Sam ‘The Record Man’ Sniderman remembered
Published Monday, September 24, 2012 6:28AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 24, 2012 10:12PM EDT
Artists, friends and residents remembered Sam “The Record Man” Sniderman and his iconic Yonge Street store Monday, following news the music industry icon had died at the age of 92.
The founder of the legendary Canadian music store chain died in his sleep on Sunday.
Sniderman’s family confirmed the news is a statement, saying he passed away peacefully in his sleep while surrounded by loved ones.
Sniderman was beloved by Canada’s music community. He opened his flagship music store on Toronto’s Yonge Street in 1959, launching a company that would eventually include more than 100 stores country-wide.
Residents shared their memories of Sniderman and his record store with CTV Toronto.
“I bought one of my first records there, back in the early 70s and I was really sad to see it go,” said one resident.
Another resident said the staff at Sam’s was exceptional.
“I do remember the staff being incredibly knowledgeable unlike some other record stores when you walk into them. I remember going back and buying vinyl there,” she said.
Supporter of independent Canadian music
Music industry expert Eric Alper said Sniderman was a major supporter of Canadian music and would go out of his way to stock Canadian artists in his stores. Canadian bands such as the Barenaked Ladies and Moxy Fruvous were able to sell their albums through Sam the Record Man before they were famous.
“He actually put their music front and centre into his store beside the Rolling Stones and The Who,” said Alper.
“It is unimaginable that the music scene would be the same in Canada without Sam Sniderman,” Alper told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday. “He had a whole section for independent music, artists that weren’t signed to a record label yet.”
Alper, label acquisitions director for eOne Music Canada, said Sniderman played a significant role in his childhood, and helped form his love of Canadian music.
“I remember when I was 11 or 12 years old, one of the first times that I got to go downtown by myself, my first stop was Sam the Record Man. When you were a teenager you drive up and down Yonge Street on a Friday or Saturday night … and you stopped off at Sam the Record Man,” Alper said.
“There are so many people in the music industry that got their first job working at Sam the Record Man stories across the country.”
Musician Steven Page, formerly the lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies, remembered Sniderman, and his willingness to sell the band’s first independent album “Yellow Tape.”
“Sad to hear of the passing of Sam Sniderman,” Page wrote on Twitter. “Sam's was THE ‘late-night record shop,’ & was a huge part of the success of BNL's Yellow Tape.”
During his life, Sniderman was named a Member of the Order of Canada, was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. He was also a Governor General Award recipient and received honorary doctorates from Ryerson University in Toronto and the University of Prince Edward Island.
"Sam was the last of the great Canadian showmen that were able to establish themselves as household names purely through the force of their personality,” Brian Robertson, a close family friend and Chairman Emeritus of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, told The Canadian Press.
"He was a mentor to literally hundreds of Canadian artists and musicians and the Yonge Street record store and Sam's presence there was the centre of the Canadian music industry's universe for over three decades."
A Canadian record store empire
Sniderman began the Sam the Record Man empire by selling records out of his brother Sid’s radio store in 1937. In 1959, Sniderman opened his flagship store near Yonge and Dundas Streets in downtown Toronto.
At its peak, Sniderman’s 140 stores were handling between 15 to 20 per cent of all Canadian record sales.
The company was forced into bankruptcy in 2001, but the Toronto store remained in business until 2007. The iconic building, complete with a flashing red neon sign, was sold to Ryerson University in 2008.
Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson University, expressed his condolences to Sniderman’s family on Monday.
“Sam was a Toronto original who has left an indelible mark on the city and on the Canadian music scene,” Levy said in a statement.
“Through his unique and successful business, which became a national enterprise, he brought energy and excitement to Yonge Street, and through his passion for music he provided encouragement and support to a generation of Canadian artists.
Sam the Record Man was a wonderful friend and neighbour of Ryerson University for almost 50 years. We are proud to be developing our new Student Learning Centre on the site of the former flagship store on Yonge Street.”
According to Sniderman’s family, a service will be held on Tuesday and a memorial service will be announced for October.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Andria Case