Tommy Leonetti was an American pop singer-songwriter and actor. He was particularly popular in Australia where he and his family lived in the 1960s until the 1970s when they returned to the US. His best-known song in Down Under was “My City Of Sydney” written by him and Bobby Troup. In his home country the New Jersey-born Leonetti scored success as a lyricist for film and Broadway, and had had Billboard hits such as “I Cried” (in 1954) and “Free” (in 1956). Aside from “My City Of Sydney” (which was used as a theme of an Australian TV show), Leonetti also had a major hit in Australia with “Let’s Take A Walk,” which he performed with his stepdaughter Kimberly (who is now actress Kimberly Beck). In 1979 Leonetti passed away from cancer, in Houston, Texas. He was 50 years old.
A bit of Leonetti’s early life and acting career
During the peak of his career, American pop singer-songwriter and actor Tommy Leonetti was not only popular in the United States but also in Australia.
Leonetti was born in Bergen County, New Jersey on September 10, 1929, of Italian descent.
As an actor, Leonetti had only some minor roles mostly on television (and a few films as well): Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., I Spy, Hawaii Five-O, The Waltons, and The Eddie Capra Mysteries, which are all TV series and films such as the sci-fi film The Human Duplicators.
Singing and recording career
Leonetti’s singing career, on the other hand, was far more successful. His most successful single was “Free,” which reached its peak position on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1956.
He had also achieved another Top 40 smash “I Cried” (#30 pop) and other minor hits such as “Heartless” (#99 pop) and “Kum Ba Yah’ (#54 pop, #4 adult contemporary, “You Knew About Her All the Time,” “All the Brave Young Faces of the Night,” “Soul Dance” and “When I Needed Nevertheless, Leonetti is still considered as a one-hit wonder.
During the peak of his fame in the States, Leonetti was often featured in variety shows such as Your Hit Parade, The Steve Allen Show and The Johnny Carson Show.
Leonetti’s Australian career
Leonetti and his own family lived in Australia from the 1960s to the 1970s before returning to the States. While in Down Under, Leonetti had quite of a career there too. He hosted his own talk show for the Australian network ATN-7 from 1968 to 1970, simply called The Tommy Leonetti Show. Leonetti also had some chart success in Australia, with “Let’s Take a Walk.” Leonetti’s stepdaughter, actress Kimberly Beck, claimed that she was the one who wrote the song when she was only 9 years old. Then she and her stepfather recorded a duet of it when she was 11. “Let’s Take a Walk” was a big hit in Melbourne, where the single reached #4.
However, Leonetti’s other song “My City of Sydney” (which he wrote with Bobby Troup) may be his most famous song in Australia, having been used by ATN as a theme music during their nightly sign-offs.
Aside from singing and acting, Leonetti was also proficient in songwriting, for films and Broadway plays. Among the 49 works credited to him include music for such movies as Squeeze a Flower, Massacre at Central High (where Leonetti sang “Cross Roads” which he co-wrote with Jill Williams) and She Came to the Valley.
Last years, death, and legacy
Leonetti spent his last years in the US. He passed away in Houston, Texas on September 15, 1979, five days after he turned 50.
Leonetti lends a great impact most particularly in Australia. Satirical TV character Norman Gunston (portrayed by Aussie actor Gary McDonald) was initially created as a parody of Tommy Leonetti’s talk show. Meanwhile, Australian punk rockers XL Capris did a cover of Leonetti’s “My City of Sydney.”