Stuart McLean, the host of CBC Radio's The Vinyl Café and an award-winning humorist, died on Feb. 15 at the age of 68. As news broke of his death, on CBC radio, it is likely that many people instantly heard the sound of his voice in their heard and recalled a story he had told.
McLean was a radio icon for many and even if you weren’t a fan, you still knew his trademark story telling style and you inevitably have a relative that listened to his stories religiously or even owned audio copies of them.
McLean was born in Montreal and attended private school before moving on to Concordia University where he received a bachelor’s degree. He started his career as a freelance journalist and according to the CBC that is when he began to develop his trademark style of storytelling.
He eventually became a regular fixture on CBC and his love of telling the stories of strangers brought him to The Vinyl Café. Originally, the show was a variety show featuring music by Canadian artists, essays and stories, but the program's main attraction became the ongoing tale of fictional Canadian couple Dave and Morley, as well as their kids, Sam and Stephanie.
Among his other accomplishments, McLean was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2011 and he also held honorary degrees from a number of Canadian universities. He also taught broadcast journalism at Ryerson University for 20 years.
In November of 2015, McLean revealed that he had been diagnosed with melanoma and cancelled a number of tour dates. He has expected to reconvene the tour, but in late 2016 he announced that he was suspending The Vinyl Café to deal with cancer treatments. Sadly, McLean lost the battle.
In the days following McLean’s death, many of McLean’s colleagues at the CBC have put together tributes to the iconic storyteller.
Shelagh Rogers called McLean “a Canadian ganglion, our connective tissue. He was our ear, our stethoscope.”
She went on to say: “I am so grateful how much he cared. For the stories he told. For how he made us laugh, for how he made us feel about our country. How he helped us understand it, and ourselves. For the good he saw in us.”
It is clear that he was loved by many and his storytelling will live on.