Music

Country Flashback: Tiny Tim Chased Nashville Stardom With Two Very Different Songs

Tiny Tim And Wife Victoria Brudinger at a Press Party For Helmut Berger At Beverly Hills Hotel In California 01-13-1970. Credit: 18779913Globe Photos/MediaPunch /IPX

Tiny Tim, the oddball ukulele player behind Reprise Records' unlikely hit "Tiptoe Through the Tulips With Me" and a late '60's regular on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, tried crossing over to country music a couple of times with drastically dissimilar songs.

By the late '70's, Tiny Tim, the stage name of Herbert Khaury, looked beyond Tin Pan Alley standards and contemporary folk and pop for a possible return to the popularity he found with 1968 album God Bless Tiny Tim.

"I'm like a baseball pitcher who will use a screwball, changeup or fastball," he told UPI in 1977. "I go for a catchy melody that will be a hit. I don't sing throwaways."

If late '70's offering "Country Queen" is anything, it's catchy. Through baritone narration and a high falsetto chorus, Tim hatches a plan to make it in Nashville by, of all things, dressing up like Dolly Parton.

Tim's joke about how hard it can be to break through in Music City without drastic compromises makes for one of the better novelty singles from the '70's and '80's, a golden age for such private press oddities as Roger Hallmark's musical ode to college football legend Bear Bryant. It also lines up with expectations set a decade earlier by Tim's wackier television appearances, namely his 1969 wedding with Miss Vicki, a ratings hit for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

"Country Queen" and its b-side, "I Ain't No Cowboy (I Just Found This Hat)," were produced by Leon Everette, the country singer behind 1981 hit "Hurricane" and the original recording of "'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose."

The New York City native's genuine love for all sorts of music found him chasing country stardom again with a much more serious song, the 1988 single "Leave Me Satisfied." It showed the other side of an entertainer well-versed in the recordings of Rudy Vallee and other standard-setting American singers.

Nashville-based record label NLT apparently had big plans for Tiny Tim. During the buildup to the single, Tim surprised crowds at Country Radio Seminar in the winter and appeared during the summer as a Fan Fest attraction.

Per an Oklahoman article from that same summer, Tim, who'd started wearing a gigantic belt buckle with a 'T' on it, became a recurring TNN guest less accepted by fans than Minnie Pearl, Barbara Mandrell and other network regulars.

In Eternal Troubadour: The Improbable Life of Tiny Tim, authors Justin Martell and Alanna Wray McDonald tell a truly bizarre story about Tim's appearance on Nashville Now. When asked about a solution to rising divorce rates, Tim said, "I really believe it was right in the days of King David... That men should have a concubine of wives." Imagine the response of Ralph Emery (not to mention Shotgun Red).

This media blitz paid off with "Leave Me Satisfied," a seriously good song co-written by Dan Mitchell ("If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)"), reaching the top 70.

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Financial disputes between Tim and NLT stopped an album titled Leave Me Satisfied from getting a full release, with the few promo copies out there selling for well over $100.

Heart attacks during two 1996 performances by Tim, on Sept. 28 at a ukulele festival and on Nov. 30 at a show in Minneapolis, cut his life short. Had he lived a little longer, who's to say that the '90's country boom wouldn't have allowed Tim, with or without a Parton wig, to give it another go, hopefully with a countrified version of "Prisoner of Love."

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Country Flashback: Tiny Tim Chased Nashville Stardom With Two Very Different Songs