Who Was Tiny Tim? The 'Tiptoe Through The Tulips' Guy, Explained (Sort Of)

By | February 6, 2018

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Tiny Tim (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Tiny Tim, the "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" singer, was an odd one -- even by '60s standards. He was known for playing his ukulele on TV shows, singing songs from a different era in his high falsetto voice, as bewildered hosts looked on. What was up with this guy? Right there in the midst of the tumult of the late '60s, as the Woodstock generation was trying to reach e better place through peace, love, music and drugs, Tiny Tim was an entertainer who was -- as the saying went at the time -- doing his own thing. If the counterculture considered itself a nonconformist movement -- ukulele-toting Tiny Tim, "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" and all, was the nonconformists' nonconformist. He was weird.

Weird -- but charming. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, and Tiny Tim's evocation of gramophone ditties and a bygone era endeared him to TV audiences. And he loved them back -- after all, what sort of man gets married on a talk show? One who understands the nature of his own celebrity completely. Tiny Tim was famous for "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" and a handful of other tunes not because they were really enjoyable to listen to (when's the last time you put on your old Tiny Tim records?) but because he performed them with so much conviction. He was the oddest of oddballs at a time when American music and entertainment was going to some pretty weird places.

The Future Tiny Tim Was Genuinely Drawn To Music Of A Previous Era

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From a young age, New York-born Herbert Buckingham Khaury, was attracted to old-timey music, and learned to play several instruments -- including the guitar, violin, mandolin, and, yes, ukulele. He was a different sort of kid, not a good student but passionate about the music he loved. He recalled that one day he was listening to a sing by Rudy Valee and found that he was able to sing in a falsetto, an upper register he was previously unaware of. The pieces were falling into place.