In some ways, the Michael Stanley Band’s Aug. 25, 1982, sold-out show at Blossom Music Center was just another night at the Cuyahoga Falls shed.
For years fans had filled increasingly larger venues to hear Rocky River-native Michael Stanley and his seven-man group play songs about the places, situations and subjects to which they could so easily relate — cuts like “Lover,” in which Stanley ponders a breakup while driving down a snowy Ohio Turnpike and “In the Heartland,” which chronicles the happenings at various Cleveland locations at exactly 10:35 p.m. one night.
But something about this particular evening seemed different. The Michael Stanley Band was playing Blossom four nights in a single week! Fans — even hardcore ones who’d seen multiple shows during multiple-night stands — marveled at it as they stood in lines to buy drinks and T-shirts. The band’s 1980 album Heartland had yielded a Top-40 hit, “He Can’t Love You.” And “In the Heartland,” off their 1981 effort North Coast, had climbed to No. 6 on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart.
The Michael Stanley Band packed 74,404 people into Blossom over Aug. 25, 26, 30 and 31, 1982 — an attendance record that still stands. And the popularity that fueled those sellouts propelled Stanley into a multifaceted career that would make him a bright enduring thread in Cleveland’s cultural fabric after the group disbanded — a stunning development precipitated by record label EMI dropping them and marked, appropriately enough, by an unprecedented 12-night goodbye at the Front Row Theater during the 1986-1987 holiday season.
By November 1987, Stanley had begun a multi-Emmy-winning gig co-hosting WJW-TV8’s edition of the syndicated PM Magazine, winning over viewers with an on-camera presence that was both polished and down-to-earth. (Those who knew him best said he never turned down a request for an autograph or photo.) The voice that sold so many records and concert tickets put him in the afternoon drive-time seat at classic rock station WNCX-FM in 1990, a job he would hold for three decades.
At the same time, Stanley solidified his status as Cleveland’s poet laureate by continuing to write, record and perform, even as he bravely faced one health crisis after another with Cleveland-you’ve-got-to-be-tough grit. He and his band, The Resonators, remained popular enough to become a tradition, whether it was during a holiday stand at what is now MGM Northfield Park or a summer amphitheater show.
The sellouts continued after Stanley’s death from lung cancer at age 72 last year. Tickets for three December celebration-of-life concerts at MGM Northfield Park were snapped up faster than any previous show in the venue’s history.