#19: Tears For Souvenirs by Tommy Leonetti

City: Halifax, NS
Radio Station: CJCH
Peak Month: January 1957
Peak Position in Halifax ~ #4
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube: “Tears For Souvenirs

Nicola Tomaso Lionetti was born in 1929 in North Bergen, New Jersey. He had a talent for singing and changed his name. He sang with the Charlie Spivak jazz band and the Tony Pastor jazz Band. In the early fifties, Arthur Godfrey remarked on his television show that, when told they had booked Tommy Leonetti, he thought that it was a trio called “Tommy, Lee, and Eddy.” Leonetti had a minor hit in 1954 on the Billboard Pop chart titled “I Cried”, which peaked at #30. His biggest hit in the USA was in 1956 with “Free”, which peaked at #23 on the Billboard chart. He was a singer with the 1957‐58 cast of Your Hit Parade.

In late 1956, Leonetti released “Tears For Souvenirs”.

Tears For Souvenirs by Tommy Leonetti

“Tears For Souvenirs” was cowritten by Leonetti and Tom Glazer. Born in 1914 in Philadelphia, Thomas Zachariah Glazer was a child or Russian Jewish émigré parents from Minsk (the current capital of Belarus). When he was four years old, his father died of the Spanish Flu. At 17, Glazer hitchhiked to New York, where he took night courses to complete his education while working at Macy’s during the day. Glazer began performing as an amateur and was invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to perform at the White House for soldiers working there as guards. He made a successful professional début at The Town Hall, New York City, in January 1943 during a blizzard. By 1945, Glazer had a radio show called Tom Glazer’s Ballad Box. His songs of the period, such as “A Dollar Ain’t a Dollar Anymore”, “Our Fight is Yours”, “When the Country is Broke”, and “Talking Inflation Blues” took strong social stands. Glazer’s songs were recorded by Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, The Kingston Trio, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Peter, Paul and Mary. Glazer was part of the folk music scene in New York in the 1940s. Along with Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Josh White, Tom Glazer helped prepare for the commercially successful folk revival of the 1960s. In the 1960s he hosted a weekly children’s show on WQXR radio in New York.

In 1957, Glazer wrote the musical score for the film about a drifter and convict who becomes a politician in A Face in the Crowd. Glazer’s most famous song is a spoof of “On Top Of Old Smokey” titled “On Top Of Spaghetti”.

On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese.
I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed….

But he also penned “More” for Perry Como – a #4 hit on the Billboard pop charts in 1956. Glazer’s “Old Soldiers Never Die” was a #7 hit for Vaughn Monroe in 1951. And in 1954-55, his “Melody Of Love” was a hit for both the Four Aces and Billy Vaughn. Earlier in 1954, Glazer cowrote “Til We Two Are One”, a Top Ten hit for Georgie Shaw. Another hit song Glazer penned was “A Worried Man”, a Top 20 hit for the Kingston Trio in 1959. In 1954, Glazer adapted a Zimbabwean song titled “Skokiaan” and added English lyrics. His version was recorded by the Four Lads who took the tune to #7 on the Billboard pop charts. Tom Glazer died in 2003 at the age of 88.

“Tears For Souvenirs” is a song about the end of a relationship. In exchange for the “sweet caress” he once knew, the single guy has only tears for souvenirs of the past romance. Now that the relationship is over, the guy perceives his sweetheart’s “masquerade.” All she wanted to do was “play hide and seek.” He still misses her kisses. He wonders, “Is there no way to make you stay?” He’d prefer to share the golden years ahead. Why is it that her love seemed real at the start? What happened?

“Tears For Souvenirs” reached #4 in Halifax (NS).

Leonetti had several appearances on The Steve Allen Show in the 1958-59 season. “On A Blanket On The Beach” was a minor summer hit in Sydney, Australia, in July 1958. Earlier that year “Ring On A Ribbon” made it to #10 in Toronto (ON). In 1959 he had a regional hit in Boston with the old Glenn Miller hit “Moonlight Serenade” which peaked at #3. In 1963 he released “Soul Dance”.

Tommy Leonetti acted in minor roles in a variety of TV shows. He was cast in the 1964-1965 season of Gomer Pyle, USMC, as ‘Corporal Nick Cuccinelli’. He also was cast in the a 1965 alien invasion film titled The Human Duplicators. In 1966 he appeared in a few episodes of the espionage and secret agent TV show, I Spy, with Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.

After years of singing spots on various American TV variety shows, Leonetti took a singing gig in Sydney, Australia in 1966, having had some success on the Australian music charts there during the 1950’s. He loved Sydney enough to move there in 1968 with his wife and stepdaughter. He soon had his own popular TV show there called “Sydney Tonight.” Leonetti achieved cult fame in Sydney, Australia, for singing “My City of Sydney” as station ID for Channel ATN7-TV. He also starred in station ID spots, admiring Sydney Opera House, skipping pebbles in Sydney Harbour, wandering around Kings Cross. Meanwhile, back in North America, Tommy Leonetti charted “Kim Bah Ya” to #54 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the Top 20 in Regina.

In 1970 Tommy Leonetti appeared in an Australian comedy about an Italian monastery titled Squeeze A Flower.

In April 1971, Leonetti flew to LA for surgery to remove a kidney tumor. The cancer had spread so much that the entire kidney had to be removed. He and his family left Australia and he returned to America for singing engagements. He also bought a recording studio in Los Angeles. Leonetti also was a featured guests on multiple occasions in The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson between 1971 and 1973.

In 1976, just before he left for a six-week gig in Honolulu, he had a five-year check-up at UCLA Medical Center. He then flew to Honolulu for not only the singing gig, but also a guest role in an episode of “Hawaii 5-0.” Two days after filming began, his doctor called and said they now had found a tumor in his right lung near his heart. Surgery was successful with a removal of the top lobe of his lung. He began treating at the Center for the Healing Arts in LA, a clinic that specialized in holistic medicine. In 1978 Leonetti wrote the music for an adventure film titled She Came To The Valley, which was released in January 1979. In 1978 he also appeared in an episode of The Waltons and an episode of The Eddy Capra Mysteries titled “The Intimate Friends of Jenny Wilde,” on November 10, 1978. Despite his determination to be creative, he could not beat the recurring cancer. He died in the City of Angels in 1979 at the age of 50.

March 27, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Tommy Leonetti, 50, a Singer On ‘Your Hit Parade’ in 1957‐58,” New York Times, September 18, 1979.
Tommy Leonetti Biography,” IMDb.com.
Paul Wadey, “Tom Glazer: Folk singer ambivalent about the success of his ‘On Top of Spaghetti’,” Independent, February 27, 2003.

Tears For Souvenirs by Tommy Leonetti

CJCH 920-AM, Halifax (NS) Top Ten | January 26, 1957.

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