Remembering a most extraordinary talent and the album that started it all. Interview by Ernie Clark.
In 1968 the world was introduced to a most unique performer by the name of Tiny Tim. Born Herbert Khaury in 1932, he was probably the most misunderstood entertainer in show business history. Under the skillful guidance of Richard Perry, Tiny Tim became a huge star, making hundreds of TV and concert appearances around the world. At the peak of his popularity he was earning $60,000 a week in Las Vegas, playing to sellout crowds at Caesar's Palace, which was and still is one of the prominent Las Vegas hotels on the strip. Like most celebrities his star eventually faded. Even so, he never gave up. He continued his performances almost non-stop for nearly thirty years, right up to the night he passed away on November 30, 1996. He died doing what he loved best; making his fans happy with his amazing backlog of tunes dating from the late 1800's to the present day. Tiny was a kind and sincere man who cared deeply for others. He always made time for everyone, giving two hundred percent of himself regardless of his needs. On May 21, 1993 I phoned Tiny at his hotel in Des Moines and we talked for nearly three hours. We became friends and stayed in touch. In April of 1995 he performed five sold out shows here in Battle Creek. Hanging with him was one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Taking him to the mall to do some shopping was a surrealistic experience to say the least! Many could not believe that this '60's icon was wandering around in their mall! May of 1998 marked the 30th anniversary of Tiny's first album for Reprise Records, "God Bless Tiny Tim." Much of the conversation focused on the songs from that album. I felt enough had been said about the famous Tonight Show wedding and his personal idiosyncrasies, and not enough about the history of the music he held so near and dear to his heart. This interview is a tribute to the songs and to the memory of this fascinating man who brought them back from obscurity for all to enjoy again. A dear friend and a true original. God Bless You Tiny Tim!
ERNIE: Tiny, It's a pleasure to finally talk with you!
TINY: Thank you Mr. Clark.
ERNIE: First of all, who were your musical influences when you were starting out?
TINY: Well, the early Bing Crosby from 1929 to 1935, Rudy Vallee, Henry Burr, Byron G. Harlan, Billy Murray, and Irving Kaufman, who all sang in the Edison years. I used to have all of their 78's. I would sit and listen to them for hours on end; "You Belong To Somebody Else," "Stay Home Little Girl Stay Home" and many others.
ERNIE: When did you first perform professionally?
TINY: In 1954 I got paid for winning some amateur contests under the name of "Larry Love."
ERNIE: Were your first records the ones for Reprise?
TINY: Well, with the exception of one single on the Blue Cat label in '65, Reprise was the first major label that I recorded for. I recorded my own records too. There was a fellow in N.Y. named George Sanders, who owned Sanders Recording Studio. In the 40's, on 42nd St & 6th Avenue in Manhattan, Mr. Sanders would record people in his little store and he would be in the front window taking off the threads from the new discs that they would make for their friends, families and loved ones. He passed away in the '70's and that was the end of an era. In 1963 and '64 when I worked in Greenwich Village at a place called "The Page Three" I was one of about six entertainers. Some of the girls I would write songs for and then I'd record them and give the record to them. I would say, "Hello Miss Snooky, this is Tiny Tim and I'm recording this song just for you. I hope you like it. This is Tiny Tim saying "Happy Listening!" Now these records are still in existence (unless they threw them away). There is also a record going back to 1965, two years before I came to Reprise. I can't remember the man's name but he paid me about $60.00 and had these records put into a fashionable magazine. I recorded a song called "Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries," but there are two or three songs on that one. So the home made discs from Sanders recording Studio, I even gave one to Tuesday Weld when I met her in '65. I was crazy over her when she was about 17 years old in 1960. I wrote and recorded a song for her called "Dear Tuesday." So those are some of the early things that I did that people have.
ERNIE: That's interesting, I'd love to hear them! Would you mind going over the songs on "God Bless Tiny Tim"? For instance, how did you decide to record "Strawberry Tea," and what was the song's origin? The orchestra on that is beautiful!
TINY: Yes it is. Richard Perry of course as you know was the producer on all three of my Reprise albums. Since that time you know the great heights that Mr. Perry has achieved.
ERNIE: Yes, he's a brilliant producer.
TINY: At the time Mr. Perry started out with me, and I have to give him credit because he did have faith in me when I met him two years earlier in '65 (when he worked at 1650 Broadway with a company called "Cloud Nine"). He was married to George Goldner's daughter, Linda, and he produced a 45 of a song called "April Showers." The "B" side was called "Little Girl." He got some money from his father-in-law. [It was released on the Blue Cat label.] The record never did anything. [This is Tiny's rarest 45.] He then moved out to California. I did not see him again until Mo Austin came into a club called "The Scene" where I worked in New York in '67. When he came in and saw what he liked he told me that he would like to sign me. Richard Perry worked for him at the same time. I met Mr. Perry again, this time in Hollywood and he was to be my producer. So technically, we gave each other the big break. Now, in answer to the question about the song; it was a challenge because I've always liked to do the old songs. Mr. Perry said, "We're going to have to split it. I'm going to do some parts that I want and You'll do what you want." I really liked "Strawberry Tea."
