The JUNOS remember and pay tribute to the legendary radio hitmaker, Rosalie Trombley who passed November 23, 2021.
A pioneer in music radio broadcasting, Rosalie Trombley, was best known for her unique ability to discover songs that would later become smash hits. This talent is what earned her the title of “girl with the golden ear” and has made her one of the most influential individuals in radio history.
Trombley began her illustrious career as a receptionist and switchboard operator at the AM top 40 radio station, CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. She was promptly promoted to music librarian and then music director, where she established her reputation as a legendary tastemaker.
Trombley’s method was simple: if the track was good she would play it. As a result, it quickly became known amongst the industry that the only way to be featured on CKLW was if you had a legitimate record. Her uncanny intuition and profound understanding of the station’s audience made famous songs out of tracks like “Stand Tall” by Burton Cummings and Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby.”
CKLW’s powerful 50,000 watt signal also made the station hugely popular in Detroit and the American Midwest, opening the door for many Canadian musicians to break through into the United States. Trombley’s selections for airplay are credited with jumpstarting the international success of countless artists including The Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot, and Alice Cooper.
“She’s quite the mediator — a smoother operator, you will never see. Knows music. No music till you see — She’s got the power, got the tower, Rosalie.”
– “Rosalie” written by Bob Seger
Randy Bachman recalls Trombley first seeing the potential in Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s hit song, “Taking Care of Business.” Trombley was confident it would receive “Elton John real estate” across every station if given the right treatment. With her guidance, the song became a worldwide sensation and an inspiration for generations of aspiring rock artists.
Trombley also made a significant impact on the career of Bob Seger, inspiring him to write “Rosalie.” The track, originally written as a personal message to Trombley, describes her influence on the industry and her success at picking and predicting hits. It has since been covered by Thin Lizzy as well as The Sheepdog’s who described it as a tribute to a “great Canadian legend.”
“She’s quite the mediator — a smoother operator, you will never see,” The lyrics say. “Knows music. No music till you see — She’s got the power, got the tower, Rosalie.”
In 2016, Trombley was awarded the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award in honour of her contributions to the industry. Her impressive twenty-year tenure as a music director and one of the few female executives in radio has helped pave the way for women in broadcasting and led to the success of many talented Canadian artists.
CKLW continues to operate as one of the premier Canadian AM radio stations, but not without thanks to Rosalie Trombley’s influence.