Tiny Tim (musician)
Tiny Tim performing at an event in Tennessee in the late 1980s
|Birth name||Herbert B. Khaury|
April 12, 1932|
Manhattan, New York City, United States
|Origin||New York City, United States|
|Died||November 30, 1996
Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States
|Instruments||Ukulele, guitar, vocals|
|Labels||Reprise Records, Rhino Handmade, Rounder Records, Seeland Records|
Tiny Tim (born Herbert B. Khaury; April 12, 1932 – November 30, 1996) was an American singer, ukulele player, and musical archivist. He is best remembered for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" sung in a high falsetto/vibrato voice.
Tiny Tim was born in Manhattan, New York City on April 12, 1932. His parents were Tillie (née Staff), a garment worker, who was the daughter of a rabbi. She had immigrated from Brest-Litovsk as a teen in 1914. Tiny's father, Butros Khaury, a textile worker, was from Beirut, Lebanon and his father was a Maronite Christian priest.
Tiny Tim displayed musical talent at a very young age. At the age of five, his father gave him a vintage wind up Gramophone and a 78 RPM record of "Beautiful Ohio" by Henry Burr. He would sit for hours listening to the record. At the age of six, he began teaching himself guitar. By his pre-teen years, he developed a passion for records, specifically those from the 1900s through the 1930s. He began spending most of his free time at the New York Public Library, reading about the history of the phonograph industry and its first recording artists. He would research sheet music, often making photographic copies to take home to learn, a hobby he continued for his entire life. By the early 1950s, he began playing the ukulele and started performing under different names. In a 1968 interview on The Tonight Show, he described the discovery of his ability to sing in an upper register in 1952: "I was listening to the radio and singing along; as I was singing I said 'Gee, it's strange. I can go up high as well.'" He then entered a local talent show and sang "You Are My Sunshine" in his newly discovered falsetto. Although he stood 6 ft 1 in (185 cm), he started using the stage name Tiny Tim in 1963 at the suggestion of his manager George King.
Life and career
Tiny Tim appeared in Jack Smith's Normal Love (1963), as well as the independent feature film You Are What You Eat (1968) in which he sang the Ronettes song "Be My Baby" in his falsetto range; also featured was a rendition of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe", with Tim singing the Cher parts in his falsetto voice, along with Eleanor Barooshian singing Sonny Bono's baritone part. These tracks were recorded with musicians who went on to be in The Band. The "I Got You Babe" performance led to a booking on the Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, an American television comedy-variety show. Co-host Dan Rowan announced that Laugh-In believed in showcasing new talent, and introduced Tiny Tim. The singer entered carrying a shopping bag, pulled his soprano ukulele from it, and sang a medley of "A Tisket A Tasket" and "On The Good Ship Lollipop" as an apparently dumbfounded co-host Dick Martin watched. In his third performance on Laugh-In, Tiny Tim entered blowing kisses, preceded by an elaborate procession of the cast and, after a short interview, he sang "Tiptoe Through the Tulips".
In 1968, his first album God Bless Tiny Tim was released. It contained an orchestrated version of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", which became a hit after being released as a single. For All My Little Friends (1969) was a collection of children's songs and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Tiny Tim was married three times and had one daughter from his first marriage to Victoria Budinger (also known as "Miss Vicki"). Tiny Tim married Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on December 17, 1969, with 40 million people watching. Daughter Tulip Victoria was born in 1971. During their marriage, Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki lived mostly apart, and they divorced eight years later in 1977. He married Jan Alweiss ("Miss Jan") in 1984, and Susan Marie Gardner ("Miss Sue") in 1995. When Tiny Tim first became well-known to the American public, pundits and journalists debated whether this character being presented was just an orchestrated act or the real thing. "It quickly became clear that he was genuine," however, and that he could probably be best described as "a lonely outcast intoxicated by fame" and "a romantic" always in pursuit of his ideal dream.
After his career highlights, Tiny Tim's television appearances dwindled, and his popularity began to wane. He continued to play around the United States, making several lucrative appearances in Las Vegas. When his recording contract ended with Reprise, he founded his own record label and humorously named it Vic Tim Records, as a pun on the combination of his wife's name with that of his own. He performed with the American alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven in 1986. In the 1990s, he released several albums, including Rock (1993), I Love Me (1993), and Girl (1996).