ERNIE: It's a beautiful song. It was always one of my favorites.
TINY: Thank you. The writer was Gordon Alexander. It was one of the songs given to Mr. Perry. I decided to take a shot and try some modern songs and take the challenge of doing more than one type of sound.
ERNIE: What about "Daddy, Daddy, What Is Heaven Like?"
TINY: I liked the melody of that. The writer was Art Wayne. It was another Perry selection which I agreed upon.
ERNIE: Tell me about "Fill Your Heart."
TINY: "Fill Your Heart" gave Paul Williams his first big break. He was an unknown song writer selling his songs like so many thousands. It was written with Biff Rose. Mr. Perry liked the song, and I agreed with him. It was a strange song for me to sing. It was a complete departure from the great old songs of Irving Kaufman, Billy Murray, or Henry Burr. Paul Williams said to Mike Douglas on his TV show, "I give Tiny Tim credit for helping me out." Which was nice of him to say.
ERNIE: The next song is "The Other Side."
TINY: It was written by a fellow named Bill Dorsey. That was another song from a young writer which I also used in my Vegas act at Caesar's Palace and other places during the hot '68 & '69 years. Name another song from the album.
ERNIE: OK, the "Coming Home Party"...
TINY: The worst song! Don't get me wrong, I mean, this is a song I never would have recorded, but Mr. Perry wanted to have this on the album. The only time I think of a song is when it's going to hit the top ten. "The Other Side" is not a top ten song but a production number. "Strawberry Tea" had a chance to be a hit.
ERNIE: Oh, I think so too..
TINY: "Daddy, Daddy, What Is Heaven Like?" could have had a chance for the top ten but "The Coming Home Party" was one I wish I never recorded. No offense to the writers [Hildebrand-Keller] but I don't like story songs. My opinion is always give the public ten top hits on an album. Never try to experiment your talents on the audience's dollar.
ERNIE: Another one of my favorites is "Then I'd Be Satisfied With Life." What a classic tune!
TINY: That is a great song! It was written by George M. Cohan. One of the rare, rare songs in his repertoire. I found that like I found so many, searching for old numbers. "If Tuesday Weld would only be my wife" was really a line I put in. [The female voice speaking on this song was Nico of Velvet Underground fame.) The original line in that song was "If Hettie Green would only be my wife." She was the richest woman in the world in 1908, and many men were dying to be her husband.
ERNIE: Did they only issue one single from the first album?
TINY: Right. I think you're right. "Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips" was the only single and then they didn't know what to do. I showed them the song called "Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days."
ERNIE: I used to hear that on our local radio station!
TINY: A terrible recording! I will tell you the truth Mr. Clark, I can hear myself do some numbers and they sound good in my head. When it's put down on tape it sounds horrible, and one of those songs was "Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days." I heard the song originally on the old 78 recorded in 1922 by Miss Lee Morse, who was a great singer of her day. A young Benny Goodman was playing the clarinet behind her. Irving Kaufman was one of the leading singers of the early '20's and he did a great version too. But my version was simply horrible. You can't fool yourself and I can't fool the public. Maybe I'm one of those artists who has to have an engineer who understands the different eras, or maybe I can't record on modern equipment or maybe I can't record at all! (Laughs] It's like a woman who looks pretty but can't take a good picture. Yet the high voice when it's there comes out excellent. The low voice will sometimes come out like an orange half squeezed. This is one of the unfortunate tragedies of life! But anyway, "Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days" was a horrible vocal recording.
ERNIE: I have the single.
TINY: Listen, Boy! I'll meet you one day and I 'll sign it and it will be worth $10.00 more! I got all day, I hope you don't mind talking.
ERNIE: No, not at all. This is an honor. Believe me!
TINY: My pleasure, thanks. Now, the next song is "Stay Down Here Where You Belong." A Great song! Here was a song sung by the late, great Henry Burr, who came from New Brunswick, Canada. He was America's greatest popular singer from 1907 to 1920/22, in the early days of the gramophone. His most famous song among many hits was "M is for the million things she gave me ... put 'em all together, they spell M-0-T-H-E-R." "Stay Down Here Where You Belong," was written in 1915 by the late, great Irving Berlin. Let me tell you the story here: Irving Berlin, when he heard in '68 that I had sung this song, actually called up Warner Brothers and wanted to know where I got it. I said that I got it from Henry Burr, and he couldn't believe that somebody knew it! Now, "My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time" [from "Tiny Tim's 2nd album"] was a big hit in 1945 by Johnny Long and his orchestra. Marion Hutton sang it but Johnny Long had a very big hit with it. Johnny Long was the only left handed violinist in popular music at that time.
ERNIE: Is That how the violin playing came about on your version?
TINY: Maybe, I didn't even think of that!
ERNIE: Where did you find "Welcome To My Dream"?
