Preface: Today, we’ll be revisiting a rough stretch of my life’s path. But worry not, I’m only doing so to illustrate how an insufferable situation can morph into something far more transcendental and (quite literally) upbeat.
Some six decades prior to the coronavirus pandemic, elementary and middle school bullies (and adolescent acne) had introed me to social isolation.
Picture this bygone boy entering such a pivotal stage of life; yearning for peer acceptance, yet, instead, discovering how, to a fault, ex-chums had alienated him from the student body (inclusive of kids who hadn’t even known me and vice versa). My only means for avoiding their verbal and physical assaults had become feigning viral assaults; my allergies to airborne irritants oft making my symptomatology so indistinguishable from that of the common cold / bronchitis that unless my folks had taken my temperature, I knew I’d be home free.
It was on one of those very skip school sick days, circa early 1963, when my father had lent me his pocket transistor radio; i.e, to cheer up his son / make his “illness” more bearable. His favorite station being WJR a.m. 760 and my serendipitously advancing its tuner 40 kilocycles had become the two key factors in spurring one helluva a life changing, eureka event.
It was at that precise moment when I first heard the Canadian station CKLW (later known as “The Big 8”); their format more attuned to a much younger listenership. Their captivating new music was getting spun by DJs Bud Davies (6-10 a.m.), Joe Van (10-3), Dave Shafer (3-7:30), Tom Clay (7:30-midnight) and Ron Knowles (midnight-5).
That morn, music had become my very salvation; my lifeline / means of escape. In essence, recording artists and disc jockeys had become my surrogate peers. In time, the songs, themselves, had taken on that very role, too; so much so, that, to this very day, when a beloved recording that I haven’t heard in “eons” gets aired / streamed, I oft react in a manner one would expect during chance encounters with long absent loved ones.
Unbeknownst to me, 1963 was also the very year that Ms. Rosalie Trombley had applied for a receptionist / switchboard operator position at CKLW. And once hired and, toot sweet, promoted to musical director, she had also successfully cracked and shattered the glass ceiling of that male dominated field.
Trombley’s keen ear for what is and what isn’t great music, eventually, earned her, her “hit maker” reputation and I fully credit this wonderful woman for opening my own mind and ears to our vast, worldwide, musical spectrum; nearly every life enhancing concept that the dotted treble and bass clefs have to offer humankind.
She had presented the robust diversity of Sixties / Seventies Top 40 music, itself; e.g. Motown, Folk, Psychedelic, Surf, Garage, Blues, Progressive, Bubblegum, the British “Invasion”, Latin, Japanese, etc.
Case in point… Trombley had turned us on to Kyu Sakamoto’s track, Sukiyaki – Ue Wo Muite Arukou, which he sang entirely in Japanese. I mean, few, if any of us dummy, monolingual Americans could understand even one syllable of song composer Toshinobu Kubota’s lyrics; yet, we loved this vocalist’s soulfully delivered rendition all the same [read lyrics and hear original and cover performances HERE].
It was approximately a decade later when Michigan’s native son and hard rocker / recording artist, Bob Seger, in his (futile) attempt to get his early songs aired on CKLW, even composed his aptly titled track, Rosalie; where one of his couplets acknowledges…
“She’s got the powerBob Seger • From the LP Back in ’72 • [Read full lyrics HERE]
She’s got the tower”
That power and tower, of which Seger was referring to, involved CKLW’s 50,000 Watt transmitter, which, once the ionosphere did its post sundown shift, dramatically increased “The Big 8’s” audience, who resided within the vast expanses east of the Canadian / American Rockies.
In a sense, that atmospheric anomaly, had been radio pioneer Trombley’s early brush with something akin to a scaled down version of today’s World Wide Web.
Alas… long sigh… it was soon after the Canadian powers-that-be had passed legislation requiring more Canadian musical content on their nation’s stations, that Trombley’s airwaves wound up suffocated. Big government had silenced “The Big 8’s” / her We are the World spirit. Consequently, CKLW’s turntables took a turn for the worse.
Mind you, I’m not bad mouthing the vast legions of know-no-limits, talented Canadian musicians / singers / song writers. I’m only saying that nationalism, when taken to such extremes, SUCKS!
But, let’s end this post on a more positive note.
Tho I never actually met Ms. Rosalie Trombley, the way her tower had so powerfully influenced my life makes it seem as if I had. For as long as my consciousness exists, I’ll deem her my primary musical mentor. What a unique opportunity, privilege and honor it has been for this once-upon-a-time, loyal CKLW listener to have played a small role an entire bygone radio era; to have experienced, in real time, her success story.
Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!