The Story of Rosalie Trombley

Rosalie Trombley was the influential music director of CKLW from 1968 to 1984.

Rosalie Trombley was the influential music director of CKLW from 1968 to 1984.

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.

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W.P. Kinsella’s guide to writing fiction

My favourite author reads from his novel Box Socials.

My favourite author reads from his novel, Box Socials.

I was thumbing through my old copy of Thrill of the Grass, a collection of short stories by W.P. Kinsella, and was struck by a sentiment that echoes something I said to a friend over coffee: fiction should entertain the reader. A corollary to this credo is that non-fiction should inform the reader and any writing that can accomplish both at the same time deserves a doff of the cap.

In the introduction to Thrill of the Grass, Kinsella writes:

“The storyteller’s craft evolves from the time when the tribe sat around the campfire in the evening and someone decided he wanted to brag about his hunting exploits. “Listen to me!” he said. “I want to tell you a story.

If that story was not colourful and entertaining, the audience very soon disappeared. As it should be. A writer’s first duty is to entertain. If something profound, symbolic, or philosophical can be slipped in, along with the entertainment, so much the better. But if the element of entertainment is not there, the writing becomes treatise, essay or autobiography, and the writer has no right to call it fiction. Ultimately, a fiction writer can be anything except boring.”

This is a great touchstone for a writer. Kinsella wrote this way and that’s perhaps why I enjoy his writing — although the subject matter helped as he often wrote about baseball.

Much fiction fails, Kinsella said, because it is too autobiographical and the lives of 90 per cent of the population are so dull, nobody could stand to read about them. The other 10 per cent live such absurd lives that they are unbelievable. The challenge is to create a perfect mix of the believable and the absurd as well as a perfect mix of reality and imagination.