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Mon, March 25

Column: Tennille wins over Lion hearts

Yeah, I'm a Tennille-ophile. Unabashedly so. In fact, I think Toni Tennille is the greatest thing to hit Prescott since Buckey O'Neill.

Why? Simply ascribe it to an outgoingness that I see as being second to none in the entertainment field. You see, too many entertainers have egos that could choke a mule. But Toni stands out as "peaches & cream" to one and all.

   I'm suffering from a deep hurt at the moment, though, silently cursing my old Chevy's ailing radiator. You see, I failed to make it to last Wednesday's meeting of the Prescott Noon Lions Club when Toni presented what several members told me was a delightful program.

Had I had an inkling that she was on the day's agenda I of course would have made it there. It would've been a simple matter to fill the radiator at home, drive to the meeting, then refill it for the trip home. But NOOOO!

   Anyway, I've learned second-hand that Toni's dad was a Lion back in Montgomery, Ala., and that she remembers his taking her and her sister, Jane, to Lions Club meetings from time to time. And I also learned that Toni often visits with our own Noon Lions while they are shredding records at the Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott, accompanied by her therapy dog, Smoky.

Smoky, in turn, enjoys visiting with Avery, the guide dog belonging to shredder Phil Weliky. It's just one big happy family down there.

   Looking back, I can only assume that Toni came from Alabama with a keyboard on her knee (I made that up!) before bolting onto the popular music scene in the mid-'70s with that rousing rendition of "Love Will Keep Us Together." I can recall vividly the first time I heard the song. It was during an evening of TV-watching in the den of our home in Fair Oaks, Calif., with the occasion being Toni and hubby Daryl Dragon's Christmas show in Hawaii.

"It's The Captain & Tennille!" daughter Shannon exclaimed when the first beats of the song came on. "Who?" I asked brightly, and she repeated the I.D. for my benefit.

   Since then, of course, she and Daryl have scaled the musical heights with such blockbusters as "Do That to Me One More Time," "The Way I Want to Touch You," "Lonely Night," "Muskrat Love," "Shop Around" and countless other hits.

   As an aside, one of Toni's recordings was "Teach Me Tonight," and I also can remember the first time I heard THAT one, although it pre-dated Toni's version. This was circa 1954 when I was a Texas Tech student in Lubbock, and it was during a stage show in the "old barn" (read: gymnasium) when Spike Jones and His City Slickers were going about their wackiness. In a serious interlude, though, Spike's wife, Helen Grayco - wearing a low-cut gown and spotlighted in a blackened "auditorium" - gave a velvety  take on the song. It was memorable, as I recall.

   Another of Toni's recordings was "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good." I have a cassette recording of that one by Louie Prima and his delightfully deadpanned wife, Keeley Smith. When she came out with "I've got it bad and that ain't good," Louie blurted out with: "I've got it good and it ain't bad!" Great line!

   So what's next with Toni? Well, she'll have a major role in the Prescott Jazz Summit weekend in late August, singing at least a full hour of big-band music, so mark your calendars for Saturday, Aug. 29. Tickets for the Ruth Street Theatre event are $25 and are available at the Hassayampa Hotel, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, from local high school students, or online at

I'll provide a more complete rundown of the program in a column next month.


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