Stuart McLean

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Stuart McLean

Stuart McLean (cropped).jpg
McLean on stage at the Centennial Concert Hall in 2008
Andrew Stuart McLean

(1948-04-19)April 19, 1948
DiedFebruary 15, 2017(2017-02-15) (aged 68)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alma materSir George Williams University
Occupation(s)Radio broadcaster, writer, professor of journalism
Years active1974-2017
EmployerCBC Radio
Notable workThe Vinyl Cafe
SpouseLinda Read (1982–2002)
AwardsOfficer of the Order of Canada

Andrew Stuart McLean, OC (April 19, 1948 – February 15, 2017) was a Canadian radio broadcaster, humorist, monologist, and author, best known as the host of the CBC Radio program The Vinyl Cafe.[1] Often described as a "story-telling comic" although his stories addressed both humorous and serious themes,[2] he was known for fiction and non-fiction work which celebrated the decency and dignity of ordinary people,[3] through stories which often highlighted the ability of their subjects, whether real or fictional, to persevere with grace and humour through embarrassing or challenging situations.[4]

Personal life[edit]

McLean was born in Montreal West, the eldest of three children to Australian immigrant parents Andrew McLean and Margaret Godkin.[5][6][7] McLean became interested in radio programming as a child, when his father bought him a Motorola radio to occupy his time while recovering from sickness. This fascination with radio stayed with McLean throughout his adult life as he pursued a career in media and journalism.[1]

McLean was educated at Lower Canada College and Bishop's College School in Quebec.[8] He admitted to feeling like an outsider to the other students at the private school, feeling neither athletic enough nor smart enough to fit in.[7] McLean graduated from Sir George Williams University with a B.A. degree in 1971.[1] Following his graduation, he worked in student services for Dawson College, and as campaign manager for Nick Auf der Maur in his first Montreal City Council election.[7]

McLean married Linda Read, a potter, in 1982.[6] They had two children together, Robert and Andrew, and McLean was stepfather to Read's son, Christopher Trowbridge, from her first marriage.[9] McLean and Read later divorced in 2002.[10]

He was also a sponsor of the YMCA's Camp Kanawana, establishing a charitable fund to provide financial support for underprivileged youth to attend the camp,[11] and served as honorary colonel of the Canadian Armed Forces' 8 Air Maintenance Squadron at CFB Trenton.[11]

Media career[edit]

Early work[edit]

McLean first joined CBC Radio as a researcher for Cross Country Checkup in 1974,[12] later becoming a documentarian for the radio program Sunday Morning.[13] He won an ACTRA Award in 1979 for "Operation White Knight", his Sunday Morning documentary about the Jonestown Massacre.[14] From 1981 until 1984 he was the show's executive producer.[15]

McLean was a professor of journalism at Ryerson University from 1984 until 2004, when he retired and became a professor emeritus.[1] When he died in 2017, former students of McLean recalled how he concerned himself with their success in the journalism industry. CTV reporter Scott Lightfoot remarked, "I went to university twice, I took a lot of courses, I never had another professor offer to make phone calls on my behalf."[16]

During the 1980s and 1990s, he was a frequent contributor to and sometime guest host of Morningside,[13] for which he often produced human interest documentaries and audio essays about everyday people and places.[17] He would later characterize his Morningside work as celebrating "the importance of being unimportant",[18] and as ultimately helping him find his own voice as a writer.[19] Morningside host Peter Gzowski remembered fondly the work McLean did for the program: ”On the surface, they seemed inconsequential, but in fact they were exquisitely crafted pieces of journalism.”[20]

McLean eventually compiled a selection of his work for Morningside in his first book, The Morningside World of Stuart McLean.[21] The book was a Canadian bestseller and a finalist for the 1990 Toronto Book Awards.[1][22] Following the success of his first book, McLean was approached by Penguin Books to write a travel memoir about life in small-town Canada.[20] Released in 1992, Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada[23] featured stories from seven small communities, and won the Canadian Authors Association for best non-fiction book in 1993.[24]

McLean often reported for CBC news programs The Journal and The National, where he focused on human interest stories, talking to "regular people" and delving into their often funny or poignant experiences. These segments about everyday people helped to inspire The Vinyl Cafe, which in the same vein looked at the lives of average Canadians.[7]

The Vinyl Cafe[edit]

In 1994, McLean launched The Vinyl Cafe as a summer series featuring stories about a fictional second-hand record store.[25] Although the early stories focused on a diverse group of characters loosely linked through the titular Vinyl Cafe record store, by the time the series became a permanent one the stories were focused more squarely on the store's proprietor, Dave, and his family and friends.[26] Following the show's second summer run in 1995, McLean published Stories from the Vinyl Cafe, his first book in that series.[27] The show joined CBC's permanent regular-season schedule in 1997.[28]

