My earliest memory of Tiny Tim was watching him marry Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on December 17, 1969 along with forty million other Americans. Actually I was sitting in the lounge of my college dorm, with a number of friends, yelling at the television set or at Miss Vicki to be more precise to say no when asked if she would take him in marriage.
Tiny Tim is primarily remembered today for his falsetto hit “Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me” which was released in 1968. While considered a novelty act for much of his career, he was actually an excellent businessman, a student of early American music, and yes a tad eccentric.
Enter solo artist, producer, songwriter, and front man of the Bongos Richard Barone, who in 1976 at the age of sixteen, managed to meet Tiny Tim and convince him to give a concert in his hotel room for an audience of three while he recorded it on his trusty cassette player. The next day the ambitious sixteen year old booked an old studio in Tampa and enticed him to record a few more songs. The tapes remained unreleased for over three decades until now.
I’ve Never Seen A Straight Banana – Rare Moments: Volume 1 has now been unleashed upon the world and it features a far different Tiny Tim than many music fans were used too. The casual setting allowed him to just sing songs that pleased himself rather than trying to satisfy his record label or fit his commercial image.
There are no novelty tunes — well okay, maybe one — instead, he presents many songs from the early twentieth and late nineteenth century which was his first love. Barone added some instrumental backing to a few tracks but wisely presents the rest as they were recorded with only Tiny Tim and his ukulele.
“Mr. Phonograph” was one of the first songs ever recorded onto a Thomas Edison cylinder in 1878. “Tiny Meets Dylan (Medley)” is Rudy Vallee’s “Vagabond Lover” and “My Time Is Your Time” sandwiched around “Like A Rolling Stone.” Naturally he imitates Dylan on the older tunes and Al Jolson on the Dylan song. “It’s Not Your Nationality,” recorded in 1916 by Billy Murray who happened to be one of his favorite artists, is given a treatment that fits that era well. “Dear Tuesday” is a rare self written composition which is about his crush on actress Tuesday Weld.
Tiny Tim mentioned the recordings to Barone several times over the years but never lived to see their release, having passed away in 1996.
I’ve Never Seen A Straight Banana – Rare Moments: Volume 1 will appeal to his fans and musical history buffs but commercially will probably remain outside the mainstream. Still it is a rare glimpse into the serious side of Tiny Tim. It may not be for the faint of heart, but it is interesting. Amen.