Music director, Radio station Producer
Rosalie Trombley was born September 18, 1939 in Leamington, Ontario. In 1968, she was hired by Radio Station CKLW. First, she worked as a receptionist and switch board operator. Later, she was promoted to the music library. She was then asked to become the music director for CKLW. She had the uncanny ability to pick songs which would become big hits on the radio. Because of her ability, she became known as “”he Hitmaker” and ‘the Girl with the Golden Ears”. She continued to influence the play charts throughout the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. In 1970, Rosalie was given a promo record called “Eightee”. She thought that this would be a hit, and this was how she launched the career of Alice Cooper. She retired from this position in 1984 when CKLW was struggling with Canadian-content regulation. After leaving CKLW, she became the music director at radio station WLTI-FM in Detroit; after that, the music director at CKEY in Toronto.
In 1979 she was honoured by an invitation to attend the White House Dinner for the Black Music Association. At the White House, she met President Jimmy Carter.
She received many other awards. In Detroit, she received an award from the Detroit Music City. In 2011, she received an honorary degree from St. Clair College and the Rosalie Trombley Scholarship at the college was established. In 2005, she was awarded the Radio Trailblazer Award – mentoring and inspiring Canadian women in radio. This award was named the Rosalie Award after the first recipient, Trombley.
In 2016, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) is awarding the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award to Trombley at the Juno Awards in Calgary.
Her ability to spot hit songs influenced the musical careers of Canadian performers including the Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Gordon Lightfoot. Her radio recommendations also launched the careers of U.S. artists Bob Seeger, Kiss, and Earth Wind and Fire. Alice Cooper gave her credit, and said “We owe her everything”.
She also gave advice to Sir Elton John. She told him to release the song “Bennie and the Jets” as a single and it became one of his most widely known hits. Indeed, many music listeners across North America owe her a great deal.
Rosalie received many music awards for her contribution to music, but none could be better than having a song dedicated to her. Bob Seger wrote his song “Rosalie” about the CKLW music director.
Rosalie Trombley died on November 23, 2021.
For more on the life and influence of Rosalie Trombley see this short video produced by the Windsor Public Library Digital Branch.
Chen, Dalson. “Girl with the Golden Ear: Local Radio Legend Trombley to Receive Special Juno Award.” Windsor Star, January 19, 2016, Section A.
Chen, Dalson, Local radio legend was “girl with the golden ear” Windsor Star, November 25, 2021, Section A, p. A2,
Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8. Directed by Michael McNamara. Markham, Ont., Canada: Markham Street Films Inc., 2005. DVD.
Bliss, Karen. The Legacy of Rosalie Trombley, Radio Pioneer Immortalized in Bob Seger’s “Rosalie” and Breaker of “Bennie and the Jets” Billboard. January 26, 2016. Accessed March 3, 2016.
Carson, David. Grit, Noise, and Revolution : The Birth of Detroit Rock “N” Roll. Ann Arbor, University Of Michigan Press, 2005.
Rockin’ down the Dial : The Detroit Sound of Radio from Jack the Bellboy to the Big 8. Troy, Mich., Momentum Books, 2000.
The official dedication at the Junos when she passed away. https://junoawards.ca/blog/remembering-rosalie-trombley-the-girl-with-the-golden-ear/