Stuart McLean and The Vinyl Cafe visits Yates Centre Friday for two shows.
“If we don’t have a favourite place that we go to — the fall tour has always been our favourite one because it’s congenial and the weather is always nice,” said McLean.
McLean, who in 2011 was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, was busy this past summer writing stories for his annual fall tour.
“The show on-stage is a stage version of the radio show but it’s more than the show. The show on the radio is like 54 minutes and it’s one story and some music. The story exchange, when we do it on the stage — it’s a full two hours, with usually two or three stories and live music and some other stuff. Stuff that we can’t do on the radio. I can kind of engage the audience,” added McLean, who is also a professor emeritus at Ryerson University in Toronto and former director of the broadcast division of the School of Journalism.
Western Canada, according to McLean, has been very supportive over the years. Especially during his formative years when travelling the road in a mini-van across the prairies, which included Manitoba and the rest of the western provinces. “I learned the trade and the craft of being a troubadour, I guess.”
McLean noted the tour trucks along the country in sections, as to not overstay “The Vinyl Cafe’s” welcome.
“We try to go to most towns every two years. Now, the big centres, we go every year at Christmas time. We have the big annual Christmas tour and we’ll go to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa — places like that. The rest of the country, we try and visit every two years and we do it kind of month-long or two to three-week sessions,” said McLean.
There’s places in Canada and abroad where McLean has been, where he has had a wonderful and magical night, but those places change over the years. Once in a while, McLean said, something special will happen to make it a particular memory.
“There’s no special place. It sounds cliche to say but it’s almost every night. You step off stage every night and say that was fantastic. It’s like visiting a friend — that’s what it feels like to me, especially now because we’ve been to all of these towns. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years touring now. I’ve been to these towns seven or eight times. You feel like you’re coming home to friends. You know a little something in each town or something feels familiar — a place where you go in and have a lunch or hotel you stay at or a walk that you’ve done by the river or a park you’ve sat in and you go and do it again and you just sort of feel at home in a weird way,” said McLean.
McLean, during his early days of broadcasting made radio documentaries for CBC Radio and in 1979 he won an ACTRA Award for Best Radio Documentary for his contribution to the program’s coverage of the Jonestown massacre.
McLean’s vast library of “Vinyl Cafe” books have all been Canadian bestsellers, since “Stories from The Vinyl Cafe” was published in 1995.
Over 2 million people listen to “The Vinyl Cafe” every weekend on CBC Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. The program is also broadcast on U.S. public radio stations and occasionally on the BBC.
In 2013, “Time Now For The Vinyl Cafe Story Exchange” collection was released.
“It’s a fantastic book, which I can say because I didn’t write it. It’s a collection of stories people sent in from across the country. I said, when we started the story exchange, maybe after a decade if everybody wrote in their story that we would in some way create a picture of the country. These stories, I read them all at once for the first time and I thought — you’re laughing at some and kind of tearing up on others. It’s a wonderful read. I’m very proud of that book,” said McLean, who likes to take time writing his own books.
According to McLean, the next book might come out a year from this month — another collection of short stories.
“There’s a lot of pressure from the publisher to bring one out this year but I resisted the pressure. I want to make sure I have time to do it right and make sure it’s a good collection before I put it out there.”
Around Season 14 of the radio show, McLean and his producer talked about how long the show was going to go on and it was decided to go to Season 20, which has already been surpassed.
“That was last year. We just finished planning out Season 21. We’ve stopped talking about when we’re going to stop,” said McLean.
“We still have a lovely time.”
Stuart McLean and “The Vinyl Cafe” with special guests The Joe Trio.
Tickets are still available for the 2:30 p.m. show. The 7:30 p.m. show is sold out.
Tickets are $59 plus additional charges and are available online to purchase at http://www.enmaxcentre.ca.