Tiny Tim Interview

by Derrick Bostrom


Originally published in Breakfast Without Meat #13June 30, 1989

BWM: What order do the bands play?

Mike Pinera: Well, Cannibal and the Headhunters open up, and they stay on stage 'cause they're the back-up band for all the acts...

BWM: Yeah.

Mike Pinera: ... and the Coasters come on, and then Donnie Brooks comes and does "Mission Bell", his hit...

Chuck  Negron  (passing  by):  ...  and  they  chant, "Where's Chuck! Where's Chuck!"

BWM & Mike Pinera (in unison): "Chuck!"

Mike Pinera: That's Chuck ... then Al Wilson,, then The Surfaris, Tiny Tim, then me, then Herman's Hermits, then Chuck Negron...

BWM: Does everyone do like one number?

Mike Pinera:  Couple numbers.

BWM:  Just  like  the  old  days?

Mike Pinera: The old Dick Clark formula.  And it works out real well.

BWM: Speaking of Al Wilson, here's a funny story.  Hal Blaine lives here in town...

Mike Pinera: Oh yeah, sure.

BWM: And, uh, Hal's Stutz Bearcat is on the cover of "Show and Tell"...

Mike Pinera: Is that right!

BWM: But it's presented as a picture of early-seventies new black affluence, so he's got a couple of girls on his arm, whatever, and he's got a Stutz, you know, and he's got a nice suit...

Mike  Pinera: Right...

BWM: But he borrowed the car.

Mike  Pinera: That's incredible! What a great story!

BWM: Kind of ironic.

Mike Pinera: Oh that's a great story!

BWM: Yeah.

Mike Pinera: Lemmee check with Tiny, let him know you're here.

(Tiny emerges from his dinner, and the session        commences with a review of Bostrom's collection of Tiny Tim records.)

Tiny Tim: Ohhh! Where'd you find this?

BWM: In Orange. There's about forty antique stores down there.

Tiny Tim:  Orange, California?

BWM: Yeah, it's down by Disneyland.

Tiny Tim: Oh my goodness ... How many more of these do they have there?

BWM: I dunno, but if I ever find another I'll send it to you.

Tiny Tim: Ah ah, what's the last name again?

BWM: Bostrom?

Tiny Tim: Thank you.  Mr. Bostrom, you just picked up a record that's worth a lot of money from a collector's standpoint. You couldn't find this again if you went there.

BWM: It's the only copy I've found.

Tiny Tim: You aren't kidding.  You know how much this copy is worth? From a collector's standpoint, this is priceless.

Mike Pinera: What is it Tiny?

Tiny Tim: This is a record Mr. Pinera-- by the way, I'm talking to Mr. Mike Pinera from the Iron Butterfly...

BWM: Yeah, sure.

Tiny Tim: I know he's gonna get embarrassed, but this man has a voice! I tell you, if you don't have another hit record there's something wrong with show business.  But this record here, "Don't Bite the Hand That's Feeding You", was written in 1916 by Irving Kaufman, one of the top singers of his generation.  This was my last record for Reprise, in 1971.  The other side's "What Kind Of An American Are You?" and the writers are Charles McCarron, Lou Brown, and Al Von Tilzer.  The Von Tilzer brothers wrote "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" with Jack Norworth in 1909, sung by Billy Murray, "Wait 'Til The Sun Shines Nellie", and so many other big hits.  This song was also sung in 1916 by Henry Burr and the Peerless Quartet, and is my last record for Mr. Sinatra's record company, and they let me do it on my own.

BWM: Yeah, I read about it in Harry Stein's biography of you.

Tiny Tim: Oh! You really know what's going on!

BWM: It's kind of a slanted book.

Tiny Tim: I tell you, the man said the truth.  I spoke to the man in a very deep period of time, when I was sent back to my mother and I had to live in a tenement, back in 1975, in September, after two big years, 1968 and '69, and then I gave him all the information, and it was put out in '76.  But this record is priceless, and I would certainly afterwards sign it for you, make it more priceless.

BWM: Those are the singles, then I've got this, and this, and this of course.

Tiny Tim: This is my parents on the cover. 

BWM: Yeah!

