Tiny Tim was one of the great oddballs of American popular music. Though viewed by most as a ‘60s novelty act, he was well known in the Greenwich Village folk scene for his encyclopedic knowledge of music from the early 20th Century. Bob Dylan once remarked of his contemporary, “No one knew more about old music than Tiny Tim.”
The singer, ukulele player, and musical archivist discovered his falsetto in the early ‘50s and based his performing career around it and his repertoire of songs from the 1910s to 1930s.
His unusual act lead him to a career-making guest spot on Laugh-In in 1968. He was signed to Reprise records and had a surprise hit with “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” which reached 17 on the Billboard chart.
Though his novelty seemed to wear off in terms of record sales after the release of his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim, he became a staple of TV talk shows . He was famously married to “Miss Vicki” on The Tonight Show in 1969, setting what was then a record, with 40 million viewers watching.
Tiny Tim made a return to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1979 for this bizarre performance of Rod Stewart’s disco hit “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”
Tim sings the verses in his trademark falsetto, but switches to an Elvis-like lower register for the choruses—all the while pantomiming a neurotic nervousness. Halfway through the number, Tim loses his timing and gets ahead of himself with the vocal. Doc Severinsen and the band do their best to adjust the arrangement to the version Tim has in his head. The number devolves into a strip-tease, with Tiny Tim gyrating on the floor (years before Madonna turned heads at the MTV video awards!)
It’s absolutely bizarre and incredibly awesome. He goes from Woody Allen to Iggy Pop in the span of three minutes.
Carson looks completely befuddled by the end of the performance and fittingly quips “there’s just… there’s just… nothing… nothing to be said.”