Vinyl Cafe: Now and Then

Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Café
The Vinyl Café ran from 1994 until 2015 as an hour-long variety show aired by CBC Radio One and carried by the BBC and public radio in the U.S.  The show combined the best of Stuart McLean’s talents:  fiction, essays about communities, and spotlight stories about local heroes.  Stuart also included indie musicians in his show because he loved music and wanted to bring important talent, such as Danny Michel, to the Canadian public.  The Vinyl Café gets its name from the fictional second-hand record shop owned by Dave and Morley, beloved characters Stuart created.  The daily antics that they, their children and pets, neighbours and friends get into were the heart of the radio show.  
Stuart McLean’s gift was to pay attention.  He had a poet’s eye for small, unusual details and a slow-paced way of telling a story that expressed his love of nuance, quirks, and comical absurdities.  Running through his storytelling is his characteristic optimism, humanity, and appreciation for the dignity of the common person.  As Sutharsani, one of our staff member’s mothers tells us,   
“When I came to Canada as a refugee, I started listening to CBC radio to improve my English, but of all the shows on CBC, Stuart McLean’s was one I found that actually spoke to the people. He never spoke as if he was better than the people he was speaking to. His work was for and rooted in the real experiences of working-class people from the topics he discussed to the jokes that he made; it was always rooted in community. Some people may not know what Stuart Mclean looked like, but everyone who listened to The Vinyl Café remembers his stories and that unforgettable voice that made us all feel like we were seen and heard.” 
Stuart McLean came to our festival the summer of 2008 and from the Main Stage he wove his magic.  He died February 15th, 2017 after a two-year struggle with melanoma.  We miss him.

Jess Milton was the long-time producer of a popular, long running radio show: The Vinyl Cafe. As producer of The Vinyl Cafe, Milton oversaw all aspects of the show, producing both the  weekly radio broadcast and podcast and an extensive touring show across North America.  In the past 15 years, Milton has produced over 1,000 live concerts in every province and territory in Canada.  Since The Vinyl Cafe went off the air at the end of 2016, Milton has formed her own company,  Jess Milton Productions Inc., and has worked as a consulting producer. She produced a three-month national tour for The Walrus Foundation (The Walrus Talks). She works with Canadian musicians to produce their live shows and tours, has developed two radio shows and podcasts, and she creates and presents workshops on subjects such as podcasting, storytelling and audience engagement.

The only good thing about not shopping in record stores anymore is you won’t have to figure out what genre to look for Danny Michel under: rock, pop, folk, world or (recently) even classical. His own self-described musical A.D.D. has kept his music fresh for decades. His thoughtful lyrics & charming performances have earned a devoted fan base, multiple nominations for Junos, The Polaris Prize, CBC’s “Heart Of Gold”, and most recently the CFMA’s “Producer of the year” and “Oliver Schroder Pushing the Boundaries” Awards. But Danny considers his career highlights to be the unique real life moments like performing for Jane Goodall’s 85th birthday party, touring with Stuart McLean and working with charities close to his heart.

Scroll to Top