Legendary Concert Promoter, Mike Belkin Lights-Up the Music Box Supper Club!

Mike Belkin

Mike Belkin (center) with Music Box Supper Club host, Mike Miller (left) and writer, Carlo Wolff (right).

Legendary music promoter Mike Belkin light-up the Music Box Supper Club discussing his fascinating career and new biographical memoir, ‘Mike Belkin: Socks, Sports, Rock and Art’, written by Carlo Wolff and published by ACT3. The sold-out show featured Mr. Belkin, with his vibrant personality, jokes and stories as he was surrounded by family, friends and the artists he’s managed. His entrepreneur spirit with innovative methods and the motivation to succeed were inspiring as he took us on his journey from his childhood roots through the monumental rise of Belkin Productions with his older brother, Jules Belkin.

The Cleveland story, dinner parties session was hosted by Mike Miller of the Music Box Supper Club. Mr. Miller questioned Mike concerning his career and rise to fame. Writer, Carlo Wolff joined the men onstage. Before closing the session, Miller also asked Mike Belkin questions prepared by the audience. With the professional staff delivering drinks and food to the packed audience, we were set for a night of interesting stories from the man who set marketing and promotion standards not only in Cleveland which subsequently became trends across the entire music industry!

Legendary concert promoter, Mike Belkin (left) and writer, Carlo Wolff (right).

Being the humble gentleman, Mike often made jokes to the tables of the musicians he’s managed (Michael Stanley, Donnie Iris, Marc Avsec and Jimmy Fox and Dale Peters of The James Gang) were in attendance, along with his wife, Annie, family and Live Nation executive, Barry Gabel. I got the feeling he would’ve loved to have their input onstage. I’ve noticed he always puts others best interests first. But on this night, the only thing bigger than his smile was his heart!

Purchase your copy Here!

Born the second son of Russian immigrant parents, Sam “Misha” and Pola Belkin, the story of his career was a real eye-opener. I had no idea Mike had been a former minor league, left-handed baseball pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves.  His one wish was that he would’ve taken his sports career more seriously. After his baseball career ended, Mike returned to Cleveland and worked at his father’s clothing store.

Ironically, just like many bands back in the day started in a garage or basement, Belkin Productions began in their father’s clothing stores in Ashtabula and Painesville, as they would answer their phone as “Belkin Productions”. Subsequent business locations changed as the business grew and expanded. While working at the store, Mike approached a fellow employee, Leroy Anderson about starting a business as concert promoters.

The Four Freshman were the first musical group that got Mike Belkin hooked on music. The first show booked by Belkin & Anderson Productions in Cleveland was The Four Freshman and The New Christy Minstrels for $2,000.00. The men made $35.00 off their first show in 1966.

Mike Belkin signing his new biography book at The Music Box Supper Club.

The discussion took us down memory lane as he spoke of booking bands at the Cleveland Agora, Music Hall and the Allen Theater, establishing Cleveland as a musical force. Belkin Productions (along with brother, Jules Belkin) set the tone to become a musicians institution for developing and furthering their careers. Admitting little knowledge at the beginning of their business, Belkin Productions literally flew by the seat of their pants in a live and learn environment.  A forced cancellations early on by The Mamas and The Papas management resulted in a loss of revenue from advertising expenses and ticket refunds. But survivors always win!

Belkin’s big break would be when George Wein of the Newport Jazz Festival approached Mike about booking a show at the Cleveland Arena. The show was high-risk due to the Hough Riots erupted a couple weeks before, however; 8,000 tickets were sold and this began the turning point of the company. Belkin Productions began to pursue Rock acts with their new found success!

