Tiny Tim (real name – Herbert Khaury) was an American musical archivist and ukulele-playing falsetto singer who is best known for his rendition of the song – “Tiptoe through the Tulips.”
He was born on April 12, 1932, in New York, USA, and grew up in an old apartment building in Washington Heights in Manhattan.
His father, Butros Khaury, was a textile worker from Beirut, present-day Lebanon, while his mother Tillie was a garment worker who immigrated from Brest-Litovsk in 1914.
At age 6, Khaury began learning the guitar, and at 11, Herbert started learning the violin.
An unhappy student, Herbert dropped out of high school and learned how to play the ukulele and the guitar.
His first performances took place in the early ’50s. In the same time period, Khaury sang at amateur nights. In his words:
“When things were really bad I sang at amateur nights. Night after night in the ’50s I traveled all over New York City.”
Tim went on to say:
”The promoter had 10 acts and the winner each night would get five dollars, second place would get three dollars and third place would get two dollars.”
At some point, Herbert landed a job as a messenger at the NY office of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, where Khaury became even more intrigued by the entertainment industry.
His parents tried to dissuade him from pursuing a career in music, but he was really committed.
In 1959, to perform at Hubert’s Museum and Live Flea Circus in Times Square, NYC, Khaury used the name ”Larry Love, the Singing Canary.”
In the 1960s, Herbert often appeared around the Harvard University campus, singing old Tin Pan Alley tunes.
In 1964, he appeared in Jack Smith’s Normal Love (an experimental film project that shows the adventures of an ensemble of dressed monsters).
In 1968, Tim appeared in You Are What You Eat, an American documentary that attempted to capture the essence of the Haight-Ashbury scene as well as the 1960s flower power hippie era.
After appearing in You Are What You Eat, Khaury made an appearance on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
In 1968, Tim released his first album called, ”God Bless Tiny Tim.”
The album had an orchestrated version of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”
The NY Times called the album:
“one of the most dazzling albums of programmed entertainment to come along since the Beatles introduced the new genre of pop with Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
In the same year, his version of “Tip Toe Through The Tulips” became a hit song.
In August 1969, Herbert released an album of children’s songs titled – “For All My Little Friends.”
In 1976, he was published by Playboy Press, a biography by Harry Stein.
In 1979, Herbert made a return to ”The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” for his performance of Rod Stewart’s hit “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”
In the late ’80s, Khaury moved to Australia for several years. After, he returned to the United States to live in Des Moines.
In 1993, Herbert appeared in a skit with Jerry Lawler on “King’s Court.”
On December 17, 1969, Tiny Tim married Vicki Budinger.
His wedding to Vicki Budinger was broadcast nationwide on ”The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
More than 45 million people tuned in to watch their wedding, which was broadcast live.
During an interview, he said:
”I met Miss Vicki on June 3rd, 1969, ten minutes after twelve in Wanamaker’s.”
”She had on a gray dress above her knees. She was seventeen years old. I fell in love with her immediately.”
Their marriage didn’t last. They divorced after 8 years. He declared:
”I married Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show in 1969, when she was seventeen, and she left me in 1974.”
On June 26, 1984, Khaury got married to Jan Alweiss. They also divorced.
On August 18, 1995, he married Susan Marie Gardner (“Miss Sue”).
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She was a fan of Tim’s since she was 12.
On May 15, 1970, his wife Vicki gave birth to a stillborn son.
He was buried in the Memorial Oaks Cemetery in Houston.
On May 10, 1971, his daughter Tulip Victoria was born.
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Death & Cause of Death
In September 1996, while performing at a ukulele festival in Massachusetts, Khaury suffered a heart attack.
After getting out of the hospital, he resumed his concert schedule.
On November 30, while performing “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” in Minneapolis, Tim suffered another heart attack.
He died an hour later.
Herbert was 64 years old.
His last words were
“No, I’m not.”
Khaury was responding to the question “Are you feeling alright?”
Tim was buried with both a single tulip and a ukulele in his coffin. His mausoleum crypt lists both his stage and legal names.
Biographies on his life include:
- Eternal Troubadour: The Improbable Life of Tiny Tim (2016) by Justin Martell;
- Tiny Tim (1976) by Harry Stein.
Some posthumous albums of Herber include:
- I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana: Rare Moments Vol. 1 (2009);
- Tiny Tim Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2000).
He also received a star on the outside mural of the Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue.
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Tim was 6′ 1″ (1.85 m) tall.
Some of his best-known songs are:
- Tip Toe;
- Stay down here where you belong;
- Santa Claus has got the aids this year;
- Fill your heart;
- On the old Porch;
- Great balls of fire;
- Earth angel;
- I got you Babe;
- Living in the sunlight;
- Tip Toe Thru Tulips.
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When asked about his real name, Khaury responded:
”Herbert B. Correy. I’ve had many managers so I’ve had many names. I always believed in being different. I was Larry Love and Gary Dover.”
”My new manager at the time (George King) called me Tiny Tim because I did a number of amateur night appearances. It created an illusion because people would expect a midget. I’m actually 6’1.”
During a 1968 interview on The Tonight Show, Khaury said about his capacity to sing in an upper register:
“I was listening to the radio and singing along; as I was singing I said ‘Gee, it’s strange. I can go up high as well.'”
Tiny Tim – Net Worth
Tim earned most of his wealth from selling his albums. For instance, his album “God Bless Tiny Tim” sold more than 200,000 copies.
In addition, Herbert appeared in several movies and sold tickets to his concerts. Therefore, Tiny Tim has an estimated net worth of $3.6 million (the sum is calculated to the current inflation).
Featured image source – © Guliver / Getty Images.
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