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Now Sounds Tip-Toes Thru The Tulips With “God Bless Tiny Tim”

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God Bless Tiny TimWelcome to my dream, and how are you?  Will you be here long, or just passing through?  Brush off that stardust, where have you been?  Don’t tell me my rainbow was late getting in…

When Herbert Buckingham “Tiny Tim” Khaury, 37, married Victoria May “Miss Vicki” Budinger, 17, on December 17, 1969 before Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, The Rev. William Glenesk and a studio audience filled with 268 of the happy couple’s closest friends, roughly 40 million people were watching.  It was a high point for Carson’s Tonight Show, and some 44 years later when TV Guide counted down television’s 60 Greatest Talk Show Moments, the wedding of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki made the Top 15.  Indeed, Tiny Tim fascinated the nation from his first appearance on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.  Introduced as “The Toast of Greenwich Village,” the 6’1” jacketed figure with the mane of long hair entered, pulled a ukulele out of a shopping bag, and proceeded to warble “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in perhaps the strangest falsetto ever.  The audience roared at both Tim’s performance and co-host Dick Martin’s comically dumbfounded glare at his new discovery.   A star – of a kind not seen before and not likely to be seen again – was born.

An early fan of this most peculiar man was Peter, Paul and Mary’s Peter Yarrow.  He introduced Reprise Records’ legendary honcho Mo Ostin to Tim, and Ostin signed the former “Larry Love, The Singing Canary” to The House That Frank Built.  Tiny Tim recorded three albums for Reprise, and now, his 1968 Top 10 debut LP God Bless Tiny Tim has just been reissued in a deluxe expanded mono edition from Now Sounds.  The late singer-comedian-enigma died in 1996, aged 64, but his outsized personality and outré, time-displaced style live on here.  Even those who own the 2006 Rhino Handmade stereo box set God Bless Tiny Tim: The Complete Reprise Studio Masters…and More will find much new to discover.

Dear friends, join us after the jump for more, won’t you?

Bing Crosby introduced Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s “Welcome to My Dream” in the 1946 film Road to Utopia, serenading Dorothy Lamour at the piano with a smooth croon.  It opens God Bless Tiny Tim, with Tim’s quavering, disembodied vibrato cutting through the silence, then ceding to Artie Butler’s haunting orchestral arrangement.  A familiar ukulele soon brings us down to earth (?).  It’s “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips,” Tiny Tim’s signature song.  Introduced in 1929’s Gold Diggers of Broadway and reprised in the very first Looney Tunes short in 1930, “Tip-Toe” gained a new lease on life when performed by Tiny Tim in his distinctively shrill falsetto.  Though the sight of the not-so-diminutive star singing and strumming the ukulele in grand camp fashion yielded laughs on television, on record it’s rather otherworldly.  As only the second track on the album, it practically demands listeners make a decision: turn the damn thing off or come along for the ride.  If you make the latter choice, you may well find the album produced by Richard Perry (Nilsson Schmilsson, Ringo, Stoney End) and arranged by Artie Butler (“Copacabana,” “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” “Laughter in the Rain”) to be a beguiling curiosity – either because of, or in spite of, Tiny Tim’s unique vocal stylings.  But if you’re inclined to make the former choice, Now Sounds hasn’t left you in the lurch, either.  Keep reading…and listening!

That a rendition of “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips” hit the Billboard Top 20 in 1968 isn’t altogether shocking.  Standards were in vogue in the latter half of the 1960s, thanks to the likes of The Happenings (“I Got Rhythm”), Harpers Bizarre (“Anything Goes”), The Fifth Estate (“Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead”), The Four Seasons (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”) and others.  That Tiny Tim went all the way to the Top 20 may be more surprising, but this proudly unabashed outsider clearly struck a chord with his numerous appearances on Laugh-In and The Tonight Show.  He’s a most genial host on God Bless Tiny Tim, with his over-the-top spoken song introductions giving the album the feel of a dreamlike radio play.  A modern-day listener might think of Dame Edna when Tim intones with formality, “Hello, my dear friends…well, here I am on record at last!  And it feels so wonderful to be here with you on my first album!”

Tim, producer Perry and arranger Butler compiled a groovy collection of tunes both drawn primarily from Tim’s beloved classic repertoire (think: the underground of the Great American Songbook) plus a smattering of contemporary material.  The most infectious of the lot may well be “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” from the team of Al Lewis and Al Sherman.  Today, Al Sherman is best-known as the father of Disney legends Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman (Mary Poppins, “It’s a Small World”).  But Al was no slouch as a tunesmith himself.  Butler’s brassy arrangement builds off Tiny Tim’s ukulele, creating a groovy spin on vaudeville for the tune previously recorded by Maurice Chevalier and Bing Crosby.  Go ahead and try to dislodge this one from your brain!

