Legendary Canadian radio programmer Rosalie Trombley dies at 82

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)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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