TINY: It was a Bing Crosby number featured in the film "Road To Utopia" in 1945. He sang it to Dorothy Lamour. Let's see, what else?
ERNIE: Another big favorite is "On The Old Front Porch".
TINY: Oh! Thank you. Sung by the late, great Billy Murray and Ada Jones, in 1910. He also made "You're A Grand Old Flag" famous in 1907. Among his many hits, "Harrigan," the George M. Cohan song, and songs like "Moonlight Bay." Ada Jones sounded in singing like Gracie Allen would in talking, and who knows, I'm sure Miss Allen's comedic talent was natural but she was a star years after Ada Jones. You never know how some of these stars rub off on others. If you ever get a chance to hear her you'll know what I mean. She was America's favorite comedian singer in 1910 and her duets with Billy Murray were at that time as popular as anyone today. What is the next song?
ERNIE: "Livin' In The Sunlight, Lovin' In The Moonlight."
TINY: A great, great song! In my opinion, other than Al Jolson, by one of the greatest personalities of our day, Maurice Chevalier. He sang this song from an early talking picture. ["The Big Pond"-1930. 1 His version of it was so great that he would shake his head listening to mine. If he heard the nice words I said about him, he might have kept quiet! Still, I was very happy with the way I sounded on that.
ERNIE: Great tune. It should have been a single.
TINY: Thank you, anything else that I forgot?
ERNIE: I think the only one we didn't cover on side one was "The Viper."
TINY: This song was written by Norman Blagman. He managed me for a while in 1960/61 and then we parted ways. He was a great song writer and should have been a big star. He wrote some songs for Elvis Presley here and there. I told him once that if I ever made it I would not forget him so I used "The Viper."
ERNIE: That's a unique one!
TINY: Thank you. Are there any more that we forgot?
ERNIE: Did we talk about "Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me (I'm A Nut")?
TINY: Not yet. Another great song sung in 1911 by the late Eddie Morton, one of the big stars of his day, 1905/11. His greatest hit according to discographies was the "Oceana Roll" in 1911. "Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me" would have been a good choice for the second single. I hope you mention these names because these great artists should not be forgotten. You'll be doing yourself and the music fans of the future a great service by mentioning their names.
ERNIE: I definitely will.
TINY: Thanks, because I'll tell you, I am burning mad at RCA and Columbia. You've got these guys making hundreds of millions of dollars a year and they don't know who put them into business. They don't know that Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Eddie Morton, Byron G. Harlon, Charles Harrison, Harry MacDonough, and Walter VanBrunt alone put the Victor and Columbia record companies into business. From 1904 to 1915, they were the bulk sales of the industry and no one is giving them credit and it's a doggone shame.
ERNIE: Did Richard Perry choose "I Got You Babe" for the first album?
TINY: Yeah, he wanted that one. I'll tell you a story not many people know. I had the pleasure in 1968, of going to meet Irving Kaufman after "Tip-toe Thru The Tulips" became a hit, in Rancho Mirage Ca. where he was recuperating from a heart attack. Anyway, when I met him, KHJ radio in California came down with the press to record this meeting. I had the great thrill of singing to him in his voice. (Tiny sings "Stay Home Little Girl Stay Home.") Now, when he heard me sing that song almost in the voice he had, he started to cry. I said, "Mr. Kaufman, I can't hit the high notes like you do, I hit a falsetto". But he still liked it and I hope he didn't cry because I killed it! But anyway, he showed me a song called "Down Virginia Way" which I recorded for the second album. Now, Mr. Perry said to me, "Tiny, "Down Virginia Way" does not fit into this album. I know you want to do it for Mr. Kaufman because you like him a lot. I know he means a lot to you. We'll do it, I promise you, on a future album". I said, "Mr. Perry, he may drop dead by the third album. I want to do it while he's alive. There was no way that I would have backed down. Finally, Roy Silver stuck up for me and said, "No, you have your choices, Tiny wants this number". So I recorded that song against his wishes. I was very satisfied with the recording and I was very glad, praise the Lord, Mr. Kaufman lived to see that.
ERNIE: Can you tell me about "Hello, Hello?"
TINY: One of the worst recordings I have ever done! It was recorded in 1968. Warner Brothers, Reprise and Mo Austin were hitting the ceiling. An issue of "Billboard" came out with a full page ad. "Tiny Tim's new hit, "Be My Love" (the old Mario Lanza hit.) It was on an album called, "Concert In Fairyland" on the "Bouquet" label. When Mr. Perry saw this he said, "Tiny, look what's going on here." (It was now August of 1968) and I'm just opening up a day or two later at Caesar's Palace, and now this album is coming out with the single "Be My Love." I had two names in the early '60's, Darry Dover and Tiny Tim. Some people recorded me and then due to arguments and disagreements dropped the whole thing. When I became big in '68 they asked for $25,000 from Warner Brothers not to put it out but they wouldn't pay it so they put it out. It sold 100,000 copies before they could take it off the market. People were so disgruntled with this record that for a long time if not permanently it killed me in the record industry! If you are familiar with the album then you know there were twelve standards which were butchered! This has to be the worst album ever created in the history of mankind! "Be My Love" was written by Brodzsky and Cahn, who wrote it for Mario Lanza. When they heard the single they sent a letter threatening to sue for killing the song. Believe me this was a tragedy! So Mr. Perry said, "We have to record a song right away," so we recorded Hello, Hello." When I went into the studio the high voice was not there that time. Mr. Perry thought it was great anyway. To top a bad album off I killed "Hello, Hello" too!
