Cancer Silences One of Canada’s Great Storytellers

Goodbye Stuart McLean

A Brief One from Doug Draper

Posted February 16th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Americans had the late Mark Twain and until this past February 15th, Canadians had Stuart McLean.

Stuart McLean, Canadian storyteller and host of the ever popular CBC Radio program Vinyl Café.

Stuart McLean, Canadian storyteller and host of the ever popular CBC Radio program Vinyl Café.

He was one of the Western world’s most engaging storytellers, , and he was one of the last of the all-time great voices, along with late Barbara Frum of ‘As It Happens’ fame and Peter Gzowski of Morningside,  on CBC Radio over the past 30 or 40 years.

“He had a voice that you could not, not listen to. … You had to listen to the guy,” said Michael Enright, another one of the great CBC Radio broadcasters, Michael Enright, of his long-time friend and colleague who died this February 15th at age 68 following a courageous battle with cancer.

For the past 22 years, Stuart McLean was the storytelling host of the very popular CBC Radio program Vinyl Café, spinning humorous and compelling, homespun talks about his friends Dave and Morley and others, while often book-ending the tales with some very good music performed live by Canadian artists who he enthusiastically offered exposure. The program drew a huge cross-Canada audience and eventually caught won the hearts of audiences across the United States.

One of the most memorable stories from Stuart McLean’s rich library, and one many of his fans urged him to reprise every Holiday Season was ‘Dave Cooks The Turkey’, which thankfully is available on CD or in podcasts online, and if you would like to have a text of the story, it is available in a small book called ‘Dave Cooks The Turkey’ that was published in 2005.

Understandably, many may say I’d rather hear Stuart McLean tell the story than read it in a book, but I find that I have no problem hearing his voice anytime I pick the book up and read a passage like; “The bellboy (at the hotel) took the turkey, and the twenty-dollar bill Dave handed him, without blinking an eye.”

dave-cooks-the-turikeyDave said, ‘You have those big convention ovens. I have to have it bac before 5:30 p.m.”

“’You must be very hungry, sir,’” was all he said.”

“Dave collapsed onto the bed. He didn’t move until the phone rang half an hour later. It was the hotel manager.”

“He said the turkey was in the oven. Then he said, ‘You raised the bird yourself?’ It was a question.”

“Dave said yes.”

“”There was a pause. The manager said, ‘The chef says the turey looks like it was abused’.”

“Dave said, ‘Ask the chef if he has ever killed a turkey. Tell him the bird was a fighter.’”

In the introduction to the book version of ‘Dave Cooks The Turkey’, Stuart McLean wrote; Nothing delights me more than the idea of people coming together around one of my stories to share in laughter. Especially during the darks nights of winter.”

It wasn’t all that many months ago that Stuart McLean announced on his show that he would have to take some time off to undergo more treatment for his cancer and, along with expressing thanks for the many words of supports he had received from listeners, there was a strength in his voice that gave one reason to hope that he would be back.

It wasn’t to be.

The nights of winter will be a little darker now without any more new stories from one of Canada’s greatest teller of them.

Now here, if you would like to click on it, is a podcast of Stuart McLean reciting his classic tale, ‘Dave Cooks The Turkey .

Finally, here is the link to a podcast of the Tribute program Michael Enright broadcast on CBC Radio 1 ti 2 p.m.this February 16th .

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3 responses to “Cancer Silences One of Canada’s Great Storytellers

  1. I think my adult interest in neighbourhoood and community life was coloured by Stuart’s keen eye for details–how the absurb can be cozy, the mundane truly magical – and love makes it all ring true somehow.


  2. Canada’s greatest story teller, indeed! I for one will miss the Vinyl Café and the tales that reminded us so often of our own neighbourhoods and the foibles that are so characteristic of us all. Steven Leacock was a wonderful humourist, but Stewart McLean touched us in a much deeper way without sacrificing the humour. Rather he revealed our vulnerability in a more personal way with which I think most of us could connect.
    Usually ending his tales with an unexpected but very human twist, Mr. McLean helped us see ourselves in light but nonetheless profound and compassionate way: a light shone on our humanity.
    RIP Mr. McLean. You will surely be missed. May your family find comfort in the messages they receive and in the many stories that will keep you close by.


  3. A lot of great people have passed away over the last year or two, and some of them will remain legends forever. I must confess that, out of all of them, hearing of Stuarts’s passing hit me hardest. Stuart will remain a legend, and his stories are eternal.

    I’m going to miss Stuart greatly. And Morley & Dave.


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