A Fellow Clevelander Remembers Mike Belkin
Robert Muller – Belkins
Jules and Michael Belkin promoted their first concert – The Four Freshmen and The New Christy Minstrels – in Cleveland Feb. 5, 1966. Belkin Productions is now part of Live Nation, but they
Mike Belkin may have been the best known, best loved man this side of Santa Claus to kids like me, growing up in Cleveland in the 1970s and ’80s. He brought us all the bands we loved, and built many of the superstars from the ground up. That was why Todd Rundgren was someone I was fluent in, when so many kids in Florida, where I landed to finish high school, had no clue.
He was a dreamer, and a true believer. When a dark haired, dark eyed songwriter who knew his way around a guitar, and had almost made it with a couple of not-quite solo albums and a few misses with his band, Belkin stepped in — and gave the Michael Stanley Band not just momentum, but a real sense of having a place in the heartland rock pantheon of Springsteen, Seger, Mellencamp.
In a city that needed a hero, Mike Belkin forged one. He understood live, knew there was something about the passion Stanley incited in Northeastern Ohio, and kept the band working across labels in Epic, Arista, EMI Records. He built the scrappy band to four nights, SRO, at Blossom Music Center; two nights at the Richfield Coliseum sold out faster than Led Zeppelin; a final 12-night run at the Front Row Theater.
And it was always family with him. Nothing was more important. Whether it was his son, Mike Jr, or his main man Barry Gabel, he treated people with more than respect, but genuine love. He was also incredibly handsome. But more importantly, he was even more beautiful inside.
Cleveland has lost a man who infused its soul with electricity, music, reasons to believe, to buy in, to forge on. He is a major reason it is considered “The Rock & Roll Capitol of the World.” Whether the World Series of Rock in the ’70s, the Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd at the Stadium, U2 at Public Hall when October was starting to catch, or some kid with a dream trying to make their way that nobody else remembers, Belkin is the reason they played our town.