Bob and Mike Delevante arrived on the scene in the early ‘90s and immediately set ears buzzing. Combining Everly Brothers-style harmonies with Springsteen-esque songs of working-class lives, they attracted the support of industry luminaries such as Garry Talent and Benmont Tench and seemed destined for seats at the top table. Their first album, ‘Long About That Time’, released in 1995 and produced by Talent, received a three star review from Rolling Stone magazine and went straight to number six in the Gavin Americana Charts. The album was nominated for a Nashville Music Award and named Pop Album of the Year by the National Association of Independent Records and Distributors (NAIRD); but it was all over before the end of the decade – the brothers went their separate ways and it seemed to be the end for one of Alt-Country’s most promising new acts.
The brothers came from a solid, blue-collar family, their father and grandfather both working at the General Motors plant, and they were born and grew up in Rutherford, New Jersey. Bob was the elder brother, by three years, and the boys began singing as kids, with their mother encouraging them to do as much together as possible. They formed their first band in their teens, Wreckless Abandon, a quasi-bluegrass band singing Monkees and Beatles songs to a banjo backing! This developed into the band Who’s Your Daddy who, between their formation in 1988 and the Delevante brothers’ move to Nashville in 1992, would become a well-established act on the circuit around their base in Hoboken. It was while attending a New Music Seminar in New York, in the late 1980s, that the brothers met a publisher, from the BMI group, who suggested they’d benefit from spending time in Nashville. Interested in taking their writing to the next level the pair started paying regular visits to the city and, in 1992, relocated there permanently. They’d met Garry Talent at a Steve Earle concert, becoming friends, and he agreed to produce their first album, recruiting Benmont Tench to contribute keyboards for the recording. Both musicians also worked with the brothers on live shows; it’s easy to see how a buzz began to build around them. In 1997, two years after their initial release, they went back into the studio, with the same producer and musicians, to make their second album. The only difference this time round was their move from Rounder Records to Capitol Nashville, feeling that the shift from an independent label to a major was the right move for their career – but it didn’t work out that way. Despite (or perhaps because of?) record number two,‘Postcards From Along The Way’, boasting the same producer and band line up as their first album it didn’t seem to move the brothers forward. There were still the same harmonies, still the same great songs about the working man experience, everything sounded pretty much as it had on that first, acclaimed, album and the critical reception was just as positive, but this time there were no award nominations and no chart success – and there was no third album.
The switch to a major label is always a gamble; if it pays off the rewards can be big, but major labels expect more success and aren’t often tolerant when it doesn’t come. Finding out exactly what caused the split has proved pretty much impossible but it seems the failure to make progress as a band caused them to re-evaluate and go their separate ways. Both brothers had attended Art School in New York before they’d embarked on their band career and it seems that pursuing a career in art now became Mike’s priority. He would set up his own design studio, Delevante Creative, serving as its Creative Director to this day. Bob Delevante, always the more prolific writer of the two, went on to release two solo albums, ‘Porchlight’ in 1999 and 2005’s ‘Columbus and the Colossal Mistake’, both on Relay Records. Bob has also established a strong reputation as a professional photographer (his second solo album was actually a collection of songs and photography) and now has his own photographic studio in Nashville.
The Delevantes could just have been another footnote in the history of Americana music – another promising duo that didn’t quite break through to the big time but the good news is that, after well over ten years off the live circuit, The Delevantes are back! 2019 saw them back in action in their native New Jersey and there are rumours that a new studio album is in the pipeline. After such a long hiatus it seems that this story could still have a happy ending. With Americana music now more popular than ever surely the second coming of The Delevantes and those fabulous harmonies is long overdue.