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:
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.