column written by Art Vuolo, Jr.
Last Tuesday evening (June 14, 2011) was reserved for "the woman with the golden ear" known as Rosalie Trombley. She was the longtime music director of CKLW (The Big 8) at a time when that radio station was a driving force in pop music top 40 radio! It was back when its massive 50,000 watt signal blanketed 28 states and 4 provinces at night. If CKLW played your record....it became a hit...period. To get it on the air, however, it had to impress Rosalie, and that was no easy task.
When I was in high school I remember a guy in my gym class, who was usually out jamming with his band, by the name of Bob Seger. He was a year ahead of me at Ann Arbor High School (now known as Pioneer). He wanted his music on CKLW so badly that he actually wrote a song called "Rosalie" in tribute to her, but she swore it would never be played on The Big 8. However, a lot of Seger music DID make it on the air and he has acknowledged openly that she was instrumental in making him a star!
Bob Seger was not alone. She also helped a few other notable pop and rock acts like: Alice Cooper, Elton John, Tony Orlando, Gordon Lightfoot, and groups like: Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Earth Wind & Fire, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes and many more. She had the power and the tower.
The tribute, on Flag Day, was spectacular. It was also the birthday of Rosalie's long-time friend and former CKLW traffic reporter Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor. Jo-Jo is still doing traffic on stations like WWJ and WOMC via Metro Traffic Services here in Detroit.
The event drew a crowd estimated at between 250 and 300 people at the Centre for the Arts at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario. The primary MC was Charlie O'Brien, morning host on oldies CKWW-AM 580. Later the baton was passed to Tony Orlando! Some of the notables on hand in person were: Pat Holiday and Brother Bill Gable, newsman Keith Radford plus Bob Seger's manager Punch Andrews, Jerry Adams of Harmony House, record promotion executives Craig Lambert and Denise George and legendary funk brother of the Motown era Dennis Coffey!
There were also countless tributes on audio and videotape from those unable to be there in person like: Paul Anka, Robert Lamm of Chicago, Alice Cooper, Smokey Robinson, Randy Bachman and a heartfelt appearance by Burton Cummings of the Guess Who. Several radio personalities spoke via tape like: Pat St. John, Ted "the Bear" Richards, Joe Donovan, and Robin Seymour.
The food was like that of a five-star restaurant in both taste quality and presentation. The dessert even featured cake with musical notes, a hockey stick and chocolate waver gold record with her name on it! It was a first class effort on every level. If you missed it, it was all captured on videotape by yours truly. E-mail me if you want to see it. Some highlights may be soon found on YouTube, but I was honored to get it all.
Without a doubt, Tony Orlando is perhaps among the very nicest entertainers that I have ever met, and I've met quite a few. He was warm, personable and hung around long after the event was over talking with fans, posing for photos and signing autographs. A real class act. The entire committee responsible for Rosalie's big night should be proud of a job well done. My only disappointment was that Bob Seger, who was rumored to show up, did not. Also, Windsor needs some larger signs directing we Michigander's back to Detroit via the tunnel. I was also amazed that my satellite radio played through the entire length of the underwater tube! I guess WJR isn't the only station available in the tunnel.
Now, if only Charlie O'Brien could talk Bell Media Radio into flipping the news-talk on AM 800 CKLW over to 580 AM CKWW and put the oldies on the big 50,000 watt signal, all will be right with the world. The Big 8 could be big again, and dare I say it might even once again show up in the Toledo, and Cleveland ratings, and I know someone who has a good ear for picking the right oldies too!