Stuart McLean on stage at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Beginning in 1998, McLean took The Vinyl Cafe on the road to theatres across Canada and the United States.[13][26] Some stories would be repeated at multiple shows—in particular, an early story about Dave's awkward attempt to cook a turkey for Christmas dinner became one of the most famous and most frequently performed stories of McLean's career[29]—but McLean would often perform slightly different versions of the stories to keep his audiences engaged.[30] One episode of The Vinyl Cafe each year was also dedicated to the "Arthur Awards", McLean's own awards program to honour acts of kindness and community engagement by ordinary Canadians that might otherwise "go unheralded and even unnoticed".[31]

The Vinyl Cafe was broadcast every weekend on CBC Radio, and later as a weekly podcast.[32] McLean's books of stories from The Vinyl Cafe won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour three times.[1] Several albums of his performances of Vinyl Cafe stories were also released. In the 2010s a spinoff edition, Vinyl Café Stories, aired on CBC Radio in a weekday afternoon time-slot, featuring two previously broadcast stories on interrelated themes.

Cancer treatment and death[edit]

Following McLean's diagnosis with melanoma in November 2015, The Vinyl Cafe stopped touring and producing episodes.[33] McLean announced on December 13, 2016, that he required a second round of treatment, meaning further delay in producing episodes, and that repeats of past shows would stop airing on CBC Radio One effective January 2017 to "make room for others to share their work on the radio."[32] McLean died of cancer on February 15, 2017, in Toronto, aged 68.[7][34] His archive was donated to McMaster University.[35]

One day after his death in February 2017, a tribute special hosted by Michael Enright under the title Canada's Storyteller: A Tribute to Stuart McLean, aired on CBC Radio; it was repeated the following Sunday in The Vinyl Cafe's former timeslot.[36] CBC Radio's documentary series The Doc Project produced a special episode after McLean's death, re-airing his 1979 Sunday Morning documentary "The New Goldrush",[37] while Cross Country Checkup devoted a tribute episode to its own version of the Arthur Awards, asking callers to share stories of acts of kindness that had made a difference in their lives.[31] In April 2018, Cross Country Checkup devoted a second episode to the question "Who would you nominate for Stuart McLean's Arthur Awards?"[38]





