Tiny Tim (born Herbert Khaury; April 12, 1932 – November 30, 1996) was an American singer, ukulele player, and musical archivist. He was most famous for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" sung in a distinctive high falsetto/vibrato voice.
Tiny Tim was born in Manhattan, New York City, New York, the son of a Polish Jewish mother, Tillie (née Staff), a garment worker, and a Lebanese Catholic father, Butros Khaury, a textile worker. He displayed musical talent at a very young age. 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. He started using the stage name Tiny Tim in 1962 when his manager at the time, George King, booked him at a club that favored acts by performers short in stature.
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 would later go on to be in The Band. The latter performance led to a booking on the massively popular 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, 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, a collection of children's songs was nominated for a Grammy Award.
On December 17, 1969, with 40 million viewers watching, Tiny Tim married Victoria Mae Budinger (aka "Miss Vicki") on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. A daughter, Tulip Victoria, was born in 1971. During their marriage, Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki mostly lived apart, and divorced eight years later in 1977. He then subsequently married Jan Alweiss (1984) and Susan Marie Gardner (1995). When Tiny Tim first became well-known to the American public, pundits and journalists debated whether or not 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 he lost his Reprise recording contract 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. Tiny Tim, a biography by Harry Stein, was published in 1976 by Playboy Press. Notably, he performed with the popular 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 played the ukulele left handed, though retained the standard string placement. The instruments he played included a vintage Martin, a Favilla and a Johnston metal resonator. A huge fan of Arthur Godfrey, Tim 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 (often confused in accounts of the incident with the nearby Montague Bookmill, at which he had recorded a video interview earlier that same day) in Montague, Massachusetts. 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 gala benefit at The Woman's Club of Minneapolis on November 30, he had a second heart attack on stage and 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, recorded 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. Called one of America's "foremost experts" on Tiny Tim, Martell 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).
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.
In the 1992 Roxette song "How Do You Do!", singer Per Gessle mentions Tiny Tim in the lyrics: "I love your blue-eyed voice, like Tiny Tim shines thru".