Tiny Tim, the ukulele-playing singer of 1920s ditties who was a true icon of the 1960s, was born Herbert Khaury on April 12, 1932, in New York City. The son of a Lebanese father and Jewish mother, the young Khaury grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. A high school dropout, his interest in the popular music of the 1890s through the 1930s manifested itself early, and his dream was to become a singer. He learned to play guitar and ukulele and began performing professionally as "Larry Love" in the early 1950s, making his debut at a lesbian cabaret in Greenwich Village called Page 3, where he became a regular. Though his parents tried to discourage him, Khaury continued to publicly perform the early mass culture American music that he so loved and collected on 78 records, at small clubs, parties and talent shows under a variety of names.
Khaury had established himself as a cult performer in the Greenwich Village music scene by the early 1960s, singing under the name that he would become famous for, that of the crippled lad in Charles Dickens' novel "A Christmas Carol" (allegedly the stage name was suggested by a manager who used to work with midgets; Khaury himself stood an inch over six feet, but the name helped to reinforce his bizarre persona). After appearing in You Are What You Eat (1968), he made an appearance on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" (1967), the smash hit series that was as much a part of the 960s as Tim would come to be. He was an instant sensation and his career was made. His weird appearance and act (he evinced the polite manners of a bygone era, which stood out in stark contrast to the "Let it All Hang Out!" ethos of the time) touched a nerve and he became a cultural specimen that elucidated the zeitgeist of that era.Tiny Tim appeared several more times on "Laugh-In" but became better known through his frequent guest spots on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962), where audiences were bemused by his eccentric personality. He signed with Frank Sinatra's record label Reprise and issued his debut album, "God Bless Tiny Tim," in 1968, featuring what became his signature song, a falsetto cover of "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips." "Tulips" became a hit, reaching the Top 20, and "God Bless Tiny Tim" sold over 200,000 copies. He followed it up before the year was out with the ingeniously entitled "Tiny Tim's Second Album."Tiny Tim's wave crested in 1969, in terms of cultural recognition and popularity. In August he released his third LP, an album of children's songs called "For All My Little Friends," while on December 17 of that year he married "Miss Vicki," his 17-year-old girlfriend (Vicki Budinger) on "The Tonight Show." The wedding drew the largest rating ever recorded for an evening talk show, enjoying an incredible 85% share of the audience watching TV at that time. The couple mostly lived apart (as Tim did with his two later wives), and while the union produced a daughter, inevitably named Tulip, he and Miss Vicki divorced after eight years of marriage.Tiny Tim performed around the country in 1970, enjoying some highly lucrative gigs in Las Vegas, but his business associates fleeced him. A one-trick pony, his popularity began to wane in the early 1970s and the lucrative bookings and TV appearances became a thing of the past. A trouper, Tiny Tim kept performing, eventually traveling the country playing community centers, high school theaters and other less-than-prestigious venues as part of Roy Radin's Vaudeville Revue with the likes of The Five Harmonica Rascals. He continued to record throughout the 1970s and 1980s for small labels, but he never again achieved any real success.After the Roy Radin Revue, Tim kept on performing. He even joined a circus for its 36-week schedule. In the late 1980s he moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and managed a small comeback of sorts in the mid-'90s, when he appeared on Howard Stern's radio show. However, his comeback suffered a setback after he had a heart attack performing at a ukulele festival in September of 1996. After getting out of the hospital, Tiny Tim the trouper resumed his concert schedule. The schedule proved too taxing, and on November 30 he suffered another heart attack while performing "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips" in Minneapolis, and died an hour later. He was 64 years old.