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Steve Popovich (July 6, 1942 – June 8, 2011) was a Serbian American record company executive, notable for launching and guiding the careers of many famous artists through his work with the CBS label family, including The Jacksons, Cheap Trick, Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Bob Dylan, and, perhaps most famously, Meat Loaf.
Popovich was born in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, a coal-mining town. In the late '50s, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he joined a Cleveland-based rock band, the Twilighters, part of a small group of popular local R&B-based bands who launched the area rock scene in the pre-Beatles era.
In 1962, he began an inventory control job in the warehouse at Columbia Records' local branch. His enthusiasm and ear for music was noticed, gaining him a promotion to the sales desk, where he handled local Cleveland sales and radio and TV promotion for such artists as The Buckinghams, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Joe Royal, Johnny Cash, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and Simon & Garfunkel. His talent was soon noticed by executives and in 1969 Ron Alexenburg, Director of Promotion at Columbia, promoted him to become his assistant.
In 1972, at the age of 30, in recognition of his work, legendary record executive Clive Davis appointed him the first Vice President of Promotion for Columbia Records, making him the youngest VP at CBS at the time. As VP of Promotion, his local and regional staff continued their work with The Buckinghams, Johnny Cash, and Paul Revere & the Raiders, and also worked to maximize the careers of such artists as Loggins & Messina, Jerry Vale, O.C. Smith, Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, Shel Silverstein, Boz Scaggs, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, Janis Joplin, Marty Robbins, Lynn Anderson, Tom Rush, David Bromberg, The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, Dave Mason, West, Bruce & Laing, Mahavishnu Orchestra, It's a Beautiful Day, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Johnny Mathis, Chicago, Percy Faith, Tony Bennett, Peter Nero, Earth, Wind & Fire, Taj Mahal, The Manhattans, The Wombles, Mark Lindsay, Tony Bennett, Eric Andersen, Andy Williams, Ray Coniff, David Essex, Chambers Brothers, Miles Davis, Mott the Hoople, Johnny Winter and others.
He was VP for A&R at Epic Records working with Epic head, Ron Alexenburg, for 1974–1976. Epic A&R – Popovich and Alexenburg, and their A&R staff consisting of Greg Geller, Tom Werman, John Boylan, Becky Mancuso-Winding, etc. were instrumental in signing and launching the careers of: Jaco Pastorious, Boston, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Wild Cherry, Suzy and the Red Stripes, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Betty LaVette, ke, Doc Severensen, Joe Tex, Dave Loggins, Michael Murphy, Charlie Rich, The Soul Children and others.
He was founder and president of Cleveland International Records 1977–1982, whose greatest claim to fame was Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, which is currently at 40 million records worldwide. The label also found worldwide success with Jim Steinman’s solo album Bad for Good, Ellen Foley Night Out album, BJ Thomas, The Rovers, Michael Kamen/Dick Wagner, Slim Whitman, the Boyzz Too Wild to Tame, Eddie Middleton. Management and/production of Ian Hunter/Mick Ronson and production of Tom Jones, The Iron City Houserockers, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and Ronnie Spector. The company’s first single was in 1977 featuring "Say Goodbye to Hollywood", Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band produced by Miami Steve Van Zandt.
In 1986 he was SR Vice President Polygram Nashville working with Statler Brothers, Tom T. Hall, and Kathy Mattea and signing Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Paycheck, Frank Yankovic (winner of First Polka Grammy 1986), Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, Donna Fargo, David Lynn Jones, Everly Brothers, and special projects like The Class of ’55 Album featuring Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
Cleveland International Records, 1995–2011: David Allan Coe, Frank Yankovic, Brave Combo, Eddie Blazonczyk, Singing Nuns, Chas & Dave, Michael Learns to Rock, and Roger Martin.
Promotion Awards: National Promotion Man of the Year 1972–1973 Billboard Magazine as voted by radio.
Clive Davis Award presented to Steve Popovich and Ron Alexenburg for Promotion Excellence.
In 1997 Popovich was inducted into the National Cleveland-Style polka Hall of Fame.
Popovich has been involved as co-producer and/or label in six Grammy nominations and winner of two.
- Grzegorek, Vince (2011-06-09). "Steve Popovich, Cleveland Music Legend, Dies at the Age of 68 | Scene and Heard: Scene's News Blog | Cleveland Scene". Clevescene.com. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- "Label Blew Meat Loaf's biggest". Jim Steinman. 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- "Trustees Honor Roll". Clevelandstyle.com. Retrieved 2009-03-15.