My Encounter With Tiny Tim…  Very Odd… by Tony Cole

Royal Albert Hall © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA-4.0

Many years ago, about 1966 or thereabouts, I was asked by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band to do the lighting for their part in a concert that they were going to take part in at the Royal Albert Hall.

This was to be a large scale concert, with a load of bands and performers who were popular at the time, such as The Doo Dah Band as mentioned above, also The Small Faces, Joe Cocker and many others, and of course as you will have guessed from the title of this post, the extra-ordinary Tiny Tim.

How Lighting worked at the Albert Hall.

Before I get onto Tiny Tim, I should mention how lighting was handled in the Albert Hall in those far off days before the advent of simple touring lighting control boards and rock tour lighting rigs.   Back then in halls such as the Albert Hall, one had to work with what they had rigged, and the actual control system consisted of huge mechanical dimmers down below in the cellars of the hall.   So “Lighting Directors” such as I had to sit upstairs in a small booth high above the audience with one of the Albert Hall electricians sitting beside me who had an old fashioned telephone to pass on to the guys in the cellar what I wanted to have happen with the lighting…

So for example I would ask for the main lighting to be dimmed to create a bit of atmosphere, this command was duly passed onto the electricians in the cellar, who then dashed around setting up the dimmers, so that on my word of command which would be relayed to them by the electrician sitting next to me, they could crank all those huge mechanical dimmers into their new positions, thus changing the lighting on the stage.

Cumbersome to say the least….

Anyhow, on the day of the concerts there was a general rehearsal of all the performers and their sound and lights people, including me of course.

There was also a small backing orchestra there for any performers who might need a bit of support – which included Cocker, and obviously, Tiny Tim.

Cocker did his rehearsal perfectly, not surprisingly, and in due time it was Tiny Tim’s turn.

Tiny Tim – Photo by Jeff Goodman

He came slowly onto the stage with two “handlers” in suits, one of whom carried his ukulele for him.  They walked one on each side of Tiny Tim, each grasping him by his arms, and led him up to the microphone he would be using, and handed him his ukulele and stood a bit back from him.   The orchestra commenced to play his music, and at the right moment, one of his handlers tapped Tiny Tim on his shoulder, and like a sort of performing robot, Tiny Tim went into his act, which he did impeccably.

Then when he arrived at the end of his act, he simply stopped, and stood there immovable.   His two handlers took him by his arms again, and started to lead him off-stage.   I was standing nearby as all this was happening, and as Tiny Tim was led off the stage, he asked in a sort of little boy voice  “Where are we going?” To which one of his handlers replied in a gentle voice “we are going home Tiny, home….”   And off they went.

My overwhelming impression at the time was that he was a very sad and strange creature, and I have had no reason to change this impression since.   When you see interviews with him, and look at his very odd shape and appearance (the original pear shaped man), this feeling is only made stronger.   He was seriously odd, but when he wasn’t singing in that memorable falsetto, he actually had a very pleasing baritone voice, as you can hear of you check out a video of him singing “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime” on Youtube.

An odd and sad creature.

 

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