Back in the 1970s when Cleveland became synonymous with rock n’ roll, the late Steve Popovich formed Cleveland International Records. The label had a huge hit right out of the gates with Meat Loaf’s 1977 album Bat Out of Hell and would go on to garner Grammy nods and other accolades.
While Popovich still ran the label, it filed a lawsuit against Sony Music, which had produced copies of Bat Out of Hell without the Cleveland Internataional logo on them. Now that the suit has been settled, Popovich’s son, Steve Popovich, Jr., has relaunched the label.
“Cleveland international is a family business and has been around for 40-some years,” says Popovich Jr. in a recent phone interview from his Nashville home. “After my father’s passing [in 2011], I was finally able to close down his estate. [The label] was something I knew I wanted to reactivate. My father was really proud of creating and establishing a label in Cleveland and calling it Cleveland International Records. It was a label for heartland America. Now that the estate settlement is over, I’m proud and anxious to relaunch the label and start moving forward.”
Founded in 1976, the label hit hard times in the early 2000s.
“When Napster came through, that really put a dent into the industry,” Popovich Jr. explains. “Dealing with the estate has been extremely grueling. I’ve been doing it for the past seven years. I’ve been through the ringer with that, but I’m pleased to say that that chapter is over with. I can continue on and pick up the torch of my father’s legacy.”
Currently, the label has some apparel for sale. It also announced that it’ll reissue the 1995 Cleveland Rocks compilation that features tracks by Ronnie Spector, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Euclid Beach Band and Ian Hunter.
“We’ll be reissuing old albums and releasing albums from new bands too,” says Popovich Jr. “I think the Cleveland Rocks compilation is the perfect album to relaunch the label with. We’ll also be reissuing a lot of the back catalog from 1995 to 2002, including David Allan Coe and Roger Martin and a lot of the polka titles we owned. My father was proud of his heritage in polka music, and we want to keep that alive.”
The label has 10 to 15 reissued titles slated for 2019, and none of those reissues have been available as digital downloads or through streaming services. You can find updates on the website, clevelandinternational.com.
Popovich Jr. is also working on a documentary film about his father.
“For my father, that logo was his calling card for life," he says. "That’s what he wanted his kids and grandkids to remember, so it’s important to keep that aspect of the logo on the forefront of everything we do. There have been a couple of variations on it over the years, but we’re going to be using the original. It’s really iconic.”