At one point in the 1970s, the most powerful person in North American radio was Rosalie Trombley, the music director for the legendary Big 8 CKLW in Windsor, Ontario.
With a high-energy Top 40 style and a 50,000-watt signal that covered not just neighbouring Detroit but close to 40 states, getting your song added to the Big 8 playlist could be your ticket to stardom. But you had to get past Rosalie first.
Rosalie began as the station’s receptionist in 1963 before getting a job in the music library in 1968. A couple of years later, she was running the joint, a rare, rare thing for a woman back in those days. But Rosalie knew her stuff and was soon known as a woman with golden ears.
Here’s a short list of artists she helped break: Bob Seger, Kiss, Alice Cooper, The O’Jays, Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament–Funkadelic, Queen, Gordon Lightfoot, The Guess Who, Paul Anka, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Burton Cummings. She insisted that Elton John release “Bennie and the Jets” as a single when everyone was hedging on it. And Bob Seger was so desperate to get a song on the Big 8 that he wrote a song about her.
Rosalie stayed at CKLW until 1984 before moving on to WLTI-FM in Detroit and later CKEY in Toronto.
In 2005, the Radio Trailblazers was recreated. This group offers mentorship and advocacy for women in Canadian radio. There’s even a special award named after her.
Rosalie passed away on Tuesday (November 23) at the age of 82. Another member of the golden age of AM radio is gone.
(Feature photo: Broadcast Dialogue)