Rosalie Trombley, hit-record power broker and music industry giant, dies at 82

Brian McCollum, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Entertainment News

Trombley's knack for selecting hits was part intuition, part people skills, part dedicated research. She forged tight relationships with record-shop operators in Detroit, both white and Black, keeping an ear to the ground new records with bubbling sales.

"If I picked music just to suit my taste, I wouldn't have my job," she said in 1971. "I lean heavily toward soul music. I find it hard personally to be critical of any Diana Ross record, for instance."

In a rollicking record and radio universe with its share of sketchy characters, Trombley prided herself on her clean way of doing business.

"The record promoters and record companies know better than to offer me payola," she told the Free Press in '71. "They also know not to offer me a joint. I'm too square, too straight for that sort of thing."

Jo-Jo Shutty MacGregor, who was hired at CKLW in 1975 to become the first female helicopter traffic reporter in North America, called Trombley an important mentor whose power as a woman in a male-dominated industry commanded respect.

"Wasn’t it amazing that an amazing 50,000-watt powerhouse like CKLW would choose a female to head that music department? MacGregor said. "It really says a lot.


"What a wonderful spirit she was. Nobody has made a mark like she has."

Trombley loved Detroit and spent much time in the city, visiting clubs such as the Grande Ballroom to catch rock and soul performers.

"If the latest R&B act coming up was playing, she'd go over," said Tim Trombley. "She was accepted with open arms by the black music community."

Tim Trombley said Wednesday that his mother's open music sensibility helped create a special time on the airwaves.


swipe to next page
©2021 www.freep.com. Visit freep.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.