ERNIE: I don't think so! It's one of my favorite singles of yours!
TINY: Thanks. I made another record for Reprise, it was an old song that Irving Kaufman sang in 1916 called "Don't Bite The Hand That's Feeding You." I did this on TV to great acclaim due to the Vietnam War on the Carson show back in 1970. The writer was Vera Vandelane. The "B" side was a song called "What kind of American Are You." Henry Burr sang it in 1917. I also recorded a song called "Hallelujah Bless The Peace." [This song was never issued.] I asked a fella' a couple of weeks later how it was doing and he said, "We sold 17 copies!" Whoever has it has another collector's item ... Are you familiar with the record I did with Miss Vicki?
ERNIE: Yes. It's a hard one to find.
TINY: It was released in 1970. It was a song called "Why," the old Frankie Avalon hit. From the collector's standpoint it is worth a lot of money. If you can get Miss Vicki to sign it, it would be like getting Greta Garbo's autograph. Believe me, this is not an exaggeration. If you can get her to sign it, it's worth triple the price because anything I did she wanted no part of!
ERNIE: Up goes the value huh?
TINY: You'll get more than Garbo! But that's the only one we made together. Ironically, the B side was a song I wrote for Miss Snooky back in 1963 called "The Spaceship Song". [The stock copy of this record is the hardest Reprise single to find.] In 1969 while I was in England a fellow came around with an idea. He had me record a song called "There'll Always Be An England." The second side was an already recorded song written by Mr. Perry for the second album; "Have you Seen My Little Sue?" I thought that was a very good song (The record also included "Bless 'Em All" and "It's A Long Way To Tipperary."] It was pressed on a ten inch 78 And had the American and British flags on the label. They made 2,000 copies and they were completely sold out in two days. They also released it on a 7" single.
ERNIE: Please tell me the story behind the record you made with the Beatles.
TINY: In 1968 George Harrison invited me to his hotel room in Manhattan. I said to him, it is a pleasure meeting you, a member of the greatest recording vocal group in the history of popular music." I said, "Do you mind if I sing you a song? He said, "No, go right ahead." (Tiny sings "Nowhere Man" in the high voice). He said, "Wait a minute, just say, 'Merry Christmas Beatles' and go into that song." He put this on the Beatles' '68 fan club flexi-disc.
ERNIE: Yeah, I remember that.
TINY: That's another record that's very difficult to get. I recorded an album called "Resurrection" in '84. It included songs like "Tiny Bubbles," "Shine On Harvest Moon," and "Sweet Rosie O'Grady."
ERNIE: Does Reprise still own the master tapes for the three LP's?
TINY: I assume they do.
ERNIE: Are there any plans to put out an anthology or to re-issue the three albums on CD?
TINY: If there's any plan they haven't told me. I started a label in 1973 called Toilet Records. I recorded a song called "In My Alice Blue Gown." The B side was a song called "I Ain't Got No Money." I also recorded one artist on Toilet records. His name is Isadore Fertell. He had a very strange sounding voice. Talking of mine, he had one too! He was the only man I know who was for Women's Lib. He recorded a song that he wrote called, "Susan B." in honor of Susan B. Anthony. The song on the B side was, "I Am Woman." (The Helen Reddy song.) All I know is that in '73 it got into the hands of Arlene Frances. When she saw this record, I tell you, she threw it in the waste basket! (Tiny laughs hard.) He got so furious he called her up and said, "How could you do such a thing"? [Tiny continues laughing].
ERNIE: What other records did you release in the '70's?
TINY: In 1976 I had a pre-disco 45 called "Tip-Toe Disco." I don't even know how it goes. It was recorded down in Tampa, Florida. I forgot the man who did it, but he actually made some 45's. That one is worth a lot of cash. I did another record I did in 1976 called, "Howard Cosell, We Think You're Swell." [Tiny sings a couple of lines].
ERNIE: I've never heard that one!
TINY: Well listen, millions never did! But it's around somewhere. Also around 1972 I recorded a song called, "Am I Just Another Pretty Face?" Do you have that in your collection?
ERNIE: Yes. That's a very good tune.
