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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Episode 4 - Tiny, I never saw a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game.

"I tell you, no one knew more about old music than Tiny Tim did." - Bob Dylan

Direct link to mp3

The Bob Dylan/Tiny Tim connection has a long, rich history, which Dylan alludes to in the "Flowers" episode of Theme Time as he introduces "Tip-toe through the Tulips." In Chronicles, Volume I, Dylan writes about their first meeting,

"One of the guys who played in the afternoons was the falsetto-speaking Tiny Tim. He played ukulele and sang like a girl -- old standard songs from the '20s…"

["On the Old Front Porch" excerpt]

Tiny Tim was born Herbert Buckingham Khaury, on April 12, probably in 1932, although in various interviews he gave his birth year as anytime between 1922 and 1932. His first performances -- under the name Larry Love -- took place in 1954, where he won several amateur contests. His professional career began in 1963 or '64 at a lesbian cabaret in Greenwich Village called the Page 3. In a short time, Tiny Tim was well-known in the Greenwich Village music scene, although more as a novelty act than for his deep knowledge of American music.

In Chronicles, Dylan goes on to tell about sharing lunch with Tim, "The best part of working with [Fred Neil , owner of the Café Wha?*], was strictly gastronomical -- all the French fries and hamburgers I could eat. At some point during the day, Tiny Tim and I would go in the kitchen and hang around. Norbert the cook would usually have a greasy burger waiting. Either that, or he'd let us empty a can of pork and beans or spaghetti into a frying pan."

In 1967, Dylan and Tiny Tim would meet again, when Tim recorded several songs with The Band – yes The Band – for Peter Yarrow’s seldom-seen rockumentary, "You Are What You Eat." The Band/Tiny Tim collaboration included Memphis, Tennessee, The Sonny and Cher classic, I Got You Babe, and this Al Jolson standard, Sonny Boy.

[Sonny Boy]

According to Tim, Dylan renewed their friendship after hearing he was recording with The Band, and invited him to his Woodstock home. Greeting Tim at at 12 o’clock in the morning. Dylan said, "Tiny, I never saw a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game."

In the course of conversation, Tim serenaded Dylan with Rudy Vallee’s "Maine Stein Song" and "My Time is Your Time" and played Dylan's own "Like A Rolling Stone" - comparing Dylan's popularity to Valle's. According to Tiny Tim, "After he [heard] the comparison to [Rudy] Vallee and what he meant to me Dylan said, 'Look, do you want a banana before you go to bed?' I said, 'No, I have my own fruit with me.'"

[Maine Stein Song excerpt]

Before retiring for the night, Tim sang an Irving Kaufman song from 1923 called "What's Today Got To Do With Tomorrow (when tomorrow's so far away)", and Dylan in turn played "Cool Water” for him. Dylan also offered Tim a minor part in "Eat the Document," for which he was paid $22.00.

Tim's performance in You Are What You Eat led to his first TV appearance on the popular Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, where he was an instant sensation, although perhaps not in the way he would have wanted. Perhaps. Tiny Tim seemed to exist in his own space; oblivious to snickers, laughter, and ridicule. In any case, he became a hot TV property, appearing on Laugh-In several more times, as well as on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, and, of course the Tonight Show. In 1969 in front of an estimated 40 million viewers, he would marry Victoria May Budinger, better known as "Miss Vicki," on The Tonight Show. The couple later had a daughter, Tulip, as Dylan mentions on Theme Time, but lived apart, and divorced after eight years of marriage.

Although the public's taste for Tim's inherent weirdness had faded away by the mid-70s, he never stopped performing wherever and whenever he could, reportedly even joining a circus for a few months in the 1980s. In September of 1996, Tiny Tim suffered a heart attack while performing at the Ukulele Hall of Fame in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Upon his release from the hospital, Tim resumed his concert schedule, but, on November 30 1996, suffered another heart attack in Minneapolis while performing his signature song. He died an hour later. His remains are in the mausoleum of Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, pictured to your left.

A true eccentric who happened to be in the right place at the right time to become a media star, and a lover of the American songbook who dedicated his life to bringing back old, obscure songs, Tiny Tim never let his personal oddities or public reaction interfere with his main mission… singing the songs he loved.

This has been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast - occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show. Dreamtime is not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else. Until next time… think of Tiny Tim, and follow your dreams, wherever they lead.

[Tip-toe through the Tulips excerpt]

*See comments

Sources: Remembering Tiny Tim; Tiny Tim: A Look Back; Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan

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jump right in said...

In Chronicles, Dylan refers to Fred Neil as a singer...who ran the daytime show at the Wha?". I don't think Neil was the owner.

Fred@Dreamtime said...

You're quite right, jump. I just went and checked, and apparently Manny Roth was the owner of the Cafe Wha? and Fred Neil was indeed a singer/writer. Here's a link you might enjoy thatr lists Neil's discography...

Thanks for the correction. Hope you enjoy the podcast.

Fred (not Neil)