Tiny Tim: In the middle of this album is a picture of Rudy Vallee.  Mr. Vallee was very nice to let his picture be used on this.  Here's a man who was the biggest name in the world, the first swooner-crooner with women in 1929. Before Crosby before Frank Sinatra....

BWM: Before microphones.

Tiny Tim: Well, the microphones were just coming in. Uh, this is Mr. Al Wilson, one of the great stars...

BWM: "Mr.  Al Wilson." Derrick Bostrom. 

Al Wilson: How you doin'.

BWM: I know your friend Hal Blaine. I've got your record with his car on the cover.

Tiny Tim (examining another record): "Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days".  Terrible recording; I said it then in 1968 and I'll say it now.  This great song was sung in 1922 by Miss Lee Morse, who was one of the great early singers, and behind her played a very young Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey... Terrible recording of "Hello Hello".  The voice could not adjust at the time to the microphone.  "Great Balls of Fire" was my best commercial record for Reprise.  I am not one of those who doesn't like my stuff.  The fact is it's very difficult to record this voice because there are many spirits living there, from the days of the Edison machine to the current times like Jerry Lee Lewis there, and unless you're a great, great, engineer it's hard to capture five different voices.  How's this sound? ("Resurrection", 1986) I have it at home, but I don't have a CD player.

BWM: I like "Till We Meet Again" especially. 

Tiny Tim: Boy, you can't beat the groove! That's right, I thought that was my best cut.  Richard Whiting wrote that, Margaret Whiting's father. 

BWM: I like how you include the opening verses usually omitted.

Tiny Tim: "Till We Meet Again" hit the groove there. The reason I said that is because some songs sound so good in the head and just don't come out as good when vou hear 'em.  "Tiny Bubbles" sounded better in the head, "Just A Gigolo" sounded better in the head.

BWM: I love vour version of "Prisoner of Love".

Tiny Tim: Ahh, that's Russ Columbo, may he rest in peace.  If Russ Columbo would have been alive ... can I do a snip?

BWM: Please! By all means!

Tiny Tim: Now these are not imitations.  I feel the spirit.  When I met Bob Dylan in 1967 before I became a name, he took me up to his house. and I said to him, you know Mr. Dylan, you are today what Rudy Vallee was in 1929.  He said, Mr. Tim, tell me about Mr. Vallee.  I said, well, in those days when the microphone was there, no one knew how to use a microphone yet.  Everyone says that the talkies were hard for silent actors, the same with microphones were hard for singers who sang in the Edison years.  Gene Austin was the first in 1926 to put the microphone on the map when he knew his voice was fit for it.  At that time, to hear a high voice like that on a microphone was a shockeroo! Gene Austin became the biggest name in radio from '26 'til Vallee caught on.  The difference with Vallee was that he was the first singer ever in radio history and record history when electric came, to make the women swoon.  The men did not really care for him, but that didn't matter. it's women who buy records most of the time, as Mr. Pinera knows, 'cause they swoon over him! And I can tell you, I really mean that.  The fact is, that Vallee in 1928 opened up in New York, in a place called the Heigh-Ho Club.  He played saxophone, but he had to substitute for Will Osborn who was a singer there.  He had a Monday through Saturday engagement.  On Monday night no one was there, the show was piped through WMC radio into Harlem.  When the women heard that voice, they swooned! By the time Saturday came around, the place was packed with women.  In 1929, March, they roped off Times Square from 42nd to 44th at the Paramount Theater when Mr. Vallee first appeared on the vaudeville stage.  You couldn't get near Vallee from '28 to '31.  I said, Mr. Dylan, here are some of the songs he made famous (sings "My Time is Your Time", "If You Were the Only Girl In The World", and "Old Maine", accompanying himself on ukulele).  Dylan just looked, and I said, supposing you were there in his day, here's how you would be sounding with this number: (hoarse nasal twang) "my time is your time, your time is my time, we just seem to synchronize, and sympathize, we're harmonizing, one step and two step, old step and new step, there's no time like our time, and no one like you..." You know what he said? "You want a banana before I go to bed?" I said, no thank you, I brought mv own fruits.  But in 1931, something happened to radio, and something happened to crooning.  I have never ever heard a voice like the young Bing Crosby.  Bing Crosby came on the networks on WCBS radio in 1931, October, sponsored by Creamo Cigars.  Now, Rudy Vallee said in his book, he called Crosby a cold S.O.B., but he said he knocked him out of the box.  I had the thrill and pleasure of doing the Hollywood Palace with Bing Crosby in 1968, and he was about seventy, and he was amazed, he never forgot.

