b. Yorktown, Saskatchewan, Canada. A stalwart of the Canadian blues scene for three decades, this Winnipeg, Manitoba-based singer and songwriter has been a profound influence on western Canadian blues artists.
The son of a Presbyterian minister, he was introduced to blues as a teenager through his brother Grant’s record collection. In 1969 the two brothers travelled to Toronto for the Mariposa Folk Festival. There McLean was introduced to singer John Hammond, who gave him some informal guitar lessons, teaching him to play Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m A Man’. He began his professional career by working audiences at the Regina Folk Club, where his social worker mother helped out in the kitchens. Among the many artists he subsequently influenced are Wide Mouth Mason and Colin James. James first met McLean when he was nine years old at the Regina Folk Club. He helped produce McLean’s 1998 album For The Blues... ‘Always’, an attempt to spread his appeal beyond Canada. Remarkably, this was only his second album. His debut, 1989’s Muddy Waters For President, was recorded at the Bud’s On Broadway club in Saskatoon (it was subsequently reissued by Homemade Music). According to McLean, ‘I only put that album out so fans would have something to listen to when I wasn’t around.’ However, For The Blues... ‘Always’ was a more considered piece of work, distilling the best moments from 18 songs recorded over three days at Colin James’ Rat’s Ass studio in Vancouver. James provided acoustic and slide guitar, with other Vancouver musicians including Norm Fisher (bass), Eric Webster (piano) and Chris Norquiest (drums) contributing. The final 10 selections included ‘Little Red Rooster’ (Willie Dixon), ‘Just Your Fool’ (Little Walter), ‘Dust My Broom’ (Elmore James), ‘Rollin’ And Tumblin’’ (Muddy Waters) and ‘Cakewalk Into Town’ (Taj Mahal). McLean had originally intended to record an album of originals, before he was persuaded to put his ‘classic blues repertoire’ on record. The total budget for the recording was just $1, 600. It was followed by a collaborative effort with Calgary guitarist Tim Williams ? an acoustic blues album entitled Fellow Travellers.