Note: Only by a difficult decision is this label included in the AS/PMA discography, as none of its releases were technically song-poem records. Ultimately, it was Vic-Tim's victimization at the hands of Brite Star Promotion's quasi-song-poem scam that led us to include it. Another criterion in favor of inclusion was the fact that Tiny Tim, in the course of the interview we conducted with him one week before his death on November 30, 1996, generously and freely related several tales of his tangential experiences in the amateur songwriting underworld. We decided that this page would be a good way to introduce, if not necessarily finalize, those stories.
In the interview, Tiny told us about a column that Billboard regularly ran in the early '70s called "Brite Star's Pick Hits." This "column" turned out to be a paid advertisement masquerading as a record chart, in which releases by known artists were listed alongside obscure ones on miniscule independent labels. The apparent ease with which Brite Star's customers got their records on the chart (read: "the check cleared") convinced Tiny to cut a single in 1971 entitled "(Hendrix-Joplin-Morrison) Why Did They Have To Die So Young." Tiny was an interpreter rather than a songwriter, and "Why Did They Have To Die So Young" is one of the few songs that he ever wrote. Paired with "The Letter Edged In Black," he released the single on his own Vic-Tim label. (The name "Vic-Tim" was a clever and, as it turned out, prescient merging of Tiny's name with that of his then-wife, Miss Vicki.) Tiny said that he paid Brite Star $3000 to oversee the manufacturing of the record and tally it in their chart. "He put it on his Top Ten. I think he put it number one," Tiny said of the Brite Star chart. "I mean, who knew where to buy it? . . . He put it, 'Up-and-coming record: Tiny Tim.' Of course, you couldn't fool nobody, but it got the mention." (In the ad/chart depicted here, found in Billboard's issue of October 2, 1971, also note song-poem releases by Lance Hill and Rod Rogers.)
Vic-Tim released at least three other singles by Tiny Tim. In telling us about his experiences with Brite Star, Tiny only referred to the Vic-Tim 777 single, but the labels of 778, 1001 and 1007 reveal that they too fell under the Brite Star "distribution system." "But," he said, "I give them credit, they did a great job in making the label. It was light blue like the sky and had a cameo picture of Miss Vicki and myself." Tiny's next self-released label, when he couldn't afford those even limited niceties, was called Toilet Records. Brite Star was not involved.
Tiny said that one of his managers, a heavy named Roy Radin, eventually managed to get some of his money back from Brite Star. "No one fooled with him. . . . He got some of the money back and I never heard from them again. That's what happens when you have clout." Radin himself got clouted in 1983, his body turning up in a canyon north of Hollywood with bullets through his forehead and, for good measure, a stick of dynamite exploded in his mouth.
Tiny related another brush with something similar to the song-poem thing. In 1957 he sang, at a record-your-own-voice studio in Times Square, an a capella demo for an amateur songwriter named Betty Peach. She called her little novelty "Do They Have An Elvis Presley On The Moon?," and Tiny's powers of recall were sharp enough that nearly 40 years later he was able to sing a few lines of it for us:
Tiny had still one more song-poem-related story for us, although his memory faltered a bit on this one. "There is a possibility that I might have sent in a song in 1950, a song I wrote in '47, when she was 15, for Elizabeth Taylor. It was really the only poem I ever wrote. ["Poem For Elizabeth Taylor," recited by Tiny himself, is included on his 1995 album Tales Of An Impotent Troubador, on Durtro.] It goes like this:
You came like a star that shines in the blue
You're like the roses sprinkled with dew
Eyes that gleam like glittering gold
And a heart that's neither harsh nor bold
You're all of nature by itself
Talent and beauty is your wealth
Like an angel from heaven, you're on the beam
I can't believe that you're not a dream
So just be good and just be kind
And peace and happiness you will find
Sometimes when your thoughts are free
Won't you kindly think of me.
"Now it's possible that I might have sent that in," Tiny recalled. "I don't know if I paid any money or something, or just that I was very wary that I had to pay. . . . Maybe it was too much, ten or fifteen dollars or a hundred dollars to write the songs. I know I wrote words to a song once. They said they were great words, 'We could add great melodies to it.' I don't think I continued it because I was always afraid that there would be a catch. . . . In all fairness, I didn't have the money to even try. They wanted more than I could send in, but they did offer literature and circulars and artists who would do it, but never a guarantee of fame or success. Never a guarantee, at least to the ones I sent in. I only sent in to a few, and since that time I really despise them, I really despise them because of the catches."
Tiny Tim uttered that last line with something verging on venom, one of the rare times this most gentle man was ever caught rising to anger in an interview. After all those years, he still hated the song sharks for the abuses they committed at the hands of his beloved songwriters.
Tiny Tim recorded a single in 1976 that was released on the tiny Kama label, from upstate New York. Although Kama OV-567, "Howard Cosell (We Think You're Swell)" b/w "The Bi-Centennial Song (I Believe In America)," was not a song-poem release, one of Kama's other records was. "The Man Behind My Purpose" (OV-585) was sung by Bobby Blake, the great female singer who as Bobbi Blake (among countless other song-poem names) recorded many wonderful sides on MSR. Bringing things kinda full-circle sideways is a single on MSR entitled "Where On Earth Is Tiny Tim," recorded by the same Bobbi Blake.
Many thanks to Ernie Clark for his generous discographical assistance.
-- Singles --
777: Tiny Tim -- (Hendrix-Joplin-Morrison) Why Did They Have To Die So Young (Tiny Tim) / Letter Edged In Black (R. Carter) (1971; not a song-poem record)
Discography ©2004 Phil Milstein
778: Tiny Tim -- (Whispering Voices) The Ballad Of Attica Prison (Tiny Tim) / Prisoner's Song (Guy Massey) (1971; not a song-poem record)
779: Toni Lee -- What I Can't Get At Home / Break It To Me Gently (1971; not a song-poem record)
1001: Tiny Tim -- Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Marks) / White Christmas (Berlin) (1971)
number unknown: Tiny Tim -- Maggie May / When You And I Were Young, Maggie (1972; not a song-poem record)
1007: Tiny Tim -- Delilah / Sunshine (1972)
Bryte/Brite Star || Kama
Discography ©2004 Phil Milstein