Concert promoter Sue McLean has died

Categories: Obituary
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Sue McLean, an independent Twin Cities concert promoter, passed Friday afternoon after a battle with cancer. Any regular show-goer in the region has attended countless shows booked by McLean over the past four decades. McLean is responsible for booking the Basilica Block Party since it began in 1995, the Minnesota Zoo's extensive summer concert schedule each year, the O'Shaughnessy's Women of Substance Series, and dozens of other shows in nearly every club and theater in the Twin Cities. She was 63.

Raised in Dayton, Minnesota, McLean's work in the local music business began after she graduated from St. Cloud State in 1973 with a degree in speech and communication. In her early years she worked for rock promoter Randy Levy, and secured bookings for the Suicide Commandos and Curtiss A before moving on to become a talent buyer for Duffy's Nightclub. Her first booking ever: jazz bassist Charles Mingus at the Bronco Bar in Chanhassen.


Later, she worked at the Guthrie Theater for a decade, and became their special events director -- and retained concert booking gig ever since. She set off on her own in the mid-'90s as an independent promoter, and Sue McLean & Associates was launched in 1998.

As a source of regular advertisements and music coverage for McLean's shows, City Pages has worked closely with her for years, and McLean's office booked our upcoming 10 Thousand Sounds Festival, as well. "She was super helpful, and totally behind it," says CP Advertising Director Mary Erickson.

Former ad rep Tim Dickson relished in-person visits to McLean's office, located a few blocks from City Pages above Bunker's in the Warehouse District. "If you found her in her office she'd be on the phone," he recalls. "But she'd always say 'hi' and get the word on the street. She was one-of-a-kind. She was such a hard worker and she made it look easy."

Dickson says last year's John Prine show at the Zoo said a lot about McLean's character and drive. The country-folk artist had raised concert-goers' (and her) ire when he was 40 minutes late for the regimented start of the show. When he finally did arrive, he apologized to "puppet master" McLean, and made a dedication to her. It speaks to her lengthy relationships with booking high-profile artists, including Etta James, Adele, Brandi Carlile, the Avett Brothers, and umpteen others.

Star Tribune's Jon Bream wrote an excellent profile of McLean last year, which highlighted her prowess in a male- and corporation-dominated industry. Her 2011 Pollstar ranking was 97th in the world with 126,000 tickets sold for 130 shows and nearly $3.7 million grossed. She cited a 2010 Jack Johnson show in Somerset, Wisconsin that drew 17,000 people as her most successful event.

Her niece Patricia McLean has been training in for months, and is taking over McLean & Associates.

In addition to her day job, McLean ran a rock 'n' roll summer camp for girls called Tweentown. She is survived by her adopted daughter Lilly, brother Terry (and his wife Joan), sister-in-law Marilyn, and many nieces and nephews.

From Sue McLean's website:

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McLean's memorial services are at 11 a.m. Friday at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, and the reviewal starts at 9:30 a.m. A reception will come after. Look for details about a musical fundraiser, and a fund for Lilly McLean at McLean's website.

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13 comments
kittynoodle1
kittynoodle1

Why is it necessary to say  her "adopted" daughter?   Stay classy CP (not), you could learn a lot from Sue McLean.

jeff792
jeff792

what a great person. Never met her personally but the work she did  in helping to expand and promote the downtown music scene speaks for itself. she is missed.

jeffmharrington
jeffmharrington

She deserves a statue Downtown.  Seriously.  I will really miss her. What a sweetheart.


jfladager
jfladager

One classy, driven and super wonderful person.  She booked my band in some of the biggest rooms of our lives including sold out MN Zoo shows, the RoyWilkins and countless others.   I'm very sad to hear she has moved on.  Rest in peace.  Thank you for the good music!

mohanlon3
mohanlon3

Many of the BEST TIMES I have ever had were becuase of Sue's work.  She has helped make my life a colorful and joy-filled place.  I always knew I would see a top notch event when she promoted a show.  She was a Grand Lady who will be surely missed by many.

misterswanson
misterswanson

Sue was incredible.  Hearts are breaking across the music biz at the news of such a great loss. So savvy, so funny, so cool, so "everything"!  That was Sue McLean. Rest in peace, Sue.  You have set the bar pretty high. We should all aspire to the standard you have set.


CinderSue
CinderSue

What an amazing woman-so sad to have lost her so young

Amy Guimont
Amy Guimont

You have more than earned your Angel Wings. Now, it's time to rest.

A1batross
A1batross

Tragic. She was quite impressive. Stupid #&^@ cancer.

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