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Tiny Tim: Tiptoe Through the Tulips

 

It must have been around 1968 that I was visiting the Music Director at a big radio station when TINY TIM walked into the room carrying his worldly goods in a shopping bag. I knew who he was because he'd been a sensation on TV Shows like Johnny Carson, and was someone truly different, but weirdly talented. We chatted for quite a while and his back-story was right out of the Twilight Zone.

 

He was born: Herbert Buckingham Khaury in Manhattan in 1932, and at age 6 started teaching himself guitar, violin, mandolin and then his favorite instrument, the Ukulele. Not a strong student he had dropped out of school after failing his sophomore year twice and started hanging out at he NYC Public Library where he studied books of musical history, becoming something of an expert without a degree.

 

Tiny loved to listen to the radio and one night he heard Rudy Vallee singing in a falsetto, He started singing along and realized he had a high register he didn't know was there (He said it was a "religious experience"). In the 1950's he started singing "You Are My Sunshine" at Amateur Shows accompanying himself with his Uke and using different names each time, like Texarkana Tex and Judas K. Foxglove.

 

Tim let his hair grow to his shoulders and started wearing white face makeup and donning strange clothes; his mother threatened to take him to the Bellevue Psych Hospital until his father intervened. After a stint as Larry Love, "The Singing Canary" at Hubert's Museum and Live Flea Circus in Times Square, he started hanging in Greenwich Village and singing what would become his signature song, TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS on open mic nights.

 

He became the talk of the City and ended up on a bunch of TV Shows including "The Tonight Show,' and that led to a recording contract he promoted with his TV appearances, got radio play and charted #17 on the Pop Chart. So when I met him he was doing a radio tour and being interviewed on shows that didn't even do interviews. He invited me to see him play that night, but I demurred claiming a prior date.

 

Fun Fact: Tiny Tim was married 3 times, but the first was epic: He married Victoria Budinger (also known as "Miss Vicki") on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on December 17, 1969, with 40 million people watching, it was the high point of his career.

 

In 1996 he collapsed while playing "Tip Toe" at a gig and died of cardiac arrest attributed to being overweight and diabetic. Tiny Tim rests today in a mausoleum in a Cemetery in Minneapolis. I do not know if he was admitted to Rock and Roll Heaven, but here he is performing his signature hit live on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. @therealdonrocks 

 

A version of this post originally appeared on The Don Rocks Facebook page. For more stories like these every day, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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