Cleveland Music Community Mourns Promoter Mike Belkin's Death

Ron Hill
Belkin Productions, the concert promotion company that Jules and Mike Belkin launched from their father's clothing store on West 25th Street, is synonymous with rock 'n' roll in Cleveland. Belkin, the company that famously booked the World Series of Rock concerts at the old Municipal Stadium brought all the biggest rock tours to town. It also managed local acts such as the James Gang and the Michael Stanley Band, enabling them to secure record deals and national tours.

Sadly, Mike Belkin has passed away at age 83. He had been battling Alzheimer’s disease. National outlets such as Pollstar reported on his death and the local music community responded to his death this week.

“It’s a very sad day at The Kent Stage as well as within the music community of Northeast Ohio and across the country with the passing of Mike Belkin,” said Kent Stage owner Tom Simpson in a statement. “When I graduated from Kent State in 1979, I went to work for Mike and Jules Belkin. My relationship with the Belkins started at Kent State where Belkin Productions produced all of the major concerts starting in the late 1960s. Over the years I worked for Mike as road manager for Breathless and Donnie Iris, and assisted with the promotion of various other artists. Everything I learned about being a promoter was from Mike and Jules. If not for the Belkin Brothers, Cleveland's identity would not be directly linked to rock 'n' roll, Cleveland wouldn't rock and most likely there would not be an iconic Rock Hall building on the lakefront or on the All-Star logo.”

Barry Gabel, who started at Belkin Productions in 1979 and currently works at Live Nation, posted a tribute to Belkin on his Facebook page.

“Up until his passing, Mike still managed and steered the careers of Cleveland and Pittsburgh’s favorite respective sons, Michael Stanley and Donnie Iris,” Gabel writes. “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 great husband to Annie, a tremendous leader, a spirited competitor, a friend and mentor to many in the business, including me.”

Local musician Charlie Wiener also posted his condolences on Facebook.

“Very sorry to hear of the passing of Mike Belkin,” he wrote. “He was always kind to me and did me many a good turn. A good man who loved NEO and her music and will forever be remembered for his very integral part in the making and presenting of that music.”

Mike Belkin: Socks, Sports, Rock and Art, a 2017 biography by Belkin and local writer Carlo Wolff, chronicles the company's glory days and documents its history up until 2001 when it sold to SFX for nearly $11 million.

Back when we interviewed him in 2017 about his book, Belkin talked about his approach to booking bands and his explanation speaks volumes about his skills as a promoter.

“I always looked for the best when it came to entertainment in more ways than just the music,” he said. “You can't just stand there and play music. You have to know how to perform. That's something I always looked for and still look for today. Any of the bands that I managed or manage are doing more than just standing there playing."

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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