With the recent passing of Stuart McLean, I have found myself returning to The Vinyl Café. I still remember my first episode. It was an embarrassingly long time ago, back when I had never even heard of The Vinyl Café or listened to CBC Radio. Upon hearing my declaration, my boyfriend was determined to change that. It was nearing Christmas, so naturally we listened to the episode in which Dave was tasked with cooking the Christmas turkey. For anyone familiar with Dave’s antics you can only imagine how well that worked out. After a few bumps along the way Dave manages to cook the turkey, and saves Christmas. I won’t spoil it for you by explaining how he manages this, suffice to say it is quite the story.
The Vinyl Café quickly became a staple in my life. Prior to attending university, I spent two years teaching English in China. Anytime I was homesick, The Vinyl Café would find its way onto my iPod and I would be comforted by the sounds of home.
The Vinyl Café was a weekly radio show that followed the antics of Dave, his wife Morley, their children Stephanie and Sam, and their colourful group of friends and neighbours. Dave runs a record store called “The Vinyl Café” where the motto is “We May Not Be Big, But We’re Small”. Life is never boring for Dave and his friends, something exciting is always around the corner as the ordinary becomes the extraordinary.
Stuart McLean wrote and hosted each episode of The Vinyl Café. In addition to the tales of Dave and Morley the show featured musical guests and The Vinyl Café Story Exchange. These were listener submitted stories. There were two criteria, they had to be short, and they had to be true.
There was, and still is, something incredibly captivating about the voice of Stuart McLean. I was fortunate enough to attend his last show in Brandon. Not only did I get to sit in the audience, but was able to go backstage and meet Stuart McLean himself. It was a bit of a surreal experience. McLean was an absolute delight and happily signed a copy of one of his many books.
The last season of The Vinyl Café is still available to listen to on iTunes, beginning with the September 9th 2016 episode entitled “The First Day of School”, and ending with the December 30th 2016 episode “Love”. If you have never listened to The Vinyl Café I hope that this encourages you to give it a try. If you have, then your life is better because of it.
Stuart McLean’s memory will continue to live on in the stories he has left for us. He is missed.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 107, Issue 25, March 14th, 2017.