Thursday February 16, 2017

Stuart McLean (1948 - 2017)

Listen 24:40

Stuart McLean, who hosted The Vinyl Cafe for more than 20 years right here on CBC Radio, died yesterday after a battle with cancer. 

He invited us into the world of The Vinyl Cafe, a fictional secondhand record store — the "world's smallest" record store, we were told. McLean breathed life into the store's owner, a bumbling roadie named Dave, his long-suffering partner Morley, their kids Stephanie and Sam, and a cast of other characters who filled Dave's universe. 

McLean made us laugh and won several top awards for his humour. But more than that, he made us think about our own lives. He delivered universal truths, which is what made him such a special storyteller. 

Stuart McLean


'He knew the rules and he liked to break them'

Julie Penner was the music producer for The Vinyl Cafe and worked alongside McLean for 12 years. Penner describes her experience on the show as "pretty much the ideal work situation," and together, they made it a goal to highlight young, undiscovered music in Canada.

But he was also a fan of Canada's greatest talents, as Penner recalls the time McLean played Mary Margaret O'Hara's "I Don't Care" on his show. "He stopped at the end and just said, 'That was so beautiful, I would love to just hear it again,' and so he just played it again," Penner says, which of course is not a common thing to do on the radio. "He knew the rules and he liked to break them."  

Stories From the Vinyl Cafe

Stuart McLean (CBC Still Photo Collection)

'A playful, mischievous guy'

Toronto folk band the Good Lovelies had the pleasure of touring with McLean and The Vinyl Cafe in 2010 and 2013, and as member Sue Passmore remembers, "It was something we'd never experienced before." 

"It was a blast," she continues. "He's a lover of music, he loves musicians and he was just a huge supporter of music."