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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Packed house on opening day

Photo by Devaan Ingraham / www.devaaningraham.com

Temptress! Sophia Smart (Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons) turns on the charm and Richard Clod (Rob McIntyre) is sure it is against regulations in this scene from Department of Common Sense. Photo by Devaan Ingraham

As a playwright, your job is done before rehearsals begin and long before the curtain rises on a play. When it’s your first play, though, the work is never done. The cast of Department of Common Sense have put so much sweat and toil into this play that they deserve an audience to give them a little extra energy. That’s where my new role of producer comes into play because one of my responsibilities in that role is publicity.

We had great media coverage leading up to our first performance as part of the 23rd Atlantic Fringe Festival in Halifax, and I was delighted to see a packed house for the cast. It was a bit of a steam bath at DANSpace — one audience member quipped it would be great for hot yoga — but the cast persevered and delivered a great show that people enjoyed. It was hot, not as hot as the picture of Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons (above), but still hot. Kudos to my friend Devaan Ingraham for this great production still.

We learned after the show that Stephen Cooke of The Chronicle Herald attended the play. I waited anxiously for the review — the first time a newspaper had reviewed my play — and I celebrated with a beer after I read this.

I think the cast, and our director Nick Jupp, should take another bow.

Department of Common Sense

DCS-production still-6

When I used to work in government, I would often joke about ridiculous ideas or policies needing to be vetted by the Department of Common Sense. No such department exists — unfortunately — except in my first play.

I took one of my favourite stories from my time in government and I turned it into a play. When I would go to parties and tell this story, people’s jaws would drop, but, as absurd as it was, they did believe it because governments and bureaucrats can do some pretty stupid things. Sometimes, it can be enough to make you want a stiff drink, like the character of Adele Courage above in a scene from the play.

I took that story and built a play around it. It’s a fictional tale of a straight-talking, tequila-sipping government minister who gets two whip-smart women on his staff to take on a persnickety bureaucrat in a battle of wills and wits.

It will make you shake your head in dismay, nod your head in understanding, or seethe with anger. It might make you do all three, but it is sure to make you laugh. We have a fabulous cast including Lianne Perry, Mark Adam, Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, Rob McIntyre, Neil Van Horne and Fiona MacKinnon. Nick Jupp did a great job as our director and had a hand in the development of the script when he acted as a dramaturge for me when I took part in the Theatre Arts Guild’s inaugural Playwrights’ Festival.

To learn more about my play, check out this link to the play’s blog or see our Facebook page.

It will be on stage for six shows during the 23rd Atlantic Fringe Festival. Check out the Atlantic Fringe and support local theatre. Hope you enjoy the show.