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Canada Has Lost An Icon: Sam ‘The Record Man’ Sniderman Has Died
September 24, 2012
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It almost seems strange now, but before we hit the digital age, we really only had one place to get music - the record store. And at one time, THE place to go to to get music was Sam The Record Man.

Well today, Canada received sad news. Sam Sniderman, the owner of that iconic chain of music stores, has died at the age of 92.

Sam's career in Canadian music started when he began selling records out of his brother Sid's radio store on College Street in Toronto.

Why did he decide to start selling records? For the same reason a lot of young men get into music: according to one of his sons, Sam was trying to impress a girl.

Sales went well, and in 1959, Sam opened his store on Yonge Street.

The store in 1973

The flashing neon signs on the front of the building became a landmark in Toronto where music lovers hung out, flipping through boxes of vinyl and talking about tunes.

The shop was also famous for its Boxing Day sale. Every December 26, huge crowds would line up outside the store hours before it opened, hoping to get a bargain. Sam also opened a chain of smaller record shops across the country.


Sam has been recognized many times for his work promoting Canadian music. In 1976, he received the Order of Canada.

He was also inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, and received the Governor General's award and honorary doctorates from Ryerson and the University of Prince Edward Island.

After a long career of bringing music to the masses, Sam retired from the record store business in 2000.

Although a lot of Canadian music lovers will always remember shopping at one of Sam's stores, they are closed now. On June 30, 2007, the Yonge Street store shut its doors for good.

The iconic sign was lit up one last time that night:

But although it's no longer on display, the sign still exists - Ryerson University took over the building, and they've promised to preserve Sam's neon.

For a taste of the salesmanship and personality that helped Sam become a huge success in Canadian music, check out this vintage commercial for his store from 1987 (who knew Pierre Trudeau, Gordie Howe and Sam all hung out as kids?):

And for a series of pictures of the flagship store, appropriately set to Rush's 'Spirit of Radio,' check out this video by YouTube user tjackson76b:

A lot of people are sharing their memories of Sam today. Check out Alan Cross talking about how Sam's stores helped turn him into the music expert he is today right here.

Roots Music Canada has a great remembrance of Sam by Steve McNie, who recalls Sam selling him a new Rolling Stones record for 65 cents back in 1967, even though the price on the disc was $1.90. Check that out here.

And lots of music lovers have taken to Twitter to share their thoughts on Sam.

Alan Doyle (@alanthomasdoyle): RIP Sam the Record Man. One of the nicest men I ever met in or out of the music business.

Jian Ghomeshi (@jianghomeshi): End of an era with the passing of Sam "The Record Man" Sniderman. One of the good guys who shaped the Canadian music business. RIP Sam's.

The JUNO Awards (@TheJUNOAwards): RIP Sam "The Record Man" Sniderman. Sam was a true lover and supporter of Canadian music.

Eric Alper (@ThatEricAlper): How many music fans and Canadian music industry peeps spent time in Sam The Record Man as a teenager? Everyone. RIP Sam Sniderman.

Raffi (@Raffi_RC): Music fans remember Sam the Record Man - Your Community Sam helped my indie label, Troubadour, get going.

And this should give you an idea of how important Sam was to this country: the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, has released a statement about Sam's death.

It reads, in part: "It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Sam Sniderman.

Best known as the founder of the renowned Canadian record store chain Sam the Record Man, Mr. Sniderman was a keen fan of Canadian music and a strong advocate for Canadian content broadcast regulations and the creation of the Juno Awards...

He will be remembered for his constant support of Canadian talent and concern for the preservation of our cultural heritage.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sam Sniderman."


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