Tim, Perry and co. turned a number of these chestnuts on their ears.  The most shocking track is “Stay Down Here Where You Belong,” in which Irving Berlin – writer of “God Bless America” and “White Christmas” – goes the psychedelic-rock route.  And Berlin was lyrically in tune with the now generation, too.  The 1914 song depicts a conversation between the Devil and his son, with Lucifer Sr. imploring Junior to “stay down here where you belong” because “the folks who live above you don’t know right from wrong/To serve their king, they’ve gone off to war/And not a one of them knows what they’re fighting for!”  Berlin’s World War I sentiment – which the patriotically-minded songwriter later repudiated – held resonance in Vietnam-era America.

If Berlin could go underground (to Hell, in fact!), why couldn’t George M. Cohan go country?  Tim and Artie Butler transformed (and considerably rewrote) the Yankee Doodle Boy’s 1902 “Then I’d Be Satisfied with Life” with tinkling piano, twangy guitar and the singer’s voh-de-oh-doh gusto.  (S.H. Dudley’s 1903 Victor version can be heard online at the National Jukebox of the Library of Congress!)  Here and on numerous other tracks, Tim ditches the falsetto in favor of a multitude of other voices.  At times, it seems like he’s trying to outdo Mel Blanc for the title of The Man of a Thousand Voices.  On Bobby Heath and Arthur Lange’s bouncy “On the Old Front Porch,” Tim plays both the male and female roles, and his gender-bending impishness continues for a bizarre camp deconstruction of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”  Tim switches voices and roles on Artie Wayne’s maudlin and unquestionably twee “Daddy, Daddy, What is Heaven Like?”  as well as on Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller’s “The Coming Home Party.”  Tiny’s maniacal laughter introduces “The Other Side,” from writer Bill Dorsey.  It’s an alternately ominous and rousing psychedelic journey (“The icecaps are melting, the tide is rushing in/All the world is drowning to wash away the sins”) with Tim as your guide.

There are pure pop moments, too.  “Strawberry Tea,” written by Curt Boettcher associate Gordon Alexander, has a spellbinding, baroque-flavored orchestration and is one of God Bless’ most straightforward attempts as lush contemporary pop.  And if you ever wanted to hear Tiny Tim fronting a garage band, try “Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me, I’m a Nut” on for size, with his falsetto joined by a fuzz guitar.  Perry and Butler, however, don’t allow God Bless Tiny Tim to remain stagnant or predictable for a moment, so this rocking track adds fiddles, as well!  (Ed Morton’s 1913 Victor recording is also available on the Library of Congress’ Jukebox!)  An early Paul Williams composition with Biff Rose, “Fill Your Heart,” neatly sums up Tiny Tim’s positive philosophy.  Less successful is “The Viper,” a spoken-word piece with a punchline sure to induce a few winces and groans.  Tim closes out God Bless with a visit to the cabaret for “This Is All I Ask,” accompanied by cocktail piano and, naturally, strings.  It’s a big dramatic finish, and allows Tiny an opportunity to conclude the album with the requisite thank-yous and goodbyes befitting an artist of his refinement and stature!

Reissue producer/designer Steve Stanley has expanded God Bless Tiny Tim with eleven bonus tracks including both sides of Tiny Tim’s 1966 pre-Reprise single for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Blue Cat label.  “April Showers” b/w “Little Girl” was financed and produced by Richard Perry.  The familiar falsetto is on display on the A-side, and Tim even does his best Jolson impression in the spoken portion.  Though written for the forgotten musical Bombo and introduced by Jolie in 1921, today “April Showers” might be most recognized as another Looney Tunes musical specialty.  Huddie Ledbetter’s “Little Girl” is even odder.  Tim croons in his shaky baritone (“Don’t you lie to me/Tell me where you sleep tonight…”) as the song’s organ part recalls The Animals’ recording of “House of the Rising Sun,” of all things.  The falsetto, though, is back for a cover of Sopwith Camel’s “Hello, Hello,” from a 1968 Reprise non-LP single.  “Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days” is another vaudeville throwback and an ode to the days of Al Jolson, “Mammy” and “Swanee.”  (For “Hello, Hello” and “Rockabye,” the arrangements were not by Butler but by John Andrew Tartaglia.  Perry shared credit for “Hello.”)  Tiny’s versions of contemporary songs, however, lacked the same capacity to shock as his vintage material which seemed to have been from another world, much like the singer.

