News has reached us of the sad passing of Jon Ackerman in Johannesburg recently. As the founder and owner of Street Records, Jon was one of the most important players in the history of independent South African record shops and was someone who never lost his affection for vinyl records, and continued to sell them wherever and whenever he could after Street Records closed.
Back in the ‘70’s, if you were a music ‘junkie’, the best indie record shop in Joburg was Street Records, which was situated in Braamfontein directly across Jan Smuts Avenue from Wits University, alongside Herman Wald’s bronze buck water feature and next to our legendary university pinball haven, Pop’s ‘Corner’ Cafe.
The massive Hillbrow Record Centre, and its nearby competition, Look & Listen, may have had the superior volume of stock but the staff in those two shops were mostly graduates of the ‘Eugene De Kock School of personalised service’ and their prices were high, so we shopped there, but reluctantly.
Street Records on the other hand had the very genial and devoted Jon Ackerman as its proprietor – alongside warmly-remembered friendly and helpful staff members like Di, Sarah, and Sharon (Tandy) – and he consistently served up a continuous flow of imported Rock, Punk and New Wave albums which, if you couldn’t afford the R10.99 price tag, were also available for borrowing and taping from the Street Record Library located upstairs in the shop.
Either way Jon made it possible and affordable for us to hear all the hip new music that we were reading about in the NME. I remember as if it were yesterday when I walked into Street and John held up the first Clash album cover in triumph, put the needle down on the first track, and time stood still, kind of, as we heard ‘Janie Jones’ for the first time.
My personal record collection still has many of those imported LPs with the iconic round yellow “Street Records” labels, a guarantee of quality. These days when a batch of records comes into Mabu Vinyl, any sighting of those labels is cause for excitement as it is a sure sign that some top Punk or New Wave LP’s are around……
Jon always played guitar and had enjoyed a brief career as a muso with the 60’s Johannesburg band ‘The Bassmen’. For many years Jon’s cousin, Ian Osrin, worked with Jon to help build Street Records into the seminal Joburg indie record store. When Street Records closed, Osrin went on to pursue his career as a music engineer and occasional pop star (he and Jon were behind the famous Oom album called ‘Beats and Peaces’) while Jon carried on selling records at small shops and flea markets in defiance of the new CD craze.
I am sure that there are many South African vinyl record users from the old Joburg days who will join me in remembering Jon with great affection and appreciation. Our sincere condolences go out to the whole Ackerman family. R.I.P.
Stephen “Sugar” Segerman (Mabu Vinyl)