Rosalie Trombley’s life is a quintessentially Canadian story.
Why? Because her modesty and desire for privacy have largely kept her story out of the limelight. Some people know about her because it’s tough to keep a story like hers in a can forever. It’s disappointing how some people get fame for doing little or nothing yet someone like Rosalie Trombley, who deserves fame, accolades, and respect, remain largely unknown.
She was a single mom of three who started working at CKLW in Windsor, Ont. Nicknamed The Girl With the Golden Ear, she demonstrated an ability to pick songs that would become hits. She started using that talent at CKLW and soon, the fourth-most listened to station in North America (yes, it trailed only radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) became a trend-setter.
Record company executives and musicians would visit her office on Thursdays and try to convince her to play their record. If she liked it, and played it, it became a hit. She was bold, bucked conventional wisdom, worked hard researching what her listeners wanted, and never compromised her principles.
In the male-dominated world of commercial radio, Rosalie Trombley of Leamington, Ont., became one of the most influential people on the North American music scene during her tenure as CKLW’s music director from 1968 to 1984.
With a 50,000 watt transmission tower, CKLW reached into as many as 30 states in the U.S. and wielded more influence than the CBC could ever dream of. Her unique view of music, and a willingness to play all kinds of music — including R&B and soul — recognized that music has a unifying force on people and provides people with something to share. Not only did CKLW do this without a dime of taxpayers’ money, it faced the constant badgering and red tape from the CRTC, which failed to recognize what CKLW had accomplished and could only think of rules and regulations for it to follow.
Rosalie Trombley’s story is an inspiration for women, for people who start from humble beginnings, and for people who dare to do things differently. Tony Orlando once said there should be a movie about her life. The first draft of the script has been written and it will be read tonight.