Tiny Tim was a unique and beloved performer, known for his quirky appearance, falsetto singing voice, and skill with the ukulele. He captured the hearts of audiences worldwide with his performances of old-timey classics and unique renditions of modern songs. Despite his popularity, his life was not without struggles, and his death was nothing short of tragic. Join FactsVerse as we take a look at the tragic details of his death.
Born on April 12, 1932, in Manhattan, New York City, Tiny Tim, whose real name was Herbert Butros Khoury, had a deep passion for music from a very young age. As a child, he fascinates with music and spent hours listening to all kinds of early 20th-century music. His father, who recognized his love for music, bought him a gramophone, a guitar, and a record of “Beautiful Ohio” by Henry Burr. He also taught him how to play the guitar.
Herbert’s passion for music only grew stronger as he got older. He created fantasy worlds where he would sing on popular radio shows. However, his fascination with music didn’t stop there. He would spend countless hours at the public library, learning about music recordings and their history. He became fixated on early 20th-century music and made himself knowledgeable about the genre.
Herbert’s Obsession With The Instrument
His parents were concerned about him spending so much time alone in his bedroom, listening to music. They offered him vocal and guitar lessons if he went out to enjoy his youth. Still, music was his only friend, and he declined their offer.
In the early 1950s, Herbert saw Arthur Godfrey play the ukulele on his T.V. show, Arthur Godfrey and His Friends. Watching Godfrey’s proficiency on the ukulele, Herbert became obsessed with the instrument. His father buys him a cheap Fin-Der Diamond Head Soprano ukulele, which promotes on Godfrey’s program. However, Herbert was not impressed with the quality of the instrument, as he viewed it as a toy.
Herbert’s father then bought him a higher-quality ukulele, a white plastic Maccaferri Islander, along with Godfrey’s instructional booklet, “You Can Play The Ukulele.” Herbert loved the new instrument, and it eventually became the source of his success. He would take his ukulele to auditions, hoping to win over any record producer.
Discovering his uniqueness and becoming Tiny Tim
Herbert’s unconventional appearance drew attention and earned him ridicule from those who didn’t understand his unique style. He had a slim build and long black hair that he modeled after the famous actor Rudolph Valentino. To further enhance his youthful appearance, Herbert covered his face with white powder. His mother, concerned about his appearance, even considered institutionalizing him, but Herbert remained unfazed and continued to embrace his unconventional style. Despite the ridicule, Herbert remained true to his character and showed respect to others by addressing them as “mister” or “miss.”
Herbert struggled to find steady work throughout the 1950s, unable to land any gigs until he discovered his unique singing talent.
Herbert realized he could sing in a falsetto voice while playing a record of himself singing to a male and female duet. He sang the male vocals in his natural baritone and the female parts in his newfound falsetto. With his new skill, Herbert, began performing in New York bars and clubs, gradually building a fan base.
His unique style and singing voice caught the attention of a manager, who offered him gigs in Hubert’s Museum and Flea Circus, a local freak show. Tiny Tim played under various names, including Larry Love, the Singing Canary, Darry Dover, and Sir Timothy Timmins. However, his manager eventually shortened his stage name to Tiny Tim, which stuck with him throughout his career.
Tiny Tim’s career took off in the 1960s when he gained attention from Hugh Romney, who introduced him to hip audiences high on LSD in New York and California. Despite his unconventional style, Tiny Tim welcomes and embraces by the crowd. He gained more popularity after opening for The Lovin Spoonful and Jimi Hendrix at The Scene, a New York club. Hendrix was particularly fond of Tiny Tim’s quirky behavior, and the two became friends.
In 1967, Tiny Tim caught the attention of Mo Ostin, president of Reprise Records, who saw him perform at The Scene and gave him a record deal. Ostin took Tiny Tim to Los Angeles and paired him with record producer Richard Perry and The Wrecking Crew to produce his first L.P., “God Bless Tiny Tim,” in April 1968. The album is a mix of ’20s and ’30s covers, and Tiny Tim showcases his falsetto and normal baritone voice.
Tip-toe Through The Tulips With Me
The opening track of the album, “Tip-toe Through The Tulips With Me,” is a cover of a 1929 song by Al Dubin and Joe Burke for singer Nick Lucas, who sings it in the film “Gold Diggers of Broadway.” The album also features “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moon Light,” which appeared in the debut episode of SpongeBob SquarePants and helped Tiny Tim gain popularity among kids and teenagers.
“God Bless Tiny Tim” reached number seven on the Billboard 200, making it his only record to chart. With the album released, Tiny Tim performed the tracks on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. In these performances, he would blow kisses as he took his ukulele out of a shopping bag to play “Tip-toe Through The Tulips With Me.” His appearance on the program led to appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and The Ed Sullivan Show, further cementing his status as an iconic figure of the 1960s music scene.
