By making a substantial donation to the casting of a sculpture, St. Clair played a major role in playing tribute to a pioneering Canadian – and a pioneering woman – in the North American music industry.
In the 1960s/’70s, Windsor’s CKLW Radio (AM800) was one of the half-dozen most powerful stations in North America, with its transmitter covering much of central Canada and the U.S..
In that era, Rosalie Trombley rose from being the broadcaster’s receptionist to being its Music Director.
With her remarkable ear for talent, and her intuition about what would prove to be popular among listeners, her decision to promote air-play fostered the careers of such now legendary musicians as (the late) Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, The Guess Who, Elton John, Ted Nugent, and Earth, Wind and Fire (and many more).
After she retired, Trombley was inducted into the Motor City Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
She died in 2021 at the age of 82.
On September 18, Trombley was immortalized with a sculpture on Riverside Drive (near the city’s casino) during Windsor’s “Open Streets” weekend.
The statue was created by local sculptor Donna Mayne.
A special surprise guest at the event was Burton Cummings, lead singer of The Guess Who, who credited Trombley both for that band’s success and that of his subsequent solo career.
In her remarks to the audience at the unveiling St. Clair President Patti France said:
On behalf of St. Clair, and the college’s family of students and staff, it is an honour for the school to have contributed to this effort to create a lasting tribute to the truly remarkable Rosalie Trombley.
We were fortunate, also, to have been able to recognize Rosalie for her pioneering nature and her rare talent-spotting ability when she was alive. Over a decade ago, we presented her with an honorary diploma, which, also, meant that she was able to share stories of her trend-setting career with graduating students as a guest speaker during one of our Convocation sessions. We also staged a tribute banquet in her honour – the proceeds of which created a permanent scholarship in her name for our Music Theatre students.
As I observed a few weeks ago, in the lead-up media conference to today’s event, our staff, students and grads have been fans of Rosalie for decades. Some of our older alumni, in fact, had a very symbiotic relationship with her: they listened to the musicians whose careers she fostered on CKLW; and those musicians, in turn, were so thankful for her support that they played frequent concerts in the city – including at the former Gryphon Hollow outdoor amphitheatre at St. Clair’s South Windsor Campus.
So, for the tail-end of my parents’ generation, and certainly for mine, Rosalie – quite literally – helped to create the soundtrack of our lives. And given the fact that many of the artists who she originally discovered and promoted are still major stars, she is also influencing the listening habits of the current generation, even though they might not have first-hand knowledge of her ground-breaking role in both the local and North American music scenes.
Now, thankfully, that knowledge – that recognition and remembrance – will be fostered, by both this special celebration and this permanent artistic fixture in our community. And what a well-timed celebration it is, given that Rosalie’s birthday occurs tomorrow.
Why did St. Clair get involved in all of this? Why did we honour her with the diploma and scholarship several years ago, and support the sculpture’s creation this year? Because, as I’ve often reminded people by putting some emphasis on the first section of our official title, we are St. Clair College of Applied ARTS and Technology. So, most assuredly, Rosalie’s combined passions of music and broadcasting have always had, and always will have, important places within our institution.
To the Trombley family: Once again, thank you for sharing your Mom with all of us, because that allowed her to share her musical insights – her “golden ear” – with both southwestern Ontario and all of North America, as we sat by our radios, tuned in to AM-800, to fall in love with the new lyrics and melodies discovered by Rosalie Trombley.