BWM: Really.

Tiny Tim: Shocked when I brought him his young voice. (sings "Too Late", "Million Dollar Baby", "Just One More Chance", and "Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day").  The same year when Crosby was about thirty, Russ Columbo was about twenty-three...

BWM: I think I remember.  Something happened to him...

Tiny Tim: He got shot accidentally in '34 at the age of twenty-six.  He would have been as big as Sinatra.  Russ Columbo in 1934 had a 1940 voice way ahead of his time.  Over WNBC, Columbo was opposite Bing Crosby.  They called him the Romeo of Song.  It was not until the women saw him in a movie in 1933 where he played a gangster that they realized this was the same Russ Columbo they'd heard on the radio.They never saw his picture.  Not only that, rumors had it Carole Lombard was in love with him.  Back in 1934, she was doing a movie with Bing Crosby in Hollywood.  Columbo came on the set, and there were rumors of a feud between Crosby and Columbo at that time.  Russ Columbo wrote this great song in 1931: (sings "Prisoner of Love").  From '29 with Vallee to '34 with Columbo's death, from that period of time during the the depression, those three singers, Crosby, Columbo, and Vallee were the most powerful singers of radio, records, and movies in the history of the electronic age.  When Columbo died accidentally in California, Bing Crosby was a pall-bearer in New York where they had the funeral. It made front-page headlines in the Daily News.  Ironically, a song was written in 1931 for those three great giants (sings "Crosby, Columbo, and Vallee").  What three great giants, those three giants! They really wrote 'em then. (Chuck Negron passes by).  There's a giant in himself. 

BWM: Columbia's released a package of Bing Crosby from '28 to '34...

Tiny Tim: Really!

BWM:...and there are a couple of Paul Whiteman CDs with Bing Crosby.  All that stuff: "Paradise", "Shine", "Changes", "You Took Advantage of Me"...

Tiny Tim: Boy ... What else is on it?

BWM: Oh god, there's, ah...

Tiny Tim: (singing) "When you're all alone, any old time..."

BWM: That one! Yeah!

Tiny Tim: Oh man! "Get out under the moon, look look..." Helen Kane sang that first in 1929, may she rest in peace.  Betty Boop took her voice. 

BWM: "Mississippi Mud"...

Tiny Tim: I sang it in Mississippi just the other day!

BWM:  Of  course  they  had  the  racist  version  back then.

Tiny Tim: Oh I gotta watch that.  Almost slipped on that show.

BWM: I saw you on "Arsenio Hall" the other night.  They seemed a little unappreciative.  "So you got married on teevee; what about my career?"

Tiny Tim: Well first Mr. Bostrom, it's nice talking to you on your cassette. I would also like to state that this is a new generation.  It's hard to took back.  I played this theater when I was hot.  I had a concert here in '68 of July.  And now it's 1989, so years have gone by.  It's hard to understand, where I'm concerned, but when you had such a great career for two years, thank God for his righteous blessings, you think it's yesterday, but it's not.  These kids don't know who the heck I am.  And so I came on the Arsenic Hall show. He is today where I used to be in '68! And he's coming up, he's the hottest thing in the world.  So of course they don't know what's going on, and of course they're wondering what the heck is happening. 

BWM: I saw the clip from the video, with Judy Carne.

Tiny Tim: This record, "Won't You Dance With Me?", doggone it, like so many others today, you know, if you're not a record star today, forget it.  And I don't have a good track record.  I haven't had a hit since "Tiptoe Through The Tulips", which was in 1968, and so basically, in plain language, it was a fifty-thousand dollar video: no company wants to touch it right now.  Dr. Demento has a song I recorded last year for a guy named Stuart Hirsch, who I got into trouble with as a young kid, the song, "I Saw Mr. Presley Tiptoeing Through The Tulips".  We almost got noise on that, then RCA wanted it, the guy got a hot head, and that was the end of the record.

BWM: But you don't want to market yourself as a comedian.

