Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award

Rosalie Trombley


Known as “the girl with the golden ear” due to her keen ability to choose hit songs and create music programming that appealed to broad audiences, Rosalie Trombley was a true forerunner for women in radio between 1967 and 1993.

Trombley’s tenure as a music director and one of the few female executives in radio at the time stretched over twenty years. Her decision to give records exposure led to the rise in popularity of countless talented artists, while also solidifying her position as one of the most powerful forces in the industry. Trombley is particularly credited for the breakthroughs of Canadian artists into the United States, including Gordon Lightfoot’s, “If You Could Read My Mind”, The Guess Who’s “These Eyes”, Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby”, Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business”, and Burton Cummings’ “Stand Tall” amongst many others.

Trombley began her career at the AM Top 40 powerhouse, CKLW – The BIG 8 in Windsor, Ontario as a switchboard operator, but before long her talented ear for discovering hit songs led her to become one of the most influential individuals in radio history.

Although CKLW was based in Windsor, it programmed for the Detroit market and the station’s 50,000-watt signal beamed across the American Midwest. In addition to being the #1 rated station in Detroit for many years, the station routinely rated in the top five in multiple Midwest markets in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Having a profound understanding for the unique Windsor-Detroit market, Trombley is celebrated for playing what she believed to be ‘crossover’ hits – songs that appealed to both black and white audiences. Particularly, she persuaded Elton John to release “Bennie and The Jets” as a single, because she instinctively knew it had tremendous potential to ‘crossover’.

Recording artists, both established and aspiring, visited Trombley to promote their latest single releases, and the walls of her office were lined with gold records. Among other artists she is credited with breaking onto the Top 40 CHR charts are: Bob Seger, Kiss, Alice Cooper, The O’Jays, Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament–Funkadelic, Queen, and Aerosmith. In addition, Bob Seger immortalized Rosalie in his 1973 song “Rosalie” from his Back in ’72 album.

Notwithstanding her larger-than-life career, Trombley also raised a young family on her own and was always a strong supporter of women in the industry. Her inspirational leadership and passion for music are carried on through the Rosalie Award, an honour in her name, which recognizes innovative women in radio every year at Canadian Music Week.

Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award

This prestigious award ­ named after Walt Grealis in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments, recognizes individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of the Canadian music industry.

Big or small, Walt was a champion of Canadian artists. He was instrumental in cultivating Canada’s music industry as we know it today.

“Walt Grealis dedicated his life to creating the Canadian music explosion…the sound heard ’round the world,” said long-time friend and business partner Stan Klees. “His goal was to open the door for all artists and build a star system in Canada.”

Affectionately known as ‘Canada’s Music Man’, Grealis was a leading figure in the Canadian recording industry. In the early 1960’s when American acts dominated the Canadian radio waves and Canadian talent was turning to the South, Walter recognized the need to promote Canada’s own ‘star system’. In 1964, Grealis pioneered Canada’s first national recording industry trade publication, RPM Magazine. Grealis used the magazine as a vehicle to promote Canadian acts to radio stations and the record business. RPM Magazine also charted a new course for developing the Canadian music industry by connecting key industry figures across the country.

Walter Grealis was also a key figure in establishing today’s JUNO Awards. In 1964, he and business partner Stan Klees created RPM Magazine’s Gold Leaf Awards, which started out as simply a readers’ poll of favourite artists. By the mid-1970s the awards evolved into a broadcast ceremony that took Canadian talent to the national stage. In 1970, Gold Leaf was substituted for the nickname ‘JUNO’ after the then CRTC chairman Pierre Juneau. In 1993 Grealis was made an Officer in the Order of Canada, the second highest honour that can be bestowed on a Canadian.

In November of 2000, Walt Grealis closed the doors of RPM Magazine after 37 years of weekly publication, including over 7000 charts and countless stories on the music industry in Canada. Walt Grealis passed away peacefully in 2004. He said near the end, “I lived a good life. What I did for a living, most people would like to do for fun.”