Syracuse University Magazine

John Kellogg '73, G'75


Leadership Performances

"Multitalented" does not quite describe John Kellogg. Attorney, author, singer, and educator, he has integrated an eclectic array of interests and abilities into one very impressive career. Last spring, Kellogg, who serves as assistant chair of the music business/management department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, was elected president of the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association (MEIEA). He assumes leadership of the international organization at a crucial moment in the history of commercial entertainment. "Our key challenge is to remain on top of the changes that are occurring across the world in music distribution models and intellectual property law," says Kellogg, the first African American to head the MEIEA. "While there are those who argue to abolish copyright altogether, artists and companies are struggling to maintain their rights, so it is possible for them to make a living."

When Kellogg enrolled at SU in 1969, sports were more on his mind than music or copyright law. The Cleveland native had watched Jim Brown '57 play for the Browns at Municipal Stadium and even attended the game at which Ernie Davis '62 was introduced to the fans. "I was a high school fullback and wanted to go to the same university as those guys," Kellogg says. "When I didn't get an athletic scholarship, I decided I'd go to Syracuse and make the team. But back in those days, I found out, walk-ons were used as little more than blocking dummies. When I got that message, I turned my attention to music." Working with his roommate, Eddie Hines '73, Kellogg put together The Decade, a 10-piece all-male African American band. After some of the members graduated, the pair reached out into the community. "We decided to open up our auditions to people from the Syracuse neighborhoods and found some great talent," says Kellogg, a political science major who earned a master's degree at the Newhouse School. "We brought in three new members, two of them female singers, and called ourselves 'The New Decade.' We played the Northeast 'chitlin' circuit,' appearing in clubs in Buffalo, Rochester, and on Yonge Street in Toronto." 

Kellogg later was a vocalist for Cameo, a New York City-based group. But even while enjoying those first tastes of show-business glory on stage, he was thinking ahead to other pursuits. "At that time, many artists, especially black artists, were not getting the kinds of contracts they deserved," he says. "I believed that if I had a law degree, I could serve musicians and artists well by representing them." Encouraged by his father, an attorney, Kellogg returned to Cleveland in the late '70s and earned a J.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University. Among his first clients were The O'Jays—known for such hits as "For the Love of Money" and "Backstabbers"—whom he represented for 25 years. He also represented R&B great Gerald Levert.

Kellogg entered a new phase of his career in 2002, joining the faculty of the University of Colorado at Denver, and moving to his current position at Berklee in 2006. Take Care of Your Music Business, Kellogg's audio-and-print information resource, is widely circulated among lawyers and law students in the entertainment field, and he is currently at work on a book about African American entertainment attorneys. Asked how he mustered the confidence to successfully shift career paths several times, Kellogg is quick to credit his father's influence. "My dad was part of the civil rights movement and very proud of the fact that I had options as a result of the struggles he had been through in the '60s," says Kellogg, who was inducted into the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association Hall of Fame in 2005. "He told me, 'Once you've got a college education, you can do anything you want. You can perform on the radio or, if you don't like that, you can own a radio station.' He was right." —David Marc