The Record Nook sign will shine in Toronto’s Neon Museum

The trailblazing record store became a hub for the city's Jamaican community and reggae scene after it opened in the 1970s


Neon Museum Toronto has acquired the sign that used to hang over the Record Nook, a record store that was a hub for the city’s Jamaican community.

The double-sided sign was discovered at a west-end antiques store and the Downtown Yonge BIA snapped it up, the non-profit organization said.

“Like the iconic Sam the Record Man sign, [the Record Nook] is an important relic from our past and a priceless artifact – a reminder of the major role Toronto played in reggae music history and Jamaican culture,” Downtown Yonge BIA COO and executive director Mark Garner said in a statement.

The sign will eventually be featured in Neon Museum Toronto, a collection of iconic commercial signage that also includes signs from Honest Ed’s, Brown Derby, Imperial Six and the Hard Rock Café’s guitar that once hung over Yonge and Dundas.

The Neon Museum Toronto now has a management board and is planning to install the collection in pop-ups, laneways and eventually in a permanent location. The Record Nook sign could go on display at the organization’s next exhibit.

Located at 1400 Bathurst (near Vaughn), Record Nook was an emblem for Jamaican Canadians, many of whom migrated to Toronto in the 60s seeking work. Lord Tanamo, a ska pioneer, and his Skatalites collaborator Jackie Mitoo opened the store in the 70s and it became the spot to pick up releases by renowned Jamaican label Studio One.

“I think it was in 64 that the Eaton’s company sent for me, through the Jamaican Tourism Board, to come to play some shows in Canada with the rumba box,” Tanamo said in a 2002 interview with NOW. “When I arrived in Toronto, I liked the multicultural atmosphere and I guess I fell in love.

“It happened at a show,” he continued. “I saw a young girl crying at the front and I asked if my music was making her sad. She told me it was actually making her happy. For some reason, I married her, and I’ve been trapped here ever since.”

Toronto’s place in the reggae and dancehall world cannot be understated. The city became a creative hotbed for the genre beginning the 60s. By the 70s and 80s, the strip of Eglinton West between Marlee and Dufferin known as Little Jamaica was lined with record shops, studios and venues.

@justsayrad

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