On December 17, 1969, Tiny Tim marries Victoria Mae Budinger in a publicity stunt on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which garnered around 40 million viewers. Tiny Tim writes his own wedding vows, which include a promise to not be “puffed up.” The announcement of their marriage follows the news that they were expecting a baby, which led to comedians jokingly suggesting the name “VicTim”. Sadly, the baby was miscarried. However, they later had another child who was born healthy. Despite the romantic hype surrounding their wedding, Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki mostly lived apart and divorced eight years later. Following their divorce, Tiny Tim married Jan Alweiss, also known as “Miss Jan,” in 1984 and later tied the knot with Susan Marie Gardner, known as “Miss Sue,” in 1995.
Decline and failed projects
Tiny Tim performed at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 in August 1970, in front of a massive audience of 600,000 people. He sings a mix of English folk songs and rock and roll classics, which receives by the multinational crowd of hippies.
However, after this career highlight in the U.K., Tiny Tim’s television appearances decreased, and his popularity began to decline. He continued to perform in the United States, earning several lucrative appearances in Las Vegas. When he lost his contract with Reprise Records, he founded his own record label, named Vic Tim Records, which was a humorous combination of his and his wife’s names. His Vic Tim label released his next five singles in 1971 and 1972, but it ceased to exist afterward. A lone single release on Scepter Records in 1972. In 1973, he founded another record company named Toilet Records, which also folded. He was unable to record and release another album in the United States for three years.
However, he did release two singles on the Bellaphon label in West Germany in 1973, and a combined single from these was released by Polydor Records in the U.K. and Belgium in 1974. He recorded again in the U.S. in 1976; from then on, he released at least one album per year through 1990.
Tiny Tim went to Australia in 1979 and 1980, where he was able to record his first fully planned studio albums since 1970. Record producer Martin Sharp produced three albums, but only a few hundred copies were made of the first album, and only 1000 copies of the second album were produced. None of these albums were ever released in the U.S. at the time they were made. These would be Tiny Tim’s last albums until 1986.
Last few years
In 1985, Tiny Tim hired a teenage disc jockey named Rick Hendrix from WHKY in North Carolina to manage his dates. The two lived at the Olcott Hotel in New York City and began to revive Tiny Tim’s career. He released a new song called “Santa Claus Has Got the Aids This Year” and joined the Alan C. Hill circus. In 1986/87, he starred as a ukulele-playing psycho clown in the cult B-grade horror film, Blood Harvest (1987), directed by Bill Rebane.
The following year, in 1988, Tiny Tim released a country single titled “Leave Me Satisfied” for the Nashville-based NLT Records. He spent time promoting it to country radio and fans and even visited Nashville during the Country Music Fan Fair, now known as the CMA Music Festival.
In the 1990s, Tiny Tim gained renewed interest, which led to the release of several albums, including I Love Me (1993), Rock (1993), and Girl (1996). He collaborated with other artists such as Brave Combo, who acted as his backing band on Girl, as well as Sydney-based rock band His Majesty, with whom he recorded the albums Tiny Tim Rock and Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album, both produced by Sydney artist and writer Martin Sharp. Tiny Tim also worked with bands like Current 93 and Nurse With Wound.
Tiny Tim made several appearances on The Howard Stern Radio Show, made a cameo in Stern’s film, Private Parts (1997), and occasionally appeared on other television programs. He recorded his last music video with New York’s punk rock band, Ism, which was a remake of “Tip-toe Through The Tulips”, but it was never officially released.
In September 1996, Tiny Tim suffered a heart attack just as he began singing at a ukulele festival at the Montague Grange Hall in Montague, Massachusetts. The incident is often confused with the nearby Montague Bookmill, where he had recorded a video interview earlier that same day. Tiny Tim was rushed to the nearby Franklin County Medical Center in Greenfield, where he stayed for approximately three weeks before being discharged.
Due to his frail health and the difficulty of properly catering to his diabetic and heart conditions, the doctors strongly admonished him to no longer perform. However, he continued to sing and entertain his fans despite the health risks.
On November 30, 1996, while playing at a Gala Benefit at The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis, Tiny Tim suffered another heart attack on stage. His third wife, Susan Marie Gardner, whom he had married on August 18, 1995, led him offstage. He passed away shortly after his performance at the age of 64.
There you have it. It’s now time to hear from you. What is your favorite album by Tiny Tim? If you have yet to hear his music, we recommend checking out his songs and letting us know which one you enjoy the most.