ZEKE LEISURE & THE CASUALS
1981 - 1996
- Ray Rosario (vocals)
- Bruce Batton (guitar/vocals)
- Lee Steel (guitar/vocals)
- Kacy Ross (guitar/vocals)
- David Fairman (bass)
- Joel McClellan (bass/vocals)
- Von Lupa (bass)
- Manny Yanes (bass)
- Eddie Pecchio (bass)
- Stevie Grandmaison (bass/vocals)
- Andre' Belloice (drums)
- Ricky Wilcox (drums/vocals)
- Russ Hammock (drums)
Most large cities have their local legends, bands and performers who have made an impact in those places without breaking big across the nation... Deloris Telescope is Tampa Bays.
During their time, Deloris Telescope were a fixture on the Tampa Bay's alternative-rock scene for nearly two decades. The band won several music awards, appeared on radio, television, film, and record a string of highly successful albums. The band became a household name throughout Florida, and will always be remembered as one of Tampa Bay's most popular bands of the 1980's and early 1990's.
Originally formed in Largo in 1981, Deloris Telescope was initially called Zeke Leisure & the Casuals. Zeke Leisure & the Casuals featured Lee Steel on guitar, Dave Fairman on bass, Russ Hammock on drums, Bruce Batton on guitar, and Dale Fairman on keyboards & vocals. Following the depature of Dale Fairman, Zeke Leisure & the Casuals changed their name to Deloris Telescope.
Momentum didn't begin to build for the band until 1984 when Batton and Hammock left the band and were replaced by Kacy Ross (The Theatre Band) and Andre' Belloice.
Initially Deloris Telescope was an art-rock oriented band with odd time signatures and quirky lyrics. Deloris Telescope steadily veered towards a more accessible approach with the addition of powerhouse drummer Ricky Wilcox. Ross had previously played with Wilcox in the band "Theatre," a power pop group based in Chicago that had enjoyed a good amount of popularity in the American midwest and southeast. Theatre recorded one album, "Diamonds," for Spirit Records in 1981. Ironically, Wilcox joined Deloris Telescope after Theatre vocalist Donnie Bennett wooed Andre Belloise away from the band to play in his post-Theatre group, The Donnie Bennett Band.
In the beginning, Deloris Telescope would perform frequently at such places in the Tampa Bay area as Ron's Highway Lounge, The Cheshire Cat, and El Gordo's Mexican Restaurant on St. Pete Beach. It was while performing weekend after weekend at El Gordo's Mexican Restaurant that the band began to attract a loyal following and to focus their prolific songwriting skills and wild stage performance. Over the years, longtime fans would often single out the "El Gordo's Days" as the time when Deloris Telescope was at its irreverent and incendiary best.
Eventually Lee Steel left the band and Deloris Telescope continued on as a trio. Next to depart was David Fairman, beginning a revolving-door effect that would see several bassists come and go from the bands lineup. Bassist Eddie Pecchio was Fairman's initial replacement. Pecchio's older brother Daniel had been a member of Phil Keaggy's "Glass Harp" and Youngstown Ohio's "Michael Stanley Band."
After a year and a half in the band, Eddie Pecchio left, sighting dissatisfaction with the bands progress as the reason. Pecchio would go on to play with another popular Tampa Bay area band, Stormbringer, and later teamed up with ex-Kansas violinist Robbie Steinhardt and guitarist Rick Moon to form the Steinhardt-Moon Band.
As Deloris Telescope’s reputation grew, the band was left looking for a permanent bassist. Von Lupa of Tampa's seminal punk band Zenith Nadir played briefly with DT, followed by Patti Labelle sideman Manny Yanes. Yanes was a good fit for the bands funk-rock oriented approach of the mid-1980s... But being a sideman for a prominent national act, he eventually had to leave the band.
Eventually Stevie Grandmaison, who was Deloris Telescope’s soundman at the time, would become the bands permanent bass player. Grandmaison was a talented guitarist and vocalist who had fronted his own Tampa Bay band, Stevie and the Hotheads. Grandmaison would remain as Deloris Telescope’s bassist until their dissolution in 1996.