The real raison d’etre for Now Sounds’ reissue, though, just might be the six never-before-released instrumental bonuses.  Stanley has included Butler’s backing tracks for the LP’s “Livin’ in the Sunlight,” “Stay Down Here Where You Belong,” “On the Old Front Porch,” “Tip-Toe,” and “Fill Your Heart,” plus Tartaglia and Perry’s for “Hello, Hello.”  The album cuts are a testament to Butler’s often unheralded talent, as his atmospheric and evocative work finds room for organ, harpsichord, piano, woodwinds, strings, saxophones, celli, vibes, harp, pedal steel, guitars, accordion, trumpets, trombones and a plethora of instruments and special effects.  It didn’t hurt that many Wrecking Crew and session vets were playing for Butler and Perry, including Bill Pittman, Tommy Tedesco, Mike Deasy, Mike Melvoin, Pete Jolly, Larry Knechtel and Jim Gordon.  The bucolic sounds of “On the Old Front Porch” come alive, and the intricate layers of “Stay Down Here Where You Belong” are revealed in greater detail, too.  For those fans of sixties pop-psych who find Tiny Tim’s voice(s) too much of an acquired taste, these elaborate tracks are reason enough to take the plunge on God Bless Tiny Tim.

What makes a cult record most?  Musician and writer Kristian Hoffman tells all in his entertaining liner notes which run the gamut from hyperbolic to heartfelt.  Tiny Tim, no fan of subtlety, surely would have approved of Hoffman’s informative, affectionate assessment and history.  Steve Stanley has designed the period-perfect package to Now Sounds’ usual high standards, and Alan Brownstein has impeccably remastered in appropriately old-fashioned mono, as well.  If a psychedelic music hall existed, Tiny Tim might well have been the headliner.  God Bless Tiny Tim welcomes you to his strange yet oddly appealing dream.

Tiny Tim, God Bless Tiny Tim: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Reprise LP RS 6292, 1968 – reissued Now Sounds CRNOW 45, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Welcome to My Dream
  2. Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips
  3. Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight
  4. On the Old Front Porch
  5. The Viper
  6. Stay Down Here Where You Belong
  7. Then I’d Be Satisfied with Life
  8. Strawberry Tea
  9. The Other Side
  10. Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me (I’m a Nut)
  11. Daddy, Daddy, What is Heaven Like?
  12. The Coming Home Party
  13. Fill Your Heart
  14. I Got You Babe
  15. This is All I Ask
  16. Hello, Hello (Reprise single 0769, 1968)
  17. Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days (Reprise single 0760, 1968)
  18. April Showers (Blue Cat single BC 127, 1966)
  19. Little Girl (Blue Cat single BC 127, 1966)
  20. Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips with Me (Mono Single Version) (Reprise single 0679, 1968)
  21. Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight (Instrumental)
  22. Stay Down Here Where You Belong (Instrumental)
  23. On the Old Front Porch (Instrumental)
  24. Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips with Me (Instrumental)
  25. Fill Your Heart (Instrumental)
  26. Hello, Hello (Instrumental)
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Written by Joe Marchese

December 9, 2013 at 14:45

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Tiny TIm

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15 Responses

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  1. Nice to see this cd reviewed. The cd is excellent although the mono mix such as it is sounds nothing like the mono mix found on the Reprise Records white label promo. The promo vinyl mix has Tiny’s voice much more up front and the instruments are much more defined. Some of them aren’t even heard in the stereo mix. The bonus tracks are the real treat. The instrumental backings on the cd are fun to hear. The booklet has many previously unseen photos of Tiny. The notes are good for the most part but the writer is incorrect when he says the female voice on “Then I’d Be Satisfied With Life” is underground artist Ultra Violet. It’s actually Nico of Velvet Underground fame. one listen to one of her songs and you can tell it’s her voice. I have an interview from 1968 and Tiny mentions that it’s Nico. I asked him about it when I spoke to him in 1993. I also spoke to the album’s producer Richard Perry about it and he also confirmed that it was Nico on the track. There is also a deluxe expanded version of Tiny’s second Reprise album “Tiny Tim’s 2nd Album” in the works from the same label. Check out my website at http://www.tinytim.org.

    Ernie

    December 9, 2013 at 21:37

    • Thanks for your correction here re Nico! In my defense, I do have to say I bought the record when it was new, and it was already a beloved cult item by the early 70′s, when I was hanging out with the GTO’s and occasionally even Ultra Violet herself, and they all said that Ultra Violet did the voice. Maybe Miss Violet just wanted to grab the credit! But those were the people I used as sources of information for my theory – everyone I knew in the 70′s said it was Ultra Violet. And Ultra Violet and Nico were friends through Warhol and part of the same scene. But Richard Perry is obviously the ultimate authority! So I will take that as the final word. As an aside, as I read through scads of Tiny Tim interviews and the books that are available, Tiny seemed to change his stories quite frequently, so I absolutely took everything he said seriously, but wouldn’t be surprised if he had slipped occasionally or glamorized a few facts. I don’t get that feeling at all about Mr. Perry!

