Tag Archives: Canada

Canadian Radio-the blackest white station in America

While looking for images for CHUM Radio I found out that Canadian radio station CKLW from Windsor (right across the river from Detroit) made the Motown label popular. It is best known for having been one of the most influential Top 40 stations in the world in the 1960s and 1970s.

Love this Ad
Love this Ad

Rosalie Trombley, CKLW’s Music Director during the station’s ‘60s and ‘70s heyday, picked the songs that aired on the station’s Top 40 format, automatically gave those tunes instant hit status because of the station’s massive reach over several states and much of Southern Ontario.

Fred Sorrell, CKLW’s General Manager from 1969 to 1972, said Trombley’s major contribution was exposing Motown artists to a largely white audience. He told the Windsor Star that “it was through Rosalie that Motown was heard in places in the U.S. south where radio programmers wouldn’t play it.” For no other reason than that, he said, she should go into Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. http://www.broadcasting-history.ca

Glory years CKLW
The station did well thanks to its huge signal, and beat the local competition in Cleveland, Ohio, though in the local Detroit ratings CKLW still lagged well behind competing hit outlet WKNR. In July 1967, CKLW claimed the number one spot in the Detroit ratings for the first time, and WKNR was left in the dust, switching to an easy listening format.

The station had strong talent behind the scenes as well, most notably longtime music director Rosalie Trombley, who ascended to that position in 1968 after having worked as the station’s music librarian for five years and became famous for her apparent hit record-spotting abilities. Trombley consciously made an effort to choose the right R&B and soul songs (especially Motown product) to create a station that would appeal equally to black and white listeners. As a result, CKLW was sometimes referred to as “the blackest white station in America”, and many believe the integrated music mix helped bring Detroiters closer together in racial harmony, especially after the riots of July 1967. For many younger listeners by 1978, CKLW was the station they listened to only if they had an AM-only radio in their cars.

The Windsor-based station maintained a sales office in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Michigan, where it picked up numerous sponsors for U.S. consumer products, some of which had to use the disclaimer and live announcer end-tag “Not available in Ontario”. CKLW Station Identifications circa 60’s 70’s

CKLW’s newscasts were acknowledged for more than just their “flash,” however—the station won an Edward R. Murrow Award for its coverage of the 1967 riots, helmed by Dick Smyth. This was the first time that this particular award had ever been given to a Canadian broadcaster. With the Canadian government introducing Canadian content regulations and new format “album play” FM stations, CKLW slowly met it demise and became an easy listening station and now known as CKLW — The Information Station