TINY: Norman Bergen, a great musical director started out with me on that one. He was one of the leading musical directors in Las Vegas and he recorded this song for the Scepter label. The B side was a song called "Movies." Then the late Cash Howard, may he rest in peace, recorded me on his record label in 1972. I did a song called "Juanita Banana". Believe it or not, the song was reviewed by Elton John. I recorded another song for him called "My Nose Always Gets In The Way." I did a single for Clouds Records in 1979 called, "Tip-Toe to The Gas Pumps." (b/w "The Hickey On Your Neck"] I also recorded a record in 1981 called "Comic Strip Man." [b/w "Tell Me That You Love Me."]
ERNIE: I have that. The B side is very funny!
TINY: Oh! Something else. In 1982 I recorded "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" I actually had a band playing a 1920's version of it. I tell ya, you could get more sales in your room! (Tiny laughs hard) I recorded that in Jolson's voice and on the B side I recorded a song called "Feelings", you know the old hit?
ERNIE: Yeah, Morris Albert an RCA from 1975.
TINY: Well, I tried to get an old Crosby sound of the early 30's. (Tiny sings in Crosby's voice). Believe it or not, that got a better play than "Do You Think I'm Sexy?", and that got about five plays! A year later, they made a video of "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" I tell you, this would be good for those 63 and up, 83 and up! You see a bunch of girls behind me, and I'm just shaking my hips! This would make Rod Stewart quit the business! And the words weren't even in sync! The guy who shot this video, believe it or not, never talked to me again! He was as cold as ice! Two years later, in N.Y., this guy takes "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" and has it made into a little flexi disc and sold it for Valentine's day, in a greeting card. Here I am singing "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" in a Jolson voice for Valentine's day and people bought it!
ERNIE: How did you get involved with The Band? Didn't you record with them?
TINY: Oh sure, in 1967. Peter Yarrow was very instrumental in getting me to Warner Brothers because he told Mo Austin about me. But the thing is, he wanted to put me in a movie after he saw me perform at Steve Paul's Scene. He was doing this movie in Greenwich Village called "You Are What You Eat," and I was glad to be a part of that. While I was there The Band was playing for Mr. Dylan. It was in January of 1967 and they loved what they heard. I sang some of the old songs. When he heard that they were playing behind me, he was interested in meeting me again. I don't know if you know this but I was very close to Lenny Bruce.
ERNIE: No, I didn't.
TINY: When I went out to Hollywood in '66, I was there with a cult figure who paid for my first plane trip to do a month of shows at a place called "The Hollywood Ranch Market." He's still around today in Berkley College. His name is Wavy Gravy.
ERNIE: Oh sure, he was at Woodstock.
TINY: We were all doing the show for the door. I loved every minute of it. I could do whatever I wanted, no hassles. That's when Bob Dylan came to see the show. He was so nice, and I was so thrilled for him to come down to see me. At that time "Rainy Day Women" was in the charts. After I did my old Kaufman, Henry Burr songs with the ukulele I said, "Ladies and gentlemen I have a great star in the audience. I'm sorry to embarrass him but it is the famous Bob Dylan. I want to thank Mr. Dylan for coming down to see the show." I pulled out some sheet music from my pocket called "Positively Fourth Street," and I just did a snip but I added at the end; "It's not 10th St., 9th St., 8th St., 7th St., 6th St., 5th St.," Now that brought down the house! He came back stage and was so nice. Then Lenny Bruce invited me to his house when he heard I was there, because two years earlier, in '64, he met me in New York. I opened up for him in The Village in April of '64 and another show in November of '64 at The Lowe's Delancey St. which later became The Fillmore East. The "Journal American" and "The Village Voice" had full page ads saying that "LENNY BRUCE PLAYS FOR PROFIT and Tiny Tim (in small letters) sings for love." The police were there and they locked us out because the owner was too afraid to open up with Lenny Bruce. Remember, in '64 he was fighting his court cases. He was before his time and was constantly fighting the law. When I met him again in California in '66 he invited me to his house. I'll never forget the beautiful home he had. He had me read the bible to him and then he wanted to hear a song. One song seemed to inspire him in those days. It was an old song that Irving Kaufman sang in 1922. (Tiny sings "When Will The Sun Shine For Me?")
ERNIE: That's a very nice song.
TINY: Thank you, that was his favorite song. He was using that as an inspiration for his court cases. Of course he died a year later, may he rest in peace. But going back, when The Band saw me at the Peter Yarrow movie in January of '67, they told Bob Dylan and that's what led to Mr. Dylan's inviting me to his home in Woodstock. I was very thrilled to be with him. I went to Alan Grossman's house first and then his chauffeur took me by limousine to Mr. Dylan's house when it was dark. I'll say one thing, the meeting with Bob Dylan was another classic moment. I'll never ever forget it. He met me at 12:00 in the morning. He had a leather jacket on. He was recuperating from that accident.
ERNIE: Oh right, the motorcycle accident.