      Kristian Hoffman

      December 11, 2013 at 18:02

      • Hey Kristian, just found your post. Tiny did tend to change his stories now and then but the article I read where he mentioned Nico doing the voice was from 1968 and the album had just been released. You can’t mistake Nico’s sultry voice! I sopke to Richard Perry about it just a few years ago. Anyway I enjoyed your liner notes very much.

        Ernie

        December 25, 2013 at 01:40

  2. Tiny’s real last name is spelled Khaury, not Khoury. Richard Perry not only produced Tiny’s Blue Cat single he also played all of the instruments. Tiny only played ukulele on “I Got You, Babe” and the short snip of “Never Hit Your Grandma With A Shovel” on the “God Bless” album and yes, he was a musical genius.

    Ernie

    December 9, 2013 at 22:01

  3. Good to see Ernie posting here. Tiny Tim was truly one of the great artists of his time.

    Kevin

    December 10, 2013 at 09:17

    • Thank you Kevin. A talent like Tiny only comes along once in a lifetime. Glad it was during ours!

      Ernie

      December 10, 2013 at 10:37

  4. In response to Ernie: For the Now Sounds GBTT release we accessed four different US mono white label promos for reference. Our CD master was sourced from the original US mono master tape—which can be seen below and on the inner tray of the CD reissue:
    http://i1272.photobucket.com/albums/y399/now_sounds/tt_tape_box_zps5b423deb.jpg

    Steve Stanley

    December 10, 2013 at 16:33

    • Hi Steve, I just wonder why the cd sounds so different compared to the original mono vinyl. It’s a great cd but to my ear it just sounds different. Glad to have it just the same.

      Ernie

      December 11, 2013 at 01:44

  5. Is there anything on this that’s not on the prior Rhino Handmade version?

    Robert Lett

    December 10, 2013 at 22:49

    • Plenty, Robert! The mono mix is appearing on CD for the first time anywhere, and all of the instrumentals are previously unreleased. In addition, the Blue Cat single sides were not included on the Handmade box.

      Joe Marchese

      December 10, 2013 at 23:19

  6. Aside from this issue, have there been any other Tiny Tim issues within the past 2-5 years that might be very obscure (such as vinyl only, collector’s labels, etc.). It is hard to keep up.

    Kevin

    December 11, 2013 at 11:20

    • Hey Kevin,
      there have been three releases within the last several years on cd and vinyl and even a cylinder record! Here’s the information. There was also a cd entitled “I’ve Never Seen A Straight Banana” which is out of print but still available as a download on Amazon.

      2011:
      “TINY TIM LOST & FOUND: 1963-1974″- Secret Seven Records 008, SIDE ONE: “If I Had A Talking Picture Of You”, “Sunshine”, “April Showers” (version 1), “The Ballad Of Attica Prison” (aka “Whispering Voices”), “Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me (I’m A Nut”), “Delilah”, “I Ain’t Got No Money”, “Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes”, “Maggie May”, SIDE TWO: “Me And The Man On The Moon”, “Alice Blue Gown”, “Can’t Help But Wonder (Where I’m Bound”) (1966 version), “Little Girl”, “My True Love” (Darry Dover acetate from 1962), “The Prisoner’s Song”, “On The Old Front Porch”, “When You And I Were Young, Maggie”

      2013:
      “TINY TIM LOST & FOUND VOLUME 2″- Ship to Shore Phonograph Co. Cylinder Record, “(Nobody Else Can Love Me Like) My Old Tomato Can” (Limited edition cylinder record with one song plus download card)

      Ernie

      December 11, 2013 at 15:22

  7. Hey Tiny heads, check out the complete Tiny Tim discography at http://tinytim.org/discography/index.html. The info for the new Now Sounds cd is on my homepage.

    Ernie

    December 11, 2013 at 15:42

    • Yes, I got that LP. As cool as the retro (cylinder) thing is, I believe songs should be issued in companion “real copy” format that can be played by many people (not just a download, which is like vapor). I wish all of those rarities could be reissued, even if only on CD-R (not the best, real vinyl or CD preferred).

      What is the contact for the cylinder?

      Kevin

      December 12, 2013 at 09:55

      • Hi Kevin, the cylinder record was done by Justin Martell at Ship to Shore Phonograph Co. It’s now sold out.
        Justin has a great Tiny Tim coffee table book coming out in spring of 2014.

        Ernie

        December 25, 2013 at 02:06


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