Tiny Tim: Naw, not really.  I just love to get these old songs out.

BWM: Do vou have people coming to see you who are interested in the old songs at all?

Tiny Tim: First of all, I want to say that I happen to be with the Thirtieth Anniversary of Rock and Roll.  I mean, you're talking about blockbusters whose records were placed on the charts for years and years.  Millions of dollars are on this show! And the fact is, it's tough to get records today to record companies, all these things, because these are changing times.  In 1910, when ragtime was here, and "Alexander's Ragtime Band" came out, vou know what thev said?

BWM: "Never go."

Tiny Tim: That's right! Bring back the old songs! Like "I Love You Truly", popular in 1902, written bv Carrie Jacobs Barnes.  Times change. 

BWM: Are you still giving Beautiful Women awards?

Tiny Tim: Ahhh ... (swoons).  I tell ya, it's not easy to find the type of woman I go for.  I praise the Lord if nothing else, I thank you Jesus for the eyes to see beauty.

BWM: I agree.

Tiny Tim: Praise the Lord, my friend.  You're wonderful. in 1947, Mr. Bostrom I saw Elizabeth Taylor.  She was fifteen years old.  I wrote a poem then, gave it to her, she wrote me back.  I met her at the St. Regis Hotel.  She looked at me, threw me a kiss, I'll never forget that. I wrote her a poem:  "You came like a star that shines in the blue, you're like the roses sprinkled with dew, eyes that gleam like glittering gold, and a heart that's neither harsh nor bold, you're all of nature by itself, talent and beauty is your wealth, like an angel from heaven you're on the beam, I can't believe you're not a dream, so just be good and just be kinıd, and happiness you will find, and sometimes when your thoughts  are free, won't you kindly think of me." What  a beautiful woman.  So I tell you, for years gone by, I've been looking for that classic.  The good Lord once a year lets me see someone, some angelic light, you know? Short ... perhaps, but heaven.  But that's right, I've been giving out trophies for years. Since 1963, I've given at least fifteen trophies out to beautiful angels I've met.

BWM: You worked with Lenny Bruce?

Tiny Tim: That's right. He had pleurisy in 1964, and I gave him some holy water...and, uh, I don't know if he, uh... for a minute he got well. In 1966 he continued his problems. He was the first of his kind in his day, to be daring with jokes. He had me on the bill when I was unknown back in 1964. It said "LENNY BRUCE--PLAYS FOR PROFIT" and in small little words, "tiny tim--sings for love." He was a wonderful man, may he rest in peace. The police closed the theater down in '64 of Novemeber, and then I saw him again at his house in '66, in Hollywod. At that particular time,  he  wanted  to hear a song.  He  was  working  through  trials  of court cases,  trying  to  find  a  loophole  for  his case. Pour  soul,  rest  in  peace.  But  I  sang  him one  song.  This  song  was  sung  by  Billy  Murray, Irving  Kaufman  again  in  1924,  written  by  Abner Silver, who wrote that big  song  in  '22,  "Yes  We Have No  Bananas."  Well,  he  wrote  this  song  that Lenny Bruce always  listened  to  as  an  inspiration when he fought  his  case:  (sings  "When  Will  The Sun Shine For Me?"). He loved that song.

BWM: I've notice that your  albums  with  Richard Perry  all  bear  the influence  of  "Sgt.  Pepper".

Tiny Tim: Well, Richard Perry loved The Beatles.

BWM:  And  he  borrowed  some  of  their  ideas  for your records.

Tiny  Tim:  Well,  vou're  probably,  right.  Let  me tell  you  something, Richard  Perry  got  the  only hit I  ever  had,  and  I  will  say  that  he  was  a genius  in  his  own  right,  but  I  will  tell  you this. No one yet  has  even  had  a  hit  record  with me, period,  let  alone  a  hit  record  of  something that was  original.  Of  all  the  great  things  that Richard Perry  did,  believe  me  he  did,  the  only hit  he  had  was  "Tiptoe  Through  The  Tulips", which I did in shows across the country.

BWM: And on television,  so  it  was  basically  you getting the hit, not him.