TINY: Yeah. The first thing he said to me was, "Tiny, I never saw a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game." I've gone to the Toronto Maple Leaf games since '43. He never saw a hockey game and I was thrilled that he was talking to me about the Maple Leafs. He wanted to go to a game with me. Then I said, "Mr. Dylan, you are today to folk music what Rudy Vallee was to romantic music in the early days of radio and records in 1928-3l." I proceeded to show him an example of Rudy Vallee's style. (Tiny sings "Maine Stein Song".) I said, "Mr. Dylan, supposing Mr. Vallee was here in his hay day today, here is how he would sing one of your songs." (Tiny sings "Like A Rolling Stone"). So then I said, "Mr. Dylan, supposing you were alive in 1929, here is how you'd sound singing one of Mr. Vallee's songs. (Tiny sings "My Time Is Your Time"). You know what he does? After he hears the comparison of Vallee and what he meant to me he says, "Look, do you want a banana before you go to bed?" I said, "No, I have my own fruit with me." That is an actual conversation. The greatest thrill I got was when I sang to Mr. Dylan a snip of an Irving Kaufman song from '23 called "What's Today Got To Do With Tomorrow (when tomorrow's so far away.)" He took his guitar and he sang "Cool Water" to me. So it was just a unbelievable span of the generation gap between this great artist and myself. Also around this time he was doing something for ABC's "Stage 67." He gave me a part in a little pilot. He actually gave me the name of Philip Granger! I wish that I had his check, he paid me $22.00 to appear in this movie, and I tell ya I would have done it for free! But really that's the story of Bob Dylan. Those were great days, and that's how the band came to be with me.
ERNIE: There's a Bob Dylan bootleg with the "basement tapes" material on it, and four of the songs feature you.
TINY: Do you remember what they were?
ERNIE: "Be My Baby," "Memphis," "Sonny Boy" and "I Got You Babe." There's a girl singing a duet with you. (Eleanore Baruchian)
TINY: Oh, I know. Two were used in the movie "You Are What You Eat." No one has seen it. I don't think it was released. (The film received a limited release.] But that girl was very pretty. I met her in The Scene, apparently Mr. Yarrow liked the way she looked too and he put her in the picture with me. Getting back to the records, there's another one that a guy put out in 1984 somewhere in Long Island. He paid for his own label, the song was called "I'm Just a Lonesome Clone". Also, you know who has a disc of me? David Peel!
ERNIE: I know who he is, he worked with John and Yoko.
TINY: Back in '78, when I visited him in The Village, he wrote a song called "Bring Back The Beatles" and I recorded that on his tapes. So there are so many things around.
ERNIE: It would be nice to compile all this stuff on CD wouldn't it?
TINY: Oh, I would love to see them just for posterity. I don't know how many records I have out. I'm not even thinking of tapes in peoples houses, or all these demo records I made for girls.
ERNIE: I've got another 45 on Reprise of "Great Balls Of Fire."
TINY: Oh yeah. That was my best recording for Reprise.
ERNIE: That was one of my favorites too.
TINY: Thanks. Oh yes, this is very important, you might want to know about this. I completed in Nashville, in 1988, an album which is called "Leave Me Satisfied." The album cover was taken with permission of the Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs people. I'm dressed in a tuxedo, a beautiful girl [Miss Kentucky] is standing by a limousine. Now, on that album I recorded "I've Got A Tiger By The Tail" among many others, and this I must say is a good record. The title song reached #70 in Billboard in May of 1988. (Tiny sings, "Leave Me Satisfied"). Now, you know what happened? That record was starting to move, and the calls came in: "That's Tiny Tim? I don't believe it." I personally think "I've Got A Tiger By The Tail" which has the high and low voice could have made some noise again. The producer was Dan Mitchell who was Alabama's producer. Do you know, to my knowledge, I am the only popular name artist in the world, who in 1977, has one or two cylinder records in the Edison Museum in Bellaire, III.
ERNIE: That's quite an honor!
TINY: I actually recorded through a horn to the other end of the room and I now know how singers like Billy Murray, Byron G. Harlan and Henry Burr felt. Once you made a mistake you had to go on or do the whole thing over again. We don't realize what we have, we can erase our voices. But just a snip of one of the songs in that Edison Museum by Byron G. Harlon. (Tiny sings "School Days").
ERNIE: I remember that one!
TINY: Right, it sounded a lot better, I had a piano player there, and my second song is just a snip of Billy Murray as he sang it in 1912. (Tiny sings "Goodbye Boys").
ERNIE: Did you know they re-issued all of the Ed Sullivan Shows?
ERNIE: I saw one a few weeks ago where you were doing "Earth Angel." You were backed by an all girl band.
TINY: They were called "The Enchanted Forest."
ERNIE: Is that who it was?
TINY: That was in January of 1970.
ERNIE: That was a great performance.
TINY: Thanks, they were nice. They performed with me before in December, in the Bahamas, when I went on the honeymoon with Miss Vicki. Is that all they showed?
ERNIE: Yeah, on that particular show.
TINY: They didn't show Miss Vicki's duet?
ERNIE: No, it might be on another show. They really cut those up when they compile half hour programs from the original one hour shows.
TINY: Please, I'd love to answer any questions.
