Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, March 23, 2001

Toni Tennille brings the Captain
along for her Honolulu concert.

Timeless Tennille

Selecting music she loves
to perform is the key to
her longevity as a singer

By Tim Ryan

The answer is: a second bathroom, adjoining hotel rooms and choosing the music you enjoy.

The question posed to Toni Tennille was: What's the secret to keeping a 25-year marriage together and a singing career prosperous?

"Two bathrooms at home are lifesavers and when we toured we always got two adjoining rooms so we could have our own space," Tennille says in a telephone interview from her mountain home near Lake Tahoe. "We always chose songs we believed we could sing forever."

She performs with the Honolulu Symphony Pops tonight and tomorrow at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

In addition to enjoying pop success in the '70s as Captain & Tennille with her husband Daryl Dragon, Tennille has found a niche singing classic jazz standards and performing with symphony orchestras since 1984.

She has released five albums -- "More Than You Know," "All of Me," "Never Let Me Go," "Moonglow" and "Tennille Sings Big Band" -- filled with standards. "Incurably Romantic" is her latest CD produced by "The Captain."

Tennille will be presenting "An Evening of Great Love Songs," based on the songs of great American composers, including George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn.

Not bad for the self-described "shy southern girl" whose early hits included a cover of the America song "Muskrat Love."

"I swore I wouldn't sing that again but Matt (Catingub) talked me into it," Tennille said. Catingub, who has performed with Captain & Tennille several times, talked Dragon out of semi-retirement to join his wife on stage for a few songs.

Captain & Tennille recorded nine albums with 14 hits hitting the pop charts, including "Muskrat Love," "Shop Around," "Do That to Me One More Time" and "The Way I Want to Touch You."

The couple also had its own ABC television series "The Captain & Tennille Variety Show," and hosted the syndicated "Toni Tennille Variety Talk Show."

In 1998 and 1999, Tennille starred in the first national tour of the Broadway musical "Victor/Victoria" in the lead role of Victoria Grant. Frequent travel with the national tour prompted the couple last spring to retire Captain & Tennille altogether.

"After a year on the road with 'Victor/Victoria' it was going to be Captain & Tennille's 25th anniversary, but I told Daryl I couldn't do it anymore because the airlines have become so much worse. But it wasn't like people were screaming about us not touring."

Tennille was raised in Montgomery, Ala., in a family of entertainers. Dad Frank was a big band singer with Bob Crosby and the Bobcats and her mother, Cathryn, was a television pioneer, hosting Montgomery's first daytime television talk show.

Tennille's sisters -- Jane, Louisa and Melissa -- sang on her variety show as well as on the "Captain & Tennille" albums. Tennille began her career studying classical piano and singing with Auburn University's big band, the Auburn Knights.

She met Daryl when he was just Daryl in San Francisco 1971, when he auditioned as a keyboardist for "Mother Earth," a musical Tennille wrote. After the show closed, Dra-gon reciprocated by hiring Tennille to play keyboards for the next Beach Boys tour. She became the only "Beach Girl" in the group's history.

"Daryl and I have a variety of musical interests," Tennille said. "We would have been bored to death doing the same thing our whole career."

The duo struck gold in 1975, winning a Grammy Award for "Love Will Keep Us Together," written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield.

"Every time I'm in an elevator and hear that song I say to myself there's another nickel for Neil," Tennille said, laughing. "I've sung that thousands of times, but now I get such a kick out from how much audiences like it."

As for Daryl's "Captain" moniker, that was the name given by Beach Boy Mike Love when Dragon performed with the group one night wearing a captain's hat.

"It turned out to be a very good fit," Tennille said.

Toni Tennille

With conductor Matt Catingub and the Honolulu Symphony:

In concert: 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Special guest: Daryl Dragon ("The Captain") and opening act Kapena
Cost: $15 to $55 at the Honolulu Symphony ticket office, Ticket Plus and military ticket outlets. Discounts available for seniors, students and military
Call: 792-2000

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