The big 8!

I am so there: A Canadian documentary about one of the most influential radio stations of my young life — Windsor’s legendary CKLW (Motor City rock!).

More here.

Great detail: Key to the story of the station and McNamara’s documentary is Rosalie Trombley, the former switchboard operator who became one of radio’s most powerful behind-the-scenes influences. She and her staff painstakingly researched request lines and record store sales to see what kids were listening to, compiling the information into the Top 30 chart that was published weekly and distributed to record stores.

She also had an ear for talent. Bob Seger, Elton John, David Bowie and Alice Cooper are just a few of the performers who owe a big part of their success to Trombley. It wasn’t unusual to see members of the Four Tops or Temptations waiting for their turn outside Trombley’s office to personally deliver their latest single.

“Rosalie had that kind of reputation as someone who could pick a hit before anyone else,” McNamara says. “Getting a song on CKLW meant that automatically other radio stations far beyond the region would add the record.”

Seger even had a song about Trombley, “Rosalie,” which included the lyrics, “She’s got the tower, she’s got the power.” Though flattered, she said she’d quit if it ever played on her station.

Posted at 9:30 am in Uncategorized |

17 responses to “The big 8!”

  1. alex said on March 24, 2004 at 11:13 am

    I’d be so there if it were playing here. I loved CKLW. It was a great alternative to WOWO in Fort Wayne, where there was too much talk and not enough music. It was my fave all through the ’70s.

    193 chars

  2. John Ritter said on March 24, 2004 at 2:53 pm

    WCFL blasting out of Chicago on a clear channel was a great AM station.

    71 chars

  3. Nance said on March 24, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    WCFL and WOWO (after dark) were both great, but CKLW was the greatest of all. They did all the things people hated AM for — short playlists in heavy rotation, over caffeinated DJs — and yet, they made them work. Proof the irritation comes from bad execution?

    260 chars

  4. Eric Zorn said on March 25, 2004 at 2:11 am

    Think you’re a CKLW fan? In the 1975, CK’ polled its listeners and then counted down their picks for the top 500 songs OF ALL TIME.

    Which song was No.1?

    156 chars

  5. Nance said on March 25, 2004 at 7:56 am

    I’ll bite: “Satisfaction”?

    26 chars

  6. John Ritter said on March 25, 2004 at 8:03 am

    Invariably these lame-o All Time 500 lists have “Unchained Melody” as the big number one.

    By the way, I could only listen to WCFL and WOWO after 9 PM when the “skip” started. I was living in southwest Virginia at the time and the local stations still thought Perry Como was pop music.

    287 chars

  7. Nance said on March 25, 2004 at 9:21 am

    When I worked (briefly) at WOWO, I remember my awe at confronting the post-sundown signal maps, when the 50,000-watt clear-channel firehose was re-aimed. During the day, it shot straight up, covering most of Indiana in a nice round spray. But at night, it fell on its side and carried the news headlines of Fort Wayne all the way to the east coast and far beyond (that’s who really got the “skip” effect, the “beyond” — a WOWO DJ told me he once got a letter from a soldier in Vietnam who picked them up on his little transistor radio).

    It was the signal that was eventually their undoing. When the station was purchased by a little-known NYC media holding company, no one thought to check the frequencies of the other stations they owned, and sure enough, one was 1190-AM, a station forced to go off the air at sundown, to make room for WOWO. They bought it, stripped the signal strength and then re-sold it to Indiana owners. It’s still a very big voice, but it doesn’t go all the way to NYC anymore.

    1006 chars

  8. Lex said on March 25, 2004 at 9:39 am

    I once picked up CKLW, albeit very faintly, in Charlotte, N.C. This would’ve been around ’74 or so. I thought I’d stumbled across a pirate station because, as far as I knew, all radio station call signals started with W or K.

    225 chars

  9. Eric Zorn said on March 25, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    The No. 1 Song of all-time according to CKLW listeners in the mid-1970s was “Kung Fu Fighting,” ( which was the No. 1 song on the charts at about the time the poll began. There is something charmingly naieve about all those voters having so little perspective that they would believe that their current favorite song was in fact the best song of all time.

    My friends and I adopted this as a joke, as in, “Hey, what’s the No. 1 food of all time?” “Why, it’s this Brown Jug pecan roll a la mode.”

    Maybe you had to be there.

    Hoo! Hah!

    595 chars

  10. Nance said on March 25, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    Actually, Eric, I find that story hilarious.

    I also find Kroger’s tapioca pudding cups to be my favorite food of all time.

    125 chars

  11. Eric Zorn said on March 25, 2004 at 11:51 pm

    ….and I’m strongly of the opinion that is the greatest Web log of all time.

    91 chars

  12. Dave said on March 26, 2004 at 9:02 am

    You could get CKLW all day long in Upper Arlington? Couldn’t get it in Pickerington, a few miles makes a big difference but you could get KYW, 1100 in Cleveland, which was a killer AM rock station, only listened to CKLW when we’d get to northern Ohio.

    252 chars

  13. Nance said on March 26, 2004 at 9:40 am

    Not all day long, but at night, with low cloud cover, on the north side of town — sure.

    88 chars

  14. deb said on March 26, 2004 at 6:54 pm

    hey, eric, i used to work with a guy named tim zorn, who was the greatest government reporter of all time. are you two related?

    127 chars

  15. ashley said on March 27, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    In the south, the closest we got was KAAY out of Little Rock. Their “Beaker Street” show defined late night rock and roll.

    You could pick up KAAY anywhere down to New Orleans and Tampa. It would play all the cool stuff that the local stations would not, and set the stage for FM AOR formats.

    298 chars

  16. ashley said on March 27, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    Of course, also in the south (‘specially ’round Texas and Louisiana), you’d hear wonderful music from south of the border, as eloquently described in ZZ Top’s “Heard it on the X”.

    The X stations would be targeted right for us near the border, and they’d play exactly what we wanted to hear…with non-mexican advertisers and even non-mexican DJs.

    Now, with all this homogeneity, I think that college radio and XM are our only hope.

    438 chars

  17. Reid Berens said on August 31, 2004 at 5:51 pm

    Goggle Gropups might be usefull for it.
    Reid Berens

    120 chars