ERNIE: Getting back to the Beatles, you weren't actually with all four of them?
TINY: No, no. The only one there was George Harrison, but I did do Laugh-In with Ringo. [All four Beatles and the Rolling Stones attended Tiny's Royal Albert Hall show on October 30th, 1968.] I never met John Lennon, may he rest in peace, and I never met Paul McCartney. When I lived in New York, I lived at the Hotel Olcott which is at 72nd and Central Park West right next to the Dakota apartments. I did see Mr. Lennon walking down the street once. It must have been the same year he died. I saw him as I was walking up to the hotel. I know it was him, but I didn't have the nerve to say "Hello", but I'm sure he saw me. That's the only time I saw him. The closest I came to Paul McCartney was with Linda Eastman. I knew her from The Scene. She was also at the Lower Delancey, later known as the Fillmore East. She was very nice looking. I can't say I didn't admire her. She always had a camera in her hand and I think all she did was smile at me. We never had any conversations. I met her again after I made it in '68 with "Tip-Toe Through The Tulips". She was in Hollywood, I think she was working for "Mademoiselle" magazine and I remember that she came down to take pictures of me for an interview.
ERNIE: What was the biggest concert you ever played and what was the oddest thing that ever happened when you were on stage?
TINY: Oh! The biggest concert, was in August of 1970 at the Isle Of Wight. Now let me tell you the truth Mr. Clark, I get the feeling that if I sang like Caruso, if I brought down the house, if the whole crowd went mad you'd still have the press saying, "He was awful!" But I will tell you, the Isle Of Wight, in England, without a doubt, was my biggest concert and my greatest reviews. I will say this, even though nine out of ten times they review me bad, the law of averages changes. All the best rock stars were there. It was a three day festival. This was the second day. I had to follow Joni Mitchell. I only had a piano player. His name was Leo Stone. He was from Queens, N.Y. There was a bass player and a drummer. There were over 200,000 kids sitting on the grass, and my knees were literally shaking. My opening number was an old song from 1929, "I'm always high, high, high, up in the hills, watching the clouds roll by." All of a sudden I heard a faint cheer. Maybe they thought the word "high" ...
ERNIE: Drug reference huh?
TINY: Yeah, but I couldn't believe I heard a cheer for a song they never knew. Then I went into a medley, singing straight for 20 minutes, ending with "There'll Always Be An England". I didn't know they wanted more. I was so shocked and scared. They said, "More, more!" They were standing up and people were congratulating me. The London Sunday Times came out and it actually said, "Tiny Tim stole the show!" "He did it without even an electric instrument!" And it went on to mention songs like "It's A Long Way To Tipperary" which these kid's grandfathers sang from World War One. The only reason I am accolading this is because I was so against the odds going there that all the rock papers and the trades were saying, "What in the world ... Are they out of their heads" for having me there, at a rock concert? And I was wondering, maybe they're right?! It's like bringing a 78 record into the world of stereo. Yet this article came out that I stole the show.
ERNIE: Did you ever meet Sinatra?
TINY: I met him in '69. He invited me to his recording session. I went over to Mr. Sinatra and the photographer said, "Would you like to take a picture with him?" I thought he'd say no but he said, "Yeah, sure." So the photographer said, "Well, talk to Frank Sinatra while you're here". I said, "Mr. Sinatra, if I may say this to you, in June of 1946 America was in the war, you were making an appearance at 7:30 that night for the Jerry Lawrence disc jockey show. When I was there, backstage, you couldn't get out. The Bobby Socksers were screaming all throughout the block. Finally a couple of guards took you by the arms, they held the traffic back from 5th Avenue to Broadway, and literally pushed you out into the cab. I saw you take both of your hands, put them to your ears, and shake your head from side to side. You couldn't believe it! Now when Mr. Sinatra heard me recall that story in '69 of something that happened in '45, he smiled from ear to ear. It reminded me of the great Sinatra smile when he was the idol of the nation from '43- '47. He smiled and told me, "Tiny, those were the days!" If you ever get the LP called "Cycles" which he was recording when I was there in the studio you will find a big picture of him and myself on the back cover. That was one of the greatest thrills in this business to have a picture with me on the back of his album.
