Born Thomas Palumbo in The Bronx, and he grew up in the same neighborhood as Peter Clemenza. Tommy was sometimes beaten by his uncle, Al Neri, for showing disrespect to his mother, one incident being beaten so violently that the sight of it caused Rita Neri to leave her husband in fear of his temper. He never accepted that his uncle was a cop, and became a hoodlum just to anger him, although he later also became a police officer for a short period. He also wanted to follow his uncle's footsteps by getting his 'button', but was told to wait until the right time. To gain a better reputation in the family, he began using his mother's maiden name, Neri.
Membership into the family
In 1955, he became a 'made man' in the Corleone family under Michael Corleone at a restaurant with others. He was placed in the regime of Rocco Lampone and served him faithfully. At around this time, he also became a heroin addict. He was placed in Ritchie Nobilio's regime after Rocco Lampone was killed in 1960.
By 1963, he was placed in charge of finding Nick Geraci after the failure of Willie Binaggio and Dino DiMiceli. He made no significant progress with finding Geraci, although he did look in Cleveland and got tips from the CIA.