Richard Allan “Dickie” Kline, known for his stint as head of radio promotion at Atlantic Records, died Tuesday at 82. His family cited natural causes.
Kline, a short, energetic powerhouse of a man, was both self-assured and a fast talker. While senior VP at Atlantic Records, he managed to break such acts at radio as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Eric Clapton, Bette Midler, the Spinners, ABBA, Roberta Flack and others across a wide spectrum of genres from rock and R&B to pop.
His work with Foreigner in 1976 laid the foundations for the band’s phenomenal success that over the years yielded sales of more than 50 million albums.
Commented his former colleague, one-time Atlantic Records President Jerry Greenberg, “Dickie and I both joined Atlantic Records in the late ‘60s, each hired by Jerry Wexler. We both came from record promotion and we worked very close together breaking Atlantic artists. Managers and artists all loved Dickie because they knew how hard he worked for all of them. He was one of the best national promo guys in the biz and like another brother to me. Everyone at Atlantic loved him.”
Born in 1938 and raised in Brooklyn, Kline landed his first job in the music industry in 1958 as a sales rep for Syd Nathan’s King Records alongside future industry shakers Bob Krasnow and Seymour Stein. He later worked at Walt Disney Records and then at London Records before being recruited by Wexler to join Atlantic in 1967.
Known as “Dickie” to friend and business associates, Kline was critical to the success of Atlantic partners Stax/Volt Records artists Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and Otis Redding, as well as Atlantic’s roster of artists including the Bee Gees, the Rascals, Cream and Aretha Franklin.
During the spread of the civil rights movement, Kline’s work in radio promotion in the South with Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, James Brown and others found him not just crossing them over to reluctant radio programmers but also battling segregation and racism — and, for the New York-born, Jewish Kline, anti-Semitism, as well.
Said legendary manager Shep Gordon, “Dickie forgot more about how to make a hit record than I ever knew. A fiercely loyal friend. He will be missed by many.”
Honored as Billboard Trendsetter of the Year in 1975, Kline became general manager of Polydor Records in 1978, leading the label to success with Gloria Gaynor, Peaches & Herb, Alicia Bridges, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Blondie, 10cc and Benny Mardones, while helping to develop such up-and-coming artists as Michael Bolton and Cyndi Lauper. He later served as president of the independent label Radio Records, signing Dutch sensation Stars on 45, whose Beatles medley shot to No. 1 in June 1981.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation in his memory to the National Coalition for the Homeless, an organization that advocates for increased public investment in affordable housing, services, and resources for housing stability, as one of Kline’s personal passions was helping the homeless.
Following Kline into the family business was his son, Better Noise label group COO Steven Kline. Kline is also survived by his sister,Julie; his other sons, Jeff, a pioneering e-commerce retailer, and Jason, a geologist; his daughter-in-law, Andrea, and grandchildren Amanda and Jaron.
Roy Trakin worked with Dickie Kline at Polydor in the late 1970s.