  • ACTRA Award for best radio documentary for coverage of the Jonestown Massacre (1979)
  • Canadian Authors Association Best Non Fiction book for Welcome Home (1993)[24]
  • Rooke Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Writing: Trent University (1994–95)
  • Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, Home from the Vinyl Cafe (1999)[61]
  • Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, Vinyl Cafe Unplugged (2001)[61]
  • Canadian Authors Association Jubilee Award, Vinyl Cafe Diaries (2004)[62]
  • Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe (2007)[61]
  • Officer of the Order of Canada, awarded in 2011 "for his contributions to Canadian culture as a storyteller and broadcaster, as well as for his many charitable activities".[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Stuart McLean Archived February 16, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ "Vinyl Cafe gets up close and personal; Stuart McLean tells the tales". Edmonton Journal, October 30, 1998.
  3. ^ "Telling tales: Stuart McLean is one of Canada's most beloved storytellers". Ottawa Citizen, January 29, 1999.
  4. ^ "'The Vinyl Cafe' Radio Show Host Stuart McLean Dies at 68". The Hollywood Reporter, February 15, 2017.
  5. ^ "C'mon in to the Vinyl Cafe: CBC storyteller McLean brings make- believe and music to Montreal". Montreal Gazette, November 19, 1998.
  6. ^ a b "McLean, Stuart 1948-". Contemporary Authors, January 1, 2006.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Stuart McLean dead at 68". CBC News. February 15, 2017. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  8. ^ – via PressReader. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Stuart McLean, Who Created Radio’s ‘The Vinyl Cafe,’ Dies at 68". The New York Times, February 17, 2017.
  10. ^ "Stuart McLean's bent vision". The Globe and Mail, October 18, 2003.
  11. ^ a b "Stuart McLean, Canadian Radio Legend, Dies at 68". Billboard, February 15, 2017.
  12. ^ "He's a radio junkie". Victoria Times-Colonist, November 8, 1998.
  13. ^ a b c "Stuart McLean, longtime host of CBC Radio’s ‘Vinyl Cafe,’ has died". Toronto Star, February 15, 2017.
  14. ^ "CBC scores landslide in ACTRA awards" The Globe and Mail, April 5, 1979.
  15. ^ "CBC marriage works, as it happens". The Globe and Mail, November 28, 1981.
  16. ^ "Stuart McLean, former Ryerson journalism professor, dead at 68 |". Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  17. ^ "The ups and towns of being an author". The Globe and Mail, January 4, 1993.
  18. ^ "Gentle voices overheard at The Vinyl Cafe". Financial Post, January 27, 1996.
  19. ^ "Stuart McLean, the man of a thousand stories". Toronto Star, December 6, 2013.
  20. ^ a b "From the Archives: A profile of Stuart McLean". Ottawa Citizen. February 16, 2017. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  21. ^ "McLean's Morningside". Ottawa Citizen, January 20, 1990.
  22. ^ "Contest finalists announced". Toronto Star, February 28, 1990.
  23. ^ "McLean`s book lifted by people". Calgary Herald, December 5, 1992.
  24. ^ a b "Slice of life comes from smalltown Canada". Calgary Herald, October 22, 1993.
  25. ^ "CBC revamps weekend schedule". Edmonton Journal, July 2, 1994.
  26. ^ a b "Vinyl Cafe a star vehicle for McLean". Kingston Whig-Standard, February 13, 1998.
  27. ^ "Consummate storyteller unveils memorable collection". Kingston Whig-Standard, November 4, 1995.
  28. ^ "CBC Radio changes name and schedule: Renaming of two networks reflects massive restructuring of programming". The Globe and Mail, August 20, 1997.
  29. ^ "Vinyl Cafe brings a new bird". Victoria Times-Colonist, November 22, 2012.
  30. ^ "Vinyl Cafe's McLean returns to Grand". Kingston Whig-Standard, January 29, 1999.
  31. ^ a b "Remembering Stuart: What everyday act of an ordinary person in your community do you think should be honoured?" Cross Country Checkup, February 19, 2017.
  32. ^ a b Bruce DeMara, "McLean steps down from his Vinyl Cafe: CBC Radio host says year-long battle against melanoma is not going 'exactly as planned'". Toronto Star, December 14, 2016.
  33. ^ "Stuart McLean cancels Vinyl Cafe Christmas tour due to melanoma". CBC News. November 21, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  34. ^ "Stuart McLean, bestselling author and host of CBC Radio's 'Vinyl Cafe,' has died". National Post. February 15, 2017. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  35. ^ "Stuart McLean's archives to live on at McMaster University". CBC News. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
  36. ^ "Canada's Storyteller: A Tribute to Stuart McLean". CBC News, February 16, 2017.
  37. ^ "Celebrating a side of Stuart McLean you may not know: documentary maker". The Doc Project, February 16, 2017.
  38. ^ "Bringing back Stuart McLean's Arthur Awards: who would you nominate and why?". Cross Country Checkup, April 23, 2018.
  39. ^ McLean, Stuart (1989). The Morningside World of Stuart McLean. ISBN 9780140260663.
  40. ^ McLean, Stuart (1992). Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada. ISBN 9780140157291.
  41. ^ McLean, Stuart (1995). Stories from the Vinyl Cafe. ISBN 9780140251029.
  42. ^ McLean, Stuart (1996). When We Were Young: A Collection of Canadian Stories. ISBN 9780670873289.
  43. ^ McLean, Stuart (1998). Home from the Vinyl Cafe. ISBN 9780670882168.
  44. ^ McLean, Stuart (2001). Vinyl Cafe Unplugged. ISBN 9780140299144.
  45. ^ McLean, Stuart (2003). Vinyl Cafe Diaries. ISBN 9780670044368.
  46. ^ McLean, Stuart (2005). Stories from the Vinyl Cafe 10th Anniversary Edition. ISBN 9780143050698.
  47. ^ McLean, Stuart (2006). Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe. ISBN 9780670064465.
  48. ^ McLean, Stuart (2006). Dave Cooks the Turkey. ISBN 9780670064458.
  49. ^ McLean, Stuart (2008). When We Were Young: An Anthology of Canadian Stories. ISBN 9780143169062.
  50. ^ McLean, Stuart (2009). Extreme Vinyl Café. ISBN 9780670064472.
  51. ^ McLean, Stuart (2010). The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks. ISBN 9780670064731.
  52. ^ McLean, Stuart (2012). Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe. ISBN 9780670064748.
  53. ^ McLean, Stuart (2013). Time Now for the Vinyl Cafe Story Exchange. ISBN 9780670064755.
  54. ^ McLean, Stuart (2015). Vinyl Cafe Turns the Page. ISBN 9780143193845.
  55. ^ McLean, Stuart (2017). Christmas at The Vinyl Cafe. ISBN 9780735235120.
  56. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Discography of Stuart McLean at AllMusic
  57. ^ Stuart McLean. A Story-Gram from Vinyl Cafe Inc. ISBN 9780968303191.
  58. ^ Stuart McLean discography at Discogs
  59. ^ Stuart McLean. Vinyl Cafe Storyland. ASIN B001GCENHW. ISBN 9780973896527.
  60. ^ Stuart McLean. Vinyl Cafe The Unreleased Stories. ASIN B074TJY3WG.
  61. ^ a b c d "Stuart McLean, longtime CBC Radio personality and bestselling author, has died". Quill & Quire, February 15, 2017.
  62. ^ "CAA Jubilee Award for Short Stories". Retrieved March 26, 2011.

External links[edit]