It wasn't long after this solidified version of Deloris Telescope began playing around Tampa Bay that things really began to come together for the band. The band began to get booked at the area's biggest clubs and were asked to open for many of the prominent bands that came through the area including Men Without Hats, X, Modern English, Flock of Seagulls, Hunter-Ronson Band, Warren Zevon, Lords of the New Church, Robin Trower, Steppenwolf, Cheap Trick, Foghat, Joan Jett, XYZ, 24/7 Spyz, and countless others.
Deloris Telescope did an extensive amount of touring in later years, often heading up the east coast for gigs in Atlanta, Nashville, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, where they frequented clubs such as CBGB's, The Rodeo Bar, The Bitter End, Cafe Wha, Cat Club, Spo-Dee-O-Dee's and the Lion's Gate where they were offered a residency that they ultimately declined. The band also visited Japan twice to perform for the U.S. Marines at Iwakuni.
Internally, the band had a desire to be taken more seriously as musicians and songwriters. Their fans, however, were more interested in the wild party side of the band that they had grown to know and love. Deloris Telescope was indeed a notorious party band, known for excess on and off the stage. But, it was not a lifestyle that they could rationally continue without negative results. Dolorous, recorded at Panda Studios in Clearwater, Florida with George Harris co-producing and engineering was the band's first real attempt to break out of the party band mode and attempt to capture a serious piece of work on tape. It was a dilemma that would follow the band throughout their career: an inability to transfer their kinetic live show to a studio setting. Fans and critics were disappointed with "Dolorous." Most fans point to "Milk The Glory" as the definitive Deloris Telescope recording. This 90-minute collection captured live in the studio came the closest to defining the spirit of the group at its raw and ribald best.
The band wasn't without its chances for major success. Many major labels sent A&R reps to check out the group, including a showcase at New York City's S.I.R. rehearsal studio for Atlantic Records Jason Pflom. Always though, the bands cavalier attitude and uncategorizable approach was its commercial Achilles heel. Record companies acknowledged the bands appeal and talents, but were at a loss as to how to market them. Perhaps, in its prime, the band members were too content with all the local attention and high life to focus on furthering their careers beyond the Tampa Bay area. Then again, one had to admire their uncompromising "our way or no way" approach to their craft.
In 1991, Deloris Telescope broke up temporarily as guitarist Kacy Ross decided to relocate to New York City. Their breakup garnered much attention in the Tampa Bay music press, and some well-publicized farewell shows were performed for packed houses. After just four months however, Ross returned and the band continued on as if nothing had happened. Though Deloris Telescope was still one of the most popular bands in the Tampa Bay area, their short hiatus may have marked the end of their heyday, as a certain degree of momentum had been lost in their absence.
In 1994, Deloris Telescope once again entered the studio with George Harris to record what would be the their swan song and first and only CD, Xenolith. Forgoing earlier funk and pop inclinations, Xenolith was inspired by the heavier sounds emanating from Seattle and the grunge movement of the time. The unique Telescope vibe managed to save the album from sounding too Seattle-derivative though, and in hindsight, Xenolith featured some of the band's most fully realized recordings. Though still not as popular as Milk The Glory with longtime fans, Xenolith proved to be a fitting epitaph.
By 1996, 13 years after their formation, their long ride came to an end. Following one last trip to Japan and some final gigs in the Florida Keys, Deloris Telescope quietly disbanded. They left behind many fans and a legacy that will live on in Tampa Bay musical history with other acts such as Stranger, White Witch, Roxx Gang, Four-In-Legion, Savatage, Mercy, Bertie Higgins, The Bellamy Brothers, Firefall, Slim Whitman, The Hazies, Donna Allen, Jim Stafford and others.
Deloris Telescope’s websites are frequented actively today with many fans still seeking copies of the old records and tapes and looking to make contact with fellow devotees from the "good old days."