Rosalie Trombley (born circa 1939) was a music director of AM Top 40 powerhouse CKLW - also known as "The Big 8". Her influence altered the direction of CKLW and led to an annual award named after her. She was the subject of the song 'Rosalie' by fellow Detroiter Bob Seger.
CKLW was a Windsor, Ontario based Detroit market AM Top 40 radio station powerhouse. With its 50,000 watt signal at 800 kHz on the AM dial, CKLW covered the midwest states including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, as well as southwestern Ontario. It has been stated that on night pattern the station could be heard in at least 23 US states and four Canadian provinces. A ratings leader in the competitive Detroit market, CKLW was at one time a part of the RKO General chain of Top 40 radio stations that used the Bill Drake "Boss Radio" format. In its heyday in the early to late 1970s the station was the third or fourth most listened to station, cumulative audience, in North America, outranked only by WABC, New York; KHJ, Los Angeles; WLS, Chicago.
Her career with the station began as a part-time switchboard operator on Labour Day weekend of 1963, before she was offered a full-time position in the station's music library a few years later. As CKLW's popularity boomed and Rosalie became more and more influential, her job title became "Music Director". Trombley served as Music Director from 1968 through 1984, at which time the station changed formats to classic Big Band Jazz.
The term "crossover hit" owes much of its definition to Rosalie's ability to pick artists from urban and rock playlists and cross them over to CKLW and their CHR Top 40 format, which in that era of radio, was the most listened-to format as defined by cumulative audience listenership and reach.
Trombley is legendary in the history of AM Top 40 radio and was known for her ability to pick future hits. Artists that have acknowledged her pivotal role in their success through early belief and airplay include Elton John, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Earth, Wind & Fire, Anne Murray, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Guess Who, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, Gordon Lightfoot, The Stylistics, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Aerosmith.
A 1973 Billboard article notes her role in promoting the Skylark song "Wildflower", playing it for over three months as an album cut before its release as a single. CKLW was notable for breaking many national hits, including The Carpenters "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft" in the summer of 1977.
Seger immortalized her in his 1973 song "Rosalie" from his Back in '72 album ("She's got the tower, she's got the power / Rosalie"). The song has been covered by the band Thin Lizzy, on their 1975 album Fighting. Sources differ on Trombley's opinion of the tune. Some say she hated it and even threatened to quit if the station added it to their playlist; others insist that the programmer actually was flattered by it, but was worried about potential conflict-of-interest charges. Either way, CKLW never played "Rosalie", although the song did receive airplay on other Detroit stations, as well as other top-40 outlets as far away as Idaho.
Recording stars both established and aspiring visited Rosalie to promote their latest single releases, and the walls of her office were lined with gold records. Trombley fashioned a station that would appeal to black as well as white listeners by featuring soul and R&B product, especially the Motown sound for which Detroit was famous. The "Rosalie Trombley Award" honours women who have made their mark in broadcasting, and is presented during Canadian Music Week.
Trombley has been inducted into the Motor City (Detroit) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Week Broadcaster's Hall of Fame. She is now retired and still living in Windsor, Ontario.
Toronto based Markham Street Films released a documentary on CKLW in 2003 entitled Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of The Big 8. The documentary is a look at the history of the station and Trombley's contributions to the station's success are among the focuses of the documentary.
On June 14, 2011, a scholarship in Rosalie's name was announced by St Clair College, for their Music Theatre Performance program. On June 16, Rosalie received an honorary diploma from the Music Theatre Performance program.