Music » Music Feature

Polka Pandemonium

Beachland honors a legend

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Steve Popovich, who died last year at 68, was a Cleveland music legend. He cold-called Cleveland polka king Frankie Yankovic to land his first music business job in the warehouse of the local CBS Records branch in 1962. By the late '60s, he was in New York working with people like Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. When an unknown named Meat Loaf was rejected by every major label, Popovich moved back, formed Cleveland International, and out of his house in Willoughby worked ceaselessly to turn Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell into one of the best-selling albums ever.

Popovich had moved to Nashville to be near his son and grandsons, but he was often back in Cleveland, where he would check out bands from a barstool at the Beachland. "He made a point to reach out to people he knew every time he came back," says Beachland owner Cindy Barber. "He'd take us out to dinner; it was a big extended family."

It's appropriate then that the Beachland is hosting the First Annual Steve Popovich Polka Pandemonium with Texas' Brave Combo this Friday at 8 p.m. The $15 admission benefits the Steve Popovich Legacy Foundation, which, says son Steve Jr., will provide scholarships to Northeast Ohio music schools.

Popovich was known for his passion for polka and Eastern European immigrant culture in general.

"One of the things he wanted to do is get kids to recognize their heritage," says Jr.

"He always found a way to implement polka music into what he was doing at the time. In 1999, Cleveland International won the polka Grammy with Brave Combo's Polkasonic. It made sense to bring things back full circle with Brave Combo."

Tradition Tweaking

Tremont-based acoustic string quartet the Luckey Ones is new to Cleveland's music scene at about a year old. But their music — powered by banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic guitar — sounds as old as the hills with its folk/blues/bluegrass flavors.

The group is releasing its debut CD, Giving It to Yourself, with a show from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Tremont's Visible Voice Books. Night Owl open; the free show is part of the store's Friday and Saturday music series.

Although the music sounds traditional, guitarist Brandon Scheel says all 12 songs were written by himself, violinist Justin Boothroyd, banjo player Chris Valentine, and mandolin player Chris Daw.

"I got into old blues and folky music that has a history to it," says Scheel. "Everybody has a different version of the same song, so we do a lot of those songs our way. Out of that came writing our new songs in the same tradition."

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