Lost & Found: Remember That Time Tiny Tim Covered Rod Stewart on ‘The Tonight Show’?
In the history of popular music, there has never been anyone like Tiny Tim. Everything about the man was utterly unique. From his wild and offbeat look to his vast repertoire of songs and, of course, the way he delivered those songs. Case in point: his November 1979 appearance on ‘The Tonight Show.’
Born Herbert Khaury on April 12, 1932, Tim led a life immersed in the art of song, and even though many people think of him as nothing more than a novelty act, his knowledge of the history of music, specifically songs from the ’10s-’30s was encyclopedic. He started his career in the ’50s singing in small clubs under the name Larry Love, and eventually found his way to the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early ’60s, crossing paths with the likes of Bob Dylan, who once said, “No one knew more about old music than Tiny Tim.”
Looking like a cross between a harried traveling salesman and bizarre flower child, Tim became a momentary cultural phenomenon in 1968 when he appeared on the ‘Laugh-In‘ TV show. Eventually signed to Reprise Records, Tim’s first single for the label was a cover of a 1929 song called ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips,’ which became a surprise hit, reaching No. 17. His album, ‘God Bless Tiny Tim,’ climbed into the Top 10.
Tim released two more albums for Reprise, but the novelty had worn off, and people moved on. And so did Tiny Tim. He continued making personal appearances, and became a semi-regular fixture on TV talk shows. He had famously gotten married to “Miss Vicki” on ‘The Tonight Show’ back in 1969, setting a viewing record at the time, with more than 40 million people tuning in to witness the nuptials.
In the late ’70s, Tim made his way back to ‘The Tonight Show’ with an updated songbook. As he casually found his way to the stage in November 1979, shopping bag in hand and dressed in the gaudiest outfit known to mankind, host Johnny Carson’s band kicked into Rod Stewart‘s current No. 1 hit, ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?,’ and Tim eased into the song, quickly losing his place between verse and chorus. The band keeps playing, as Tim moves in and out of his trademark falsetto.
As the song went on, he got more and more worked up, leading to a chaotic striptease that looked something like a seizure set to music. It’s ridiculously amazing! By the time the whole thing wound down, Tim was on the floor pounding his hands, as the camera panned over to Carson, who looked dazed and confused. “There’s just nothing to be said,” he quipped. Indeed there isn’t.