Tiny Tim:  But  he  did  a  good  production,  I  will say, that.  However,  you  can  say  this  for  fact: he's  got  to  watch  himself.  He  looks  terrible. And I'm  not  saying  this  with  any  animosity.  I'm saying it as a friend. You  can  take  it  any  way you  want.  For  a  man  to  have  everything  like that, I saw a picture of him  in  the  paper.  Well, the thing is,  he  looked  terrible,  and  he's  gotta get out of that.  I  just  hope  he  saves  his  life. What  thev  all  need  is  Jesus  Christ  and  His blessings.

BWM:I'll  go  along  with  that.  Also,  about  him,there are  songs  that  don't  sound  like  they  come from your repertoire,  like  "The  Other  Side",  for instance...

Tiny Tim: That was Perry's idea.

BWM: ... where you celebrate the  melting of the icecaps.

Tiny  Tim: That  was a  prophetic song. They say they really are melting now.

BWM: I think  it's  prophetic  because  it  could  be a hit now.

Tiny Tim: Boy...

BWM:  And  then  there's  "Satisfied  With  Life".  is that  an  old  song?

Tiny Tim: That sure is an old song.  It was written by George M. Cohan. (A couple of girls come up for autographs)...I'll tell ya, as soon as I get paid tomorrow, I gotta go out and get some good toothbrushes.

BWM: Speaking of toothbrushes, will you sign some of my stuff?

Tiny Tim: I sure will. (autographs his children's album "For All My Little Friends") You know what song I like on this one?

BWM: I'll tell you what song I like on it.

Tiny Tim: Tell me.

BWM: I like "Lonesome Little Raindrop".

Tiny Tim: God bless you my friend.  You see? You can't fool no one.

BWM: That's a good song.

Tiny Tim: Sung by Sam Ash, 1920.  Written by Vincent Romo.

BWM: It's the best sounding cut on there.  A lot of it sounds like they wanted to get you out of there as quickly as possible.

Tiny Tim: They did! I wasn't even there, that's right.

BWM: You know, Nillsson did an album of Tiny Tim imitations.

Tiny Tim:  You're very nice.

BWM: You knew that, right? with Gordon Jenkins?

Tiny Tim:  Yeah, the son of a gun.

BWM: He did a version of, uh...

Tiny Tim:  "This Is  All I Ask".

BWM: ... and on the  record, they say your version's the best. and I agree.

Tiny Tim: Jenkins didn't say nothing.  Artie Butler was the one who suggested that song.  He deserves the credit for that.  You see, I've been recording other people's things, 'cause I love to record, and I know that, you know, maybe I'll get lucky on somebody else's material.  But one day if I still have the voice, and still have the health, I will record these great old songs.

BWM: Is there anyone writing today that you like?

Tiny  Tim:  The  honest  truth, I couldn't even tell ya the number one song right now.

BWM: George Michael was number one last year.

Tiny Tim: And he's got some good songs.

BWM: I like him.

Tiny Tim: But we are oversaturated today with so many great artists. we have so much at our fingertips, everything from CDs to tapes to ... I mean, we have outdone ourselves with entertainment. Too much of a good thing.  But each generation has their own Stuff. I have to stick with these great songs that were sung. Let's sayit's for a minute. A guy comes around and I can sing a song like "When Will The Sun Shine For Me?". If someone gets a thrill out of that, if someone likes the song, that's all the success you can go for.  I just want to sing these great songs that touch some people here and there.  It makes me feel good.  I just wanna go around, you know.  I tell ya, there's so many great love songs. These were great artists, and I could just close this, we're getting ready and everything, but, Rudy Vallee sang a song in 1933, when he was on the way, you know, down and that, but he was still there, still hot. But in 1933 he sang a song from a movie with  W.C. Fields, called "International House". it's strange, but the words are still good for today: (singing) "I don't know to what psychosis, we describe each diagnosis, or what sort of ailments we deduce, just as long as songs can cure all, then allow me to assure all, pills and drugs have now outlived their use, no matter what the case is or its urgency, be prepared with this for each emergency, and keep a little song handy wherever vou go, and nothing will ever go wrong, keep a little song handy and sure as you know, the sunshine will follow along, any single little jingle, that sets the toes a-tingle, will help you when you mingle, in any single throng, so keep a little song handy wherever you go, and nothing can ever go wrong."