Stuart McLean died February 15, 2017, at 68 years of age and I’m deeply saddened. What a loss.
I’ve have been listening to Stuart since the 70’s when he joined joined Peter Gzowski’s radio show
This Country in the Morning which was later called Morningside. Stuart appeared once a week with a tale of some some experience he had during the past week. The topics were wide ranging, but they all had a taste of the everyday-Canadian doing ordinary things. Humour was never far from the surface.
Stuart’s real pièce de résistance started in 1984. This is when he created and presented a new weekly radio show called The Vinyl Cafe which he continued every weekend until 2015. On this show he presented to us documentary talks, interviews, and stories. Every weekend he gave us a new chapter of the ongoing story of Dave and Morley, their family, friends and neighbours. The stories and characters couldn’t have been anything else but Canadian. His stories about them often made me laugh out loud, but I also learned how clever, thoughtful, and knowledgeable Stuart was.
Besides the Dave and Morley stories Stuart would always start his show with a vignette of whatever town or city he was in on any given week. No matter where they were in Canada I always felt that I could go there and feel at home. He would talk about people he had met and ordinary places he had visited in the town. From the response of the local audience he obviously picked well known and popular places in the local community. He cleverly augmented these vignettes by identifying the people who frequented or worked at these places—some owners, some employees, and some patrons. Listening to him they all seemed so familiar.
Stuart lightened my day while giving me an interesting education about Canada and other Canadians.
The Arthur Awards show happened every year and was a departure from his normal material. These were intended to commend various people who had performed extraordinary but common little deeds that too often go unnoticed. He picked these from recommendations sent in by listeners. He would surprise a person to whom he was to make an award by phoning them while on the radio. Those were always delightful moments. The most heart-rending one was when he accidentally dialled the wrong number and got hold of a teenage lad who was going through some tough times in his life. Stuart didn’t hesitate to carry on talking with him. The conversation was uplifting for the boy, Stuart, and me. Sadly, Stuart has delivered his last Arthur Award.
I’m sure the CBC will continue to replay shows for a while, but like everything else creative it won’t be broadcast forever without its creator. The end will come. The good news is that Stuart wrote books and recorded CDs. The CBC has an archive of many podcasts of Stuart at his best, so reminiscing will be possible for a long time. Still, I will continue to wonder what Dave and Morley, their kids and neighbours are up to. I’ll just assume they are living their rather normal, Canadian lives with some abnormal hiccups in their days that Stuart always wove into his weekly story for us every Saturday with his perfect storytelling voice.
Goodbye good man, I will miss you.
Now I need to stop and wipe a tear from my eye.