By Greg Olwell
It was one minute and forty-eight seconds of bizarre and memorable music when Tiny Tim’s ukulele-driven hit “Tip-toe Thru’ the Tulips with Me” swarmed radio and television in 1968.
Born Herbert B. Khaury in New York City on April 12, 1932, Tiny Tim went on to become a household name through his regular appearances on late night television in the late-’60s and throughout the ’70s.
“Tip-toe Thru’ the Tulips with Me,” a cover of a song originally released by guitarist/singer Nick Lucas in 1929. Tiny Tim was passionate about early works in the American Songbook and was a genuine expert in repertoire and performances from the first half of the 20th century.
On his version, Tiny Tim takes Lucas’ falsetto singing on the original recording to new heights, ratcheting up the vibrato and pitch to create a singular recording. But it was his appearances on variety shows like Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (seen here) and his historic ratings-topping wedding The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that made the left-handed strummer (in)famous.
The video seen here is from Tim’s third appearance on Laugh-In, complete with removing the ukulele from a shopping bag before playing and Tim’s own feel to the song.
No doubt, Herbert Khaury remains a polarizing figure among players. On the one hand, he cast a large shadow and many of us ukulele players have had to endure comparisons to Tiny Tim, but on the other hand, he was a talented, driven performer who treasured the ukulele, keeping the flame alive for the little uke.
The voice, the hair, the stage presence, Tiny Tim had it all. God Bless Tiny Tim—and happy birthday.