Tom Burlinson will be starring on the Saraton Theatre stage this Saturday with his 'Simply Sinatra' show.
Tom Burlinson will be starring on the Saraton Theatre stage this Saturday with his 'Simply Sinatra' show. Contributed

Early exposure set the tone

FRANK Sinatra worked hard to achieve his place in entertainment history.

The legendary crooner took a "completely untutored gift but a big love for singing and turned it into a career".

Australia's own incarnation of 'Ol' Blue Eyes', Tom Burlinson has travelled a similar career path to the late, great performer.

Like Sinatra, Burlinson is well known for his movie roles including The Man From Snowy River and Phar Lap.

He also impressed on the stage before finally turning to singing, a career that had its roots back in England when the then three-year-old Burlinson insisted his mother play a particular album.

"I don't remember this but my mum tells me when I was a toddler she had a Frank Sinatra album from the Capitol years called A Swingin' Affair," he said.

"It was released in 1956 and I was born in 1956. It had a picture of dancing couples in the background and Frank was standing there in a hat on the cover.

"Apparently I used to point to this album and say 'play man in the hat mum' because I couldn't say Sinatra or even read of course.

"There was something about Sinatra's music and his voice that obviously grabbed me even back then."

Burlinson rediscovered that album as a 17-year-old and, with reignited passion for the man and that voice, his fate was sealed.

"Growing up and living in England it was all about The Beatles and modern pop but when I picked out that album one day, as it was still in my parents' record collection, I remembered it, put it on and fell in love with it all over again," he said.

Burlinson said he then became an avid Sinatra fan.

"I became fascinated with the character of the man, read lots of biographies and learnt a lot about him," he said.

"I also found to my great surprise that I sounded quite like him. I used to sing along to the albums and my voice was in a very similar range to his and there was a similar tonal quality.

"I suppose I'd been listening to him since I was very young so I knew it pretty well and had a feel for the style and so that's basically what led to everything else."

One of Burlinson's defining moments was also thanks to his childhood encounter when he penned a tribute to the man who meant so much to him.

"I wrote The Man in the Hat about his effect on me as a child and, of course, it was written very much in the Sinatra style," he said.

"That recording led to me singing the voice of Sinatra as a young man in the mini-series that his youngest daughter Tina made in the 1990s about her father's life."

Burlinson sent footage of him singing The Man in the Hat to Tina and she was suitably impressed.

"I found myself at the Warner Bros in Burbank singing I'll Never Smile Again, I Can't Give you Anything but Love and Stormy Weather with just the piano and Tina Sinatra," Burlinson said.

"That afternoon she offered me this amazing job and I haven't looked back since."

A few years later Burlinson created the "Frank Show" which has become far more successful than he had imagined it would.

"It's provided most of my employment and income for the past 15 years or so," he said.

Burlinson said his show isn't about him pretending to be Sinatra but more about giving an impression of his singing style.

"Our arrangements are based on the originals and I sing very much in the Sinatra vein but it's still me singing the songs," he said.

"I have to have my own connection with those songs otherwise it would be empty imitation.

"A lot of people tell me I'm channelling Frank or they say 'I closed my eyes and Frank Sinatra was still alive' which of course I take as a great compliment."

Burlinson said the spirit of Sinatra come out of him naturally.

"There are some gestures that come out as I've watched him so much," he said.

"I'm not deliberately impersonating him but yes I do have blue eyes. But I don't wear a hat and I don't wear a tux. I just wear a suit."

Burlinson said he sometimes feels he was born in the wrong era but because the style of music is timeless it still translates to today's audiences.

"That has been proven by the success of Michael Buble," he said.

"There's a whole new generation discovering that style of music and those songs through the work of Michael Buble. He has had Frank's songs on all his albums released so far."

While Buble has enjoyed enormous success, Burlinson said he is more grateful than envious with the increased interest in the musical style helping invigorate the demand for his own show.

"I remember seeing him (Buble) for the first time at the Logies years ago and I thought, this kid's really got it," Burlinson said.

"Australia was one of the first countries to embrace him. Everyone was calling him Michael Bubble at the time."

Burlinson said he has enjoyed a "terrific" career, first as an actor and now as a singer.

"I'm just really happy to be still out there performing my show," he said.

"It brings back lots of memories especially for older people. They really enjoy the musicianship of my band. Nothing is recorded. It's all played live, trumpet saxophone, piano.

"I go out after the show and meet people and sign autographs and get photographs with people if they want. I get this immediate response which is really positive and sometimes the younger crowd who have discovered this music through Buble come along."

Burlinson will this Saturday bring his show to the 1000-seat Saraton Theatre.

"I've never played in Grafton before but that sounds perfect," he said of the restored art deco theatre.

"I don't know whether I'll fill it but I'm certainly looking forward to seeing it."



  • Neil Anderson, Pacific Hotel Yamba.


  • The Bondi Cigars, Maclean Hotel.
  • Phil Emmanuel, Maclean Bowling Club.
  • The Black Sorrows, Grafton District Services Club.
  • Musos' night with Rob Imeson, Pacific Hotel Yamba.
  • Mick Buckley, Yamba Golf Club.
  • The Dirty Channel, Yamba Shores Tavern.
  • Trains n Boats n Planes, Yamba Bowling Club.
  • The Bourkenbacks, South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club.
  • Together Again, Grafton District Services Club.


  • Jon English, Grafton District Services Club.
  • Simply Sinatra with Tom Burlinson, Saraton Theatre.
  • Muso's Open Jam Sessions, Maclean Hotel.
  • Inside Outlaw, Pacific Hotel Yamba.
  • Coutts Crossing Country Music Cup Day featuring Col Finley, Chad Shuttleworth and Deep Creek Road, Grafton Racecourse.
  • Tenderfoot, Yamba Shores Tavern.
  • Harry Manx, Yamba Golf Club.

SUNDAY (Father's Day)

  • Nick & Sam, Yamba Shores Tavern.
  • GDSC Country Music Club from 2pm, Grafton District Services Club.
  • Pat Tierney Duo, 2pm, Maclean Hotel.
  • Northern Rivers Big Band, Yamba Bowling Club.
  • GDSC Big River Jazz Club featuring Big River Dixielanders, Good Vibes Choir, Grafton Salvation Army Brass Band from 1pm, Grafton District Services Club.
  • Sunday Chill Session with Willie Hona & Atoms Azure, Yamba Bowling Club.


  • Rob Imeson and The Family Tree, Yamba Bowling Club.


  • September 14: The Clarence Jazzmen, Yamba Bowling Club.
  • September 20: Ezio & Michelle De Angelis mediums, Yamba Bowling Club.
  • September 27: Doppelfest 2, Yamba Bowling Club.


  • Thursday/Friday: Kitty Flanagan, Byron Theatre and Community Centre.
  • Friday: DJ Alison Wonderland, Plantation Hotel.
  • Friday (until Sept. 21): Cash: Ring of Fire, Jetty Memorial Theatre.
  • Friday/Saturday: Bakoomba, Hoey Moey and Digger's Tavern Bellingen.
  • September 13: Katie Noonan, No. 5 Church Street, Bellingen.

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