Tiny Tim was published in 1976 by Playboy Press, a biography by Harry Stein.
Tiny Tim played the ukulele left-handed, though he retained the standard string placement. The instruments that he played included a vintage Martin, a Favilla, and a Johnston metal resonator. Tim was a huge fan of Arthur Godfrey and taught himself to play using a method book that came with the Godfrey-endorsed Maccaferri Islander plastic ukulele.
On September 28, 1996, he suffered a heart attack just as he began singing at a ukulele festival at the Montague Grange Hall in Montague, Massachusetts (this hall is often confused in accounts of the incident with the nearby Montague Bookmill, at which he had recorded a video interview earlier that same day). He was hospitalized at the nearby Franklin County Medical Center in Greenfield for approximately three weeks before being discharged with strong admonitions not to perform again because of his health and the dietary needs for his diabetic and heart conditions. Nevertheless, he ignored the advice. While playing at a benefit hosted by the Women's Club of Minneapolis on November 30, 1996, he had a second heart attack on stage while performing his last number of the evening. He later died at the Hennepin County Medical Center. His remains are entombed in a mausoleum in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
In 2000, the Rhino Handmade label released the posthumous Tiny Tim Live at the Royal Albert Hall. This recording had been made in 1968 at the height of Tiny Tim's fame, but Reprise Records never released it. The limited-numbered CD sold out and was reissued on Rhino's regular label. In 2009, the Collector's Choice label released I've Never Seen a Straight Banana, produced and recorded by Richard Barone in 1976. The album was a collection of rare recordings of some of Tiny Tim's favorite songs from 1878 through the 1930s, along with some of his own compositions.
In 2009, it was reported that Justin Martell was preparing a biography of Tiny Tim, released in 2016 under the title Eternal Troubadour: The Improbable Life of Tiny Tim. Martell is called one of America's "foremost experts" on Tiny Tim; he contributed liner notes to I've Never Seen a Straight Banana and the 2011 Tiny Tim compilation LP "Tiny Tim: Lost & Found 1963–1974 (Rare & Unreleased)," released on Secret Seven Records.
In 2013, a biography of Tiny Tim was released in two editions. Tiny Tim: Tiptoe Through A Lifetime was released July 16, 2013, and is by Lowell Tarling (author) and Martin Sharp (illustrator).
- God Bless Tiny Tim (Reprise Records, 1968)
- With Love And Kisses From Tiny Tim: Concert In Fairyland (Bouquet SLP 711) recorded 1962. "Unauthorized" recording.
- Tiny Tim's 2nd Album (Reprise Records, 1968)
- The Beatles' 1968 Christmas Record (Lyntone, LYN 1743/4, 1968)
- For All My Little Friends (Reprise Records, 1969)- This album was nominated for a Grammy Award.
- Tip Toe To The Gas Pumps / The Hickey (On Your Neck) (Clouds Records, 1979)- 45 rpm single; a-side refers to long gas lines during OPEC oil crisis.
- Wonderful World Of Romance (Street Of Dreams YPRX 1724) 1980) Recorded at EMI Australia, only 200 pressed, no cover printed.
- Chameleon (Street of Dreams YPRX 1848, 1980)- Only 1000 copies pressed.
