Monday, November 28, 2011

"Wait 'Til You Meet Tim"

It was winter in 1967 and we were playing in New York for the first time. Ever. Any of us. "We" were Noah's Ark, an aspiring psychedelic rock'n'roll band from Tampa, Florida. I suppose that we had been pretty cocky up until that time. Big fish, you know.

We were in Manhattan to record a new single for Decca Records and our pal, Rodney Justo, invited us to play at set at the Scene, in midtown at 301 West 46th Street. His band at that time, the Candy Men, were the darlings of the hipster crowd in the Big Apple.

Van Morrison had "Brown Eyed Girl" on the radio at the time and he was sharing the bill. We had the same publicist at the time, Morty Wax, and Van had him approach us about becoming his band. I don't remember all of the members of his outfit at the time, only that Danny Armstrong was his bassist and that they were amazing. Van got fired that night but that's a different story and a different blog.

Blood, Sweat & Tears were on the bill, too. They were an instrumental quartet at the time, mostly featuring Al Kooper's electric piano. Great stuff. Even the audience was intimidating. We were certain that we would be found out as hicks and hacks. Rick Derringer was there. He was still Rick Zehringer from the McCoys, then. We had heard that Jimi often dropped in. He was playing in the Village that week. He didn't show but Jim Morrison did.

In the early afternoon when we arrived for a sound check of sorts, the young stage manager introduced himself and showed us around. More than once he grinned and said, "Wait 'til you meet Tim."

All he ever answered when we would ask who Tim was would be, "You'll see."

When the crowd showed us attention and affection we quickly realized that nobody in New York City knew anything more than anyone in Tampa and we had a swell time. We weren't hip but they couldn't tell.

Suddenly there was a murmur that grew to something of roar and in the middle of this adoring hipster crowd a pudgy, pale vision of beauty in a madras coat, carrying a paper shopping bag with the neck of a ukulele protruding, made his way from table to table. Rodney took me over and introduced me to Tiny Tim. I had never seen anything remotely similar. I still haven't. He was so kind and so personable and so sincere that I was totally mesmerized. I remember that he asked about my mother and that's about as much as I can recall about that first brief exchange.

When he took the stage I was overwhelmed. He belted out "Hound Dog" with every bit as much fire as Elvis or Big Mama ever created. When the crowd called out for "Hey Paul, Hey Paula," he brought the house down switching from one personae to the other. I had never heard "Tiptoe Through The Tulips," until that night. He would tell little stories about the songs and the artists who had done them.

In fear that I would never be able to describe what I had seen and heard I approached him and asked if he had a picture that I might have as a souvenir.

"I'll bring you one tomorrow night," he responded. "Will you be here?"

I promised him that I would try to be there but we were not on the bill for the next night.

"I'll give it to Mr. Rodney if you're not here," he promised.

I assumed that I would get a glossy 8x10 with some agent's name printed across the bottom if I had any luck and Tim remembered.

Rodney, who remains one of my dearest friends today, brought me my picture two days later. I suppose that Tim stopped at the photo booth at his subway stop on his way in the next evening and had it taken for me. The ultimate prize in a fairly bizarre collection of rock'n'roll memorabilia.
Some time later when Tiny Tim strolled out onto the stage on an early episode of Laugh In I was delighted. I was pretty sure that this would be his only television appearance and that, at least, I could convince my friends that I had not made all of this up. A month or two later when I found his first LP, God Bless Tiny Tim, in the record store I was thrilled. Tim was gonna be famous.

Of course they made him a clown and treated him without dignity and without respect. Young girls married him to use him. Imagine that. 

I have my memories, though. The last thing that he said to me was that he would see me in heaven. God bless Tiny Tim, indeed.


  1. Enjoyed reading this one - thanks, Ronny!

  2. I hope so Peter. It's encounters like this that could fill a book, and they are interesting.

  3. Yeah, Ronny. You have great stories to tell.