-soaked female lead vocal was simply irresistible, it was the crisp-sounding keyboards that captivated me most. Entitled "Love Will Keep Us Together," the Neil Sedaka-penned song blowing up my AM radio headset soon would be racing to the top of the charts and go on to become the biggest record of the year. And by the time their second hit, "The Way I Want To Touch You" landed on Casey's Top 10 in the fall of '75, the husband and wife team of Captain & Tennille was a bona fide household name.

Oozing authentic girl-next-door appeal — a porcelain-perfect smile, a delightful down-home drawl and the voice of an angel, singer / songwriter Toni Tennille became America's favorite new sweetheart over night — and I'll confess to crushing hard on the blond Alabama native. But the other half of the duo — the "Captain" possessed undeniable mystique. From behind his massive wall of keyboards, Daryl Dragon, hid behind dark shades, tucked into his soon-to-be iconic captain's hat. This guy had to have a story. And he did.

The first two albums from Captain & Tennile
both were Top 10 smashes.
A man of few words, Dragon already had enjoyed an impressive, decade-long career as an accomplished composer, producer and musician by the time he and Tennille scored their second chart-busting album, Song Of Joy in 1976. In fact, it was during his tenure as a touring / session member of the Beach Boys from 1967-1972 when the group's legendary frontman, Mike Love named Dragon, "Captain Keyboard." It stuck.

From 1975-1980 Captain & Tennille racked up and impressive string of nine Billboard Top 40 singles— seven of which cracked the Top Ten. The duo also released six studio albums  four of which achieved either gold or platinum status. And ALL six were produced to pure perfection by Dragon.

Albums three and four from Captain & Tennille
were equally magically delicious offerings.
What made Captain & Tennille particularly appealing to me was their unique ability to "scratch" all of my eclectic "itches" — combining pop and rock with gospel, R&B and an occasional dash of Americana.

While their debut 1975 set, Love Will Keep Us Together is arguably their best-known work, and their third release, 1977's Come In From The Rain was a near-flawless effort, Song Of Joy was my personal "Abbey Road" as a music-crazed teen. From the soaring beauty of the Billy Preston-penned title track to the engaging hookiness of the Smokey Robinson classic, "Shop Around" to the funkiness of "1954 Boogie Blues" to the heart-stopping splendor of "Smile For Me One More Time," Song Of Joy remains one of my all-time favorite records. In fact, in the last 43 years, I've gone through two copies on vinyl, one 8-track and a CD.

To this day, I still cherish my (fourth) copy of Song Of Joy.
Although he maintained a rather low profile following the duo's heyday, Dragon still remained somewhat active as a session cat, playing on several records, including the self-titled 1997 debut from LA-based power pop combo, Size 14.

Sadly, Dragon recently had been in failing health. And his well-publicized 2014 divorce from Tennille after their 39-year marriage also put him back in the headlines. Yet despite Dragon's reported health issues, his death on January 2nd at age 76 still came as a shock to many — myself included.

Fortunately for countless fervent fans worldwide — myself included, we always will have his magical, timeless music to treasure. Songs of joy, to be sure!

-Christopher Long
(January 2019)



C'MON! -

1 comment:

  1. I never did get to see Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille perform together in concert, but I did get to see Toni Tennille perform in "Victor/Victoria" in Dallas.
    I bought every one of their albums when I was growing up and their songs lifted my spirits.
    R.I.P. Captain Keyboard/Daryl Dragon