Cleveland-area concert promoter and music industry pioneer Myron “Mike” Belkin Sr. died June 26. He was 83.
Belkin, who along with his older brother, Jules, co-founded Belkin Productions, booked and promoted concerts and managed artists such as the Michael Stanley Band and Donnie Iris. Belkin Productions was synonymous with concerts until the company was sold in 2001.
Barry Gabel, senior vice president of marketing and sponsorship sales at Live Nation, worked with the Belkins for years at Belkin Productions. He said to say Mike Belkin had an ordinary life would be “an understatement.”
“The world knew Mike as a legendary concert promoter, manager and innovator in the entertainment industry,” said Gabel in an email. “He, along with his brother Jules, were instrumental figures in the development of the live concert business.
“Mike and Jules produced their first concert on Feb. 5, 1966 featuring The Four Freshmen and The New Christy Minstrels at The Cleveland Music Hall. Mike introduced, nurtured and promoted many of the most important artists and managers in the history of the music business, including The Who, David Bowie, Frankie Valli, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Cream, The Doors, The James Gang, Bruce Springsteen and more.
“Up until his passing, Mike still managed and steered the careers of Cleveland and Pittsburgh’s favorite respective sons, Michael Stanley and Donnie Iris. Cleveland will remember Mike for the incredible musical memories etched in everyone’s souls, but I will remember him as a wonderful father to Michael, Lisa and Sam, a tremendous leader, a spirited competitor, a friend and mentor to many in the business, including me.”
Author Carlo Wolff of South Euclid, who is a freelance writer with the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, wrote Mike Belkin’s biography, “Mike Belkin: Socks, Sports, Rock and Art,” in 2017.
“He had a flair for showmanship and he dared the acts he managed ... to take risks and to be showy,” Wolff said. “And through that, he helped build Cleveland’s reputation as a hotbed of rock ‘n’ roll. He and his brother also knew how to package rock ‘n’ roll as theater. The best example was the World Series of Rock, which Mike developed to reflect his two great loves: rock ‘n’ roll and baseball.”
Wolff said he first met Mike Belkin – whom he described as “funny and charming” and as possessing “exquisite tastes and an appetite for what’s good in life” – in the mid-1980s.
“My early interactions came as soon as I arrived in Cleveland in 1986, when I aspired to be a full-time rock critic – and virtually was,” he said. “Early on, I recognized that Belkin Productions was a formidable name and brand in the area, so I made it a point to get to know Mike and Jules. I reviewed rock ‘n’ roll for virtually every publication in the area throughout the 1990s and the Belkins were my portal to that.”
Wolff characterized Belkin Productions as part of a three-legged stool for rock ‘n’ roll in Cleveland, noting the others to be 100.7-FM WMMS and Scene magazine.
John Gorman, chief content officer and a principal with oWow Internet Radio, for years was operations manager at WMMS, commonly known as “The Buzzard,” and frequently interacted with Belkin.
“It was impossible to be in the music business without working with Jules and Mike,” Gorman said. “They were two fine gentlemen to work with, (and) they really rewrote the rules of concert promotion and management. I don’t have enough good things to say about them, very innovative creative people.”
Gorman said Mike Belkin discovered Joe Walsh, a guitarist best known for his work with the James Gang and The Eagles.
“There should be a statue for him just for that alone,” Gorman said. “Mike was very good at finding and developing talent.”
Gorman said Mike Belkin was dedicated to his bands and a very good manager.
“He definitely influenced the radio industry – because a lot of the bands he discovered became very successful on the air – but he also was very good at finding acts like Donnie Iris, who did have a career before Mike started working with him. He gave Donnie Iris a second chance and turned him into a very strong solo artist. ... He definitely contributed a lot to this region.”
David Spero, who first met Mike Belkin when Spero was a DJ at WMMS in the 1970s and later worked with him when both men managed bands, credited the Belkin brothers with putting Cleveland on the map.
“They really got Cleveland established as an absolute must-stop in the touring world for every major band, from the Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen to U2,” Spero said. “They really made this town a must-stop for every major artist – and then they extended it to a bunch of other cities. They were very active throughout the Midwest and into Pittsburgh and up in Detroit and Indianapolis. Together, with him and Jules, they really made a mark nationally.”
Spero said Mike Belkin will be missed.
“He didn’t hold back to do the best for his artists,” he said. “And that’s a great trait in our business. He’ll be missed greatly in the music business. He has been missed since he got ill. It’s a sad thing to see that one of the music greats is felled – and he was one of the music greats.”
Mike Belkin is survived by his wife, Annie; children Michael (Michele) Belkin, Lisa Belkin and Sam Belkin; four grandchildren; and his brother, Jules (Fran) Belkin.
CJPC Lifestyles Editor Michael C. Butz and CJN Staff Reporter Jane Kaufman contributed to this report.