The Unmistakable Falsetto of Tiny Tim
By Ken Zurski
Herbert Buckingham Khaury didn’t come from a musical family.
His parents, both immigrants, worked in textile factories. But even at an early age Herbert knew he could sing, especially a high falsetto. “It just seemed more natural to me,” he later explained in an interview.
In 1962, Khaury adopted a stage name, Tiny Tim. The moniker stuck after others like Justin Foxglove did not. Tim’s first big break came on the popular TV variety show Laugh-In. Tim sang “On The Goodship Lollipop” while strumming a ukulele. The audience was stunned. It wasn’t just his singing, which was unique enough, but his appearance – long shaggy hair, a beak nose and plaid suit – that shocked.
The performance drew a mixed, mostly negative, response.
It got better.
Tim gained a following as a regular on the Tonight Show. In 1968, his only hit, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a remake of a song from the 1920’s, reached #17 on the pop charts.
His popularity waned In the 70’s, but Tim continued to perform right up to his death in 1996 at the age of 64. After suffering a heart attack earlier that year, Tim refused to follow doctor’s advice to slow down. Several weeks later, while finishing a performance of “Tulips,” he collapsed on stage and never recovered
“The last thing he heard was applause.” his third wife and widow explained. “He went out happy.”