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Steve Popovich Jr. reviving Cleveland International Records

Posted at 9:47 PM, Jan 26, 2019

CLEVELAND — An iconic record label, born right here in Northeast Ohio, is coming back to life.

Steve Popovich Jr. is hoping the third time's the charm for Cleveland International, which was originally founded by his late father in the mid-seventies.

"The label itself started in 1977. The first single release from that was Ronnie Specter with The E Street Band," Popovich said.

He may be following in his father's footsteps, but Popovich knows he'll never fill the shoes his dad left behind.

"This is personal. This is something that he created and I'm going to pick up the torch and continue to carry it on. To say he was last of a dying breed I think is a big understatement," Popovich said.

Steve Popovich Sr. is known for launching some of the music industry's biggest names including The Jackson 5 and Meatloaf.

Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" album, which sold more than 40-million copies worldwide, was one of the first albums released by Popovich Sr's Cleveland International Records.

"He really embraced working class music and wanted to showcase that as representative of Cleveland," co-owner of Beachland Ballroom Cindy Barber said.

Despite the success, Popovich Sr. eventually pulled the plug on the independent record label a few years later.

"In about 1983, they had the hottest act in the world with Meatloaf and they were $6M in the hole because everything was cross-collateralized at the time," Popovich said.

The self-made music man then took his talent and family south to Nashville.

"That was I believe his first marriage, second to my mom," Popovich said.

After working in the Nashville industry for more than a decade, collaborating with the likes of Johnny Cash, Popovich Sr. moved back to Cleveland in 1994. A year later, he re-established the Cleveland International label with a focus on Polka music.

In 2011, the kid from small town America died at the age of 68.

"It's just such an interesting story of growing up in coal mining towns in Pennsylvania and then becoming the person who signed the Jackson 5," Barber said.

With his estate finally settled, Steve Popovich Jr. is reviving Cleveland International Records.

"The backbone piece of this is music that we continue to put out that appeals to middle America," Popovich said.

This spring, Cleveland International will re-release about a dozen titles.

"Which includes Meatloaf, it includes Iron City House Rockers, Southside Johnny, Ian Hunter, The Boys" Popovich said.

Popovich said he believes in the label, the music it will distribute and the brand his father so passionately built.

"This isn't about me this is about him, this is about his legacy. As a son, as him being my mentor and best friend, it's the least I can do" Popovich said.

For now, Cleveland International Records will operate out of Nashville, but Popovich said the goal will be to open an office in Cleveland down the road.