Canadian music legend Sam Sniderman, Sam the Record Man, died Sunday at 92 years of age.
Before iPods and digital downloads, the Toronto-born Sniderman was one of the most powerful men in Canadian music, operating a chain of music stores anchored by his iconic Yonge street location, just north of Dundas on the east side, which he opened in 1959. His giant red flashing neon sign above the store was as much a Toronto landmark as City Hall or Union Station and savvy music fans considered the store with its uneven, cracked tile floors, dusty shelves and informed staff an essential stop. Ryerson is now turning the lot where the store once stood into their "front door."
He started selling records in his brother Sidney's Sniderman's Radio Sales and Service store in 1937.
Sniderman was very much the musical equivalent of theatre's Ed Mirvish, a booster of Canadian talent who turned his love of the arts into a thriving business - at least until technology changed the game.
I remember heading downtown from my pre-teen home in Flemingdon Park, clutching hard earned cash and being greeted by the man himself as I headed into Sam's. He seemed as excited as I was about the treasures I would find there.
Sniderman was a keen fan of Canadian music and made sure this country's artists were always featured prominently in his stores. Sam's even had significant space for indie Canadian acts in addition to the country's established artists. His Indie Wall was a highlight of any visit to Sam's and I routinely found artists we would later feature in NOW.
Sniderman wanted to help build a Canadian "star system" and the signed photos of top Canadian acts that lined his walls helped, so did racking Canadian discs so close to the cash registers. He was a big supporter of the Juno Awards too.
Sniderman retired in 2000 and while the digital deluge would probably have extinguished his stores anyway, Sam's was never quite the same without its namesake. He was a big supporter of NOW, the magazine was distributed from his stores from the beginning and his advertising helped pay some early bills.
Rest in peace Sam Sniderman, and thanks for the tunes.