Other highlights discussed were:

  • Working with writer, Carlo Wolf on co-authoring his new book, ‘Mike Belkin:  Socks, Sports, Rock and Art’.
  • His relationship with Frankie Valli  and The Four Seasons. Frankie Valli wrote the Introduction in the biography and Mike’s son, Sam Belkin, wrote the Forward with Illustrations by Ron Hill.
  • The management of The James Gang (Jimi Fox and Dale Peters), Michael Stanley, Donnie Iris of Donnie Iris & The Cruisers, and former Wild Cherry member Marc Avsec, (who is also is a member of Donnie Iris & The Cruisers) were seated together. “That table: I love them“, stated, Mike Belkin.
  • Producing Johnny Carson individual appearances in Cleveland and across the USA.
  • Working with Sonny and Cher, Tiny Tim and The Smothers Brothers show.
  • After booking The James Gang with The Who in Pittsburgh, Mike was approached by The Who’s guitarist, Pete Townsend asking to have The James Gang open for the band on a European tour.
  • “You never want to get in the car with The Who” said, Mike Belkin. Quite humorous, perhaps Keith Moon was behind the wheel?
  • The toughest band manager he ever worked with was Peter Grant of Led Zeppelin. Grant would cancel scheduled shows at the last minute and try to book the band on a few days notice, just to be difficult.
  • While feeling guilty as he was lying on a beach in Florida during a vacation, he came upon the idea of forming the Belkin Concert Club promotion for fans to have access to up-front seating close to the stage.

Mike Belkin teared up when he spoke about his friend and fellow-legendary concert promoter, Bill Graham (The Fillmore East and Fillmore West). These two men often sought advice and exchanged ideas between each other. He took a little time to say RIP and the same sympathy was extended to the recent Las Vegas massacre victims.

His favorite concert resulted after he and Bill Graham flew to Las Vegas to setup the contract with Mick Jagger, along with the manager of The Rolling Stones in booking the appearance of The Rolling Stones at The World Series of Rock for three-million dollars. The highly successful concert series established by Belkin Productions was held at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium and attendances often reached 88,000 concert goers for a one-day show that spanned six-years with fifteen-shows.

The best music industry advice he learned was to include other promoters and radio stations splitting the costs, often resulting in free advertising, while reducing the risk and costs for all involved, eliminating anyone from getting a bad deal. This produced a win-win situation and built solid relationships amongst those working with Belkin Productions!

Photo Gallery: Mike Belkin Cleveland Stories Dinner Parties at The Music Box Supper Club.

I’ve have had the pleasure of meeting Mike Belkin as he invited me backstage at a Donnie Iris and The Cruisers show. Mr. Belkin reminded me of my grandfather. His inquisitiveness, kindness and interest in The Rust Belt Chronicles and how we came about impressed me beyond words! The discussion we had will always be one of my proudest moments.

Folks, they just don’t make ’em like Mike Belkin these days. His personal approach is as real and authentic as the ground he walks on!

Mike kept the sold-out crowd laughing with his jokes about himself and his musical business bands, family and friends as he acknowledged: “That’s my favorite table over there.” When asked about the difficulty of managing a band, Mike’s response was: “It has to come from the heart!”

Mike Belkin

Ron Hill of Act3 presents a gift to Mike Belkin .

Act3 publisher, Ron Hill joined the group of men for a presentation onstage. As Mike Belkin graciously accepted a concert tour framed-poster of “The Wild, Wild West Medicine Show” featuring The James Gang and burlesque star, Tempest Storm from 1973 (which may be the strangest rock show of all-time). His smile once again brightened the room.

Indeed, on this night the biggest heart in the room rightfully so was: Mike Belkin!

The story of Mike Belkin:  Socks, Sports, Rock and Art is a must read for anyone interested in learning the history of the music industry by this honest, extremely humble man, who not only set the standards for Cleveland becoming the “Rock & Roll Capital of The World”, but also the home for the Cleveland Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

Purchase your copy Here!

On Thursday, October, 12th at 7:00 pm. Mike Belkin discusses his new book ‘Mike Belkin:  Socks, Sports, Rock and Art’ at The Foster Theater in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. See info Here!


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Jim Carver About Jim Carver

Jim Carver is the President of The Rust Belt Chronicles.

In 2004, Jim graduated from North Central State College with a degree in Business Information Technology. Jim developed "Rock Lines" news report online in 2010.After a trial-run of The Rust Belt Chronicles in April of 2013, Jim decided to make his dream a reality in 2014 by re-launching The Rust Belt Chronicles.

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