- Tiny Tim: The Eternal Troubadour (Playback PBL 123441, 1986)
- Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips/ Resurrection (Bear Family BCD 15409, 1987)
- Leave Me Satisfied (NLT 1993) 1989 (unreleased country album)
- The Heart Album (Ca-Song CA 1369), 1991 – (Tiny Tim has six songs on this album)
- Tiny Tim Rock (Regular Records, 1993)
- I Love Me (Yucca Tree Records, 1993)
- Songs of an Impotent Troubadour (Durtro, 1994)
- Tiny Tim's Christmas Album 1994 (Rounder Records, 1994)
- Live in Chicago with the New Duncan Imperials (1995, Pravda Records)
- Prisoner of Love: A Tribute to Russ Columbo (Vinyl Retentive Productions, 1995)
- Girl (with Brave Combo) (Rounder Records, 1996)
- Tiny Tim Unplugged (Tomanna 51295, 1996) – Recorded live in Birmingham, Alabama
- The Eternal Troubadour: Tiny Tim Live in London (Durtro, 1997, recorded in 1995)
- Tiny Tim Live at the Royal Albert Hall (Rhino Handmade, 2000, recorded in 1968)
- Chameleon (Zero Communications TTCH 12061, 2006, CD release)
- Wonderful World of Romance (Zero Communications, TTWW 12062, 2006, recorded in 1979)
- Stardust (Zero Communications, TTST 12063, 2006)
- I've Never Seen a Straight Banana – Rare Moments Vol. 1 (Collectors Choice Music WWCCM 20582) (2009)
- Tiny Tim: Lost & Found (Rare & Unreleased 1963–1974) (Secret Seven Records, 2011, compilation)
In popular culture
His cover of "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight" was featured in the "Help Wanted" segment of the first episode of the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. His rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" was a main part of the 2011 horror film Insidious and also used as a bass track in "The Amazing Adventures of DJ Yoda" in the mix Tip Toe. In Ursula Dubosarsky's trilogy for children, The Strange Adventures of Isador Brown, the hero Isador's Daddy has long red hair and plays the ukulele, and is, according to the author, based on and inspired by Tiny Tim.
- Tranquada, Jim (2012). The Ukulele: a History. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 153–4. ISBN 978-0-8248-3544-6.
- William Grimes (December 2, 1996). "Tiny Tim, Singer, Dies at 64; Flirted, Chastely, With Fame". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
Tiny Tim, whose quavery falsetto and ukulele made Tiptoe Through the Tulips With Me a novelty hit in 1968, died on Saturday night at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. He was 64 and had lived in Minneapolis for the past year. The cause of death apparently was cardiac arrest, a nursing supervisor, Ellen Lafans, told The Associated Press. He had been in poor health recently, and collapsed onstage after suffering a heart attack while performing at a ukulele festival in western Massachusetts in September.
- "Tiny Tim on cover of Parade". Tinytim.org. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- "Tiny Tim (Herbert Butros Khaury) – The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- Tarling, Lowell; Sharp, Martin. Tiny Tim: Tiptoe Through a Lifetime. p. 15.
- Martell, Justin (2016). Eternal Troubadour: The Improbable Life Of Tiny Tim. Jawbone Press. ISBN 9781908279873.
- Kennedy, Helen (1996-12-02). "Tiny Tim Dies Singing His Hit". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
- "Video of Tiny Tim's debut on Laugh-In". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- "Video of Tiny Tim's third appearance on Laugh-In (complete)". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- "Video of Tiny Tim's third appearance on Laugh-In (song only)". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- nytimes.com Obituary December 2, 1996
- Tiny Tim : Obituary
- "Tiny Tim With Camper Van Beethoven " Berkeley Place". Berkeleyplace.wordpress.com. January 4, 2008. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- Whitcomb, Ian (2012). Ukulele Heroes: The Golden Age. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard Books. pp. 114–120. ISBN 978-1-4584-1654-4.
- Martell, Justin A. (2016-11-30). "Tiny Tim is Signing Off: The Tragic Tale of an Artist's Final, Fatal Performance: Twenty years ago, the 'Eternal Troubadour' collapsed on stage". medium.com.
- "Richard Barone Keeps His Promise to Tiny Tim". The Daily Swarm. August 13, 2009. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- "Tiny Tim: Lost and Found Out Today! Check Out Our Interview with Tiny Tim Expert Justin Martell at the Amoeblog". Amoeba.com. January 11, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- "Collectors' Choice Music". Ccmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- "Tiny Tim: Lost & Found 1963–1974 (Rare & Unreleased Recordings) LP (SEC-7-008) – Secret Seven Records, SF". Secretsevenrecords.typepad.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- "Tiny Tim performing "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight"". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
- "The Strange Adventures of Isador Brown". Members.dodo.com.au. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
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