My greatest thrill was appearing with Bing Crosby on the "Hollywood Palace" on December 9th, 1968. In August, when I was very hot, I had just finished at Caesar's Palace. A call came in for a December show with the Hollywood Palace. So I said, "I'd love to be on with no one but Bing Crosby." They said, "Fine, Mr. Crosby would say OK." Now remember, this was in August. I got a call back from my management saying, "Mr. Crosby would love to do the show but he is going to be busy in December, and wondered if I would like to do it with Don Adams." I said, "No, I would not." I think maybe Presley would have tempted me but anybody else, I do not want to do the show. I had no hard feelings toward Mr. Crosby. If he doesn't want to do it fine and wonderful and that was the end of that, we won't do it. All of a sudden in the first week of December he was ready to do the show again. I first came to meet him around the 2nd of December. I had the worst flu that I ever had. I couldn't sing at the time, but it wasn't important, he just wanted to meet me. Here came Mr. Crosby, little wrinkles on his face, the pipe was in his mouth and he gave me a nice welcome. He said, "Come here on December 8th and we'll do a show." I went to the doctor to get a rare flu shot but by December 8th the flu was still there and I couldn't get rid of it. My voice was at it's worst. Ironically, the first miracle happened. There was a fire at the Hollywood Palace! I mean, something..someone was surely looking out for me! [A few days later things were in order at the Hollywood Palace and rehearsals for the show began.] It was the 2:00 rehearsal for the 6:00 taping of the show. Mr. Crosby comes up to me and he says, "Why, Tiny Tim, I hear you're a fan of mine. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll sing a song I sang in the early 30's and you sing me another song like that." So he goes on singing and I sing another song trying to get as close to his voice as possible. (Tiny sings "Please"). Now I felt great at the time, I felt I was the young Crosby. No one in that studio moved. He didn't know how I'd sound, but to hear from this character his young voice was more than he ever expected. Now nobody laughed. Then he said, "Tiny, why don't you sing my theme song." (Tiny sings "Where The Blue Of The Night Meets The Gold Of The Day"). Then he went into something and I said, "Of course Mr. Crosby, you sang this song in 1934 ... (Tiny sings "June in January"). Now when he heard the third one, he was supposed to do the song "True Love." But he forgot the words to the song right after he heard "June In January"! Then I asked to sing another song of his in the high voice. (Tiny sings "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening"). That did it to him! He goes over and he pats me on the shoulder and he says, "Jessica Dragnet!" (She was one of the female sopranos in 1940 on the Bell Telephone Hour.) Then he pats me on the shoulder 'cuz he saw I was taking it in stride. Comes the regular show and he introduces me. Before we do this patter, all the guest artists do their hits first. So I did a few snips from the "God Bless Tiny Tim" album. I did "Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips," "Come To The Ball," and then I did the full version of "Great Balls Of Fire." Now at that time it was already past 6:00, and something came over me. I knew this was it! I wanted to impress Mr. Crosby. I was trying to give him my best, I was trying to thank him, so this time I was really moved! I almost tore my hair out! I mean, this was not an exaggeration, the audience was going wild! Crosby was shaking his head in the wings, he was looking at this girl and saying, "What does he have?" It was pandemonium! So Crosby comes running out and he says, So you're a fan of mine!" Then he says, "Tiny, why do you have to call me 'Mr. Crosby'? Call me 'Bing". I still couldn't, so I said "Mr. Bing." Well he just laughed and said, "OK. T.T." It was my greatest moment in this business. So much so that someone came up to me afterward and said, "Tiny, you stole the show from Bing Crosby." I said, "No, no! Nobody steals the show from Mr. Crosby." When I was in England in '73 doing a show, I heard that he was on Mr. Carson's show and he said, "Whatever happened to Tiny Tim?" So he never forgot. Later on I had the thrill of being in Palm Springs with his second wife, and she said, "Tiny, Bing always got a laugh out of you." It made me feel so good!
ERNIE: That's a great story.
TINY: Unbelievable. I had the pleasure of meeting the giants.
ERNIE: Did you ever meet Elvis?
TINY: Colonel Tom Parker invited me back stage in 1970 to watch the show. I never met him because he went right into the limousine and took off, but he was really great. He mentioned me from the stage. It was nice to be mentioned from Elvis Presley's mouth. Also, by the way, did you know in 1988, there was another record I recorded called "I Saw Mr. Presley Tip-Toeing Through The Tulips?"
ERNIE: Yes, I have that one ... My all-time favorite song of yours is "This Is All I Askv from the "God Bless" album.
ERNIE: What an incredible record!
TINY: Thank you so much. Artie Butler was the musical arranger. That song made Johnny Carson cry once. I did it on one of my early appearances on his show.
ERNIE: It would be interesting to see all that stuff again.
TINY: Oh yeah! Maybe they'll put it out one day. You know it has been such a fantastic life, thank God to Christ, that I can't complain. You know every time you look there is something else happening. Almost every year there's a new recording. I've always tried to make it back since 1970.
ERNIE: Well, just hang in there. It will happen.
TINY: Thanks. You know, just do your best and pray for the rest! Just once more in the big time. There was nothing like those years! Are there any other questions you need to ask me?
ERNIE: No, that's it for now. I certainly appreciate your time.
TINY: Well, please keep in touch.
ERNIE: I sure will.
TINY: Mr. Clark, thanks a million.
ERNIE: Thanks for talking with me, Tiny. Special thanks to my friend Renee Bowen for transcribing my tapes and for her invaluable assistance on this project, to Mr. Richard Perry for believing in Tiny early on, for his amazing productions, for sharing information, and for his incredible kindness and generosity. Thank you for all you've done for me!
© Copyright Ernie Clark
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