Some Thoughts on CKLW Radio

· AM Radio Broadcaster


CKLW is the call-sign of a radio station, which like a Hollywood diva, has gone through many separations and divorces, going from one “owner” to another. We will write about “her” as she principally was in the days that she had a leading role, begetting music stars in the U.S.A. and Canada, wedded to one RKO General – for the purpose of our metaphor, a polygamist for sure, but certainly in command for some time. Who was the first should be easy to resolve, but we have found 3 contenders.

With the thousands of radio stations in existence, their ownership changing all the time, as do the formats between news and music, and the tastes of the listening public, it may well be asked why 800 KHz station CKLW, of Windsor, Ontario, Canada should be a subject for our consideration. It already does have a Wikipedia page worth looking at for what one will not read here, and there is a special page dedicated to the CKLW that this writer knew.1-5

Our proposal here is to add a few reflections on the name, its area of coverage, the entertainment which the station, through DJs or other, gave in their own right, and reasons why we believe that it could possibly be considered – especially had it had clear-channel status (defined further below) – as one of the 10-best North American radio stations during its Top-40 years. This information will be not be in the summarized version. We pay attention to any contradictory, absurd, or false information found, to set the record as straight as possible.

To an appreciable degree, this article criticizes the technical aspects of the “wiki” article, which show that author(s) and censor/editor(s) know next-to-nothing about radio-wave propagation. The present writer’s enthusiasm about the topic may make him liable – though hopefully not – to other, equally condemnable errors. The same ardour has led to an inability to separate comments about the name to those about coverage. For this reason, a couple of links have been included, which allows the casual reader to ignore what may be an unnecessary digression into the question of whether London is or was an important zone to be reached by this Motor City Station. Even that can be skipped by reading the following short version of this article. It succintly restates some of what is found elsewhere on the Internet – if it reflects the interests of the present writer. Some of this information is not repeated later on.

A Short Version of this Article

CKLW was originally a station set up to serve the southwestern peninsula of the province of Ontario, Canada, between Windsor and London. From 1932 to 1949 it had 2 different names (CKOK and CKLW), 3 different power outputs (1,000, 5,000, and 50,000 watts), 3 different owners (possibly a fourth, our source gives confusing information); at least 3 network affiliations (CBS, Mutual Broadcasting Corporation, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation); and 4 different frequencies: 540, 840, 1030, and finally, 800 KHz.

In 1956, RKO became the majority owner, and in 1963, CKLW belonged totally to this media company – fully named RKO-General – RKO having once been in the movie business, and “General” being General Tire and Rubber Corporation. Now in its heyday, the station focussed its attention on the music that teen-agers wanted to hear. Hardly had the new entrepreneurs entered the scene, when the Liberal government of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau forced through a controversial nationalistic policy which led to CKLW’s eventual decline. RKO was, as a foreign owner, obliged to sell to a Canadian group, which included the owner of a prestigious department store.

Nevertheless, the station still had on its staff a woman with a keen ability to sense future hits,6 which allowed CKLW to maintain, and even increase its prominence for a while longer. A major innovation, at least for this part of North America, was the blend of African-American music together with the standard fare of other stations playing rock and popular music. A further progression into modernity was the helicopter traffic report given by the first woman to have such a job in the U.S.7 Cut-throat competition with Detroit forced yet something else new – that of stereo on the AM broadcast band. This became irrelevant when old mono jazz standards were played – and this, eventually, was replaced by the news format. It’s almost ironic that this is the nature of the current station, as the RKO people are reported to have considered the one-time famous 20/20 news something to be dispensed with – they thought no music meant that most listeners changed stations. All these facts can be found in one or another of the recommended readings in our first five footnotes.

The name CKLW is based on call-letter assignments agreed upon internationally for the “CK” part, and allegedly, for the cities of London and Windsor for the second set of letters. This reflects the fact that the London Free Press was an owner, but for no more than 10 months.8

We include some details about interesting people on its staff, some of which are from our personal memories. We suggest that government regulations were a factor in its demise, and end with some technical details about those modern totems: the antennas.

Complicated Knot of the Lineage of this Wonder

Who really was responsible for the existence of this station, or, who was the first owner? At least 3 versions exist.

Wikipedia gives the original owners as businessmen of Windsor, Ontario’s Essex Broadcasters, Ltd,, which merged the following year with Western Ontario Broadcasting, but our second source skips Essex Broadcasters in its 1932 history.2 Unmentioned in these preceding sources is Ted Rogers, supposedly a co-founder of CKOK.9 In fact, no Rogers is mentioned in Wikipedia, and our second reference2 gives no mention until 1939 – a deceased E.S. Rogers – president of Rogers Broadcasting Corp.; owner, of among others, CKLW. After some reading, we discover that this Ted and E. S. Rogers are one and the same.9 He was replaced by J. E. Rogers.2 We might describe what we have in this paragraph as the Canadian versions of the station’s early history.

In apparent contradiction to the above, we quote an official source – a U.S. Senate hearing in 1982, with oral and written testimony by David Robb, one-time mayor of Grosse Point, Michigan, and the station’s general counsel, mistakenly referred to as the general manager. He “spins” his testimony to mention CKLW “offices in Southfield, Michigan. … The station was built 50 years ago by an American broadcaster, George Storer. It has continuously maintained offices, studios, and staff in Michigan. … George Storer chose to erect a transmitter on his neighbor’s land.”10 The testimony clearly suggests that Storer started the station, but he is not mentioned in Wikipedia, although our second source shows him as president of CKLW in 1933,2 meaning that Western Ontario Broadcasters had an American on board. He is listed in the same place as the operator of CKLW and several U.S. stations in 1935.

This “American” version of events is backed up by an entry in the Biographical Encyclopedia of American Radio, which states that he launched the station.11 Another source gives the obviously false datum that he held the station from 1930 to 1931.12 A document by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior mentions that the purchase was in the 1930s, and that it was sold a year later.13 Why are the Canadian sources not clear on his connection to CKLW?

The Name “CKLW”

The original name of the radio station, had, instead of “LW”, “OK”, but clearly, it was not okey for long.

Canada’s radio and television stations were lucky, in a certain way, in that their call letters began with “C”. Note how, as we travel first south from Eastern Canada, into the United States, the call letters begin with “W”, and then west of the Mississippi River, with “K”. Crossing even further south, into Mexico, the letters begin with “X”. Well, maybe “X” for “Mex”, but this explains nothing about the U.S.’s call letters.

And Canada shares the first-letter-of-its-country name privilege with some other nations, Chile and Cuba, for instance. (As it is known, Canadians are CHUMmy with the island – CHUM being a Toronto station, with the same ownership as CKLW, all-Canadian Bell Canada Enterprises.)

Well, the “original” CKLW, not on 800 KHz, not named CKLW, and only pumping 5,000 watts into the antennas at that time, was finally denominated as at present. We are led to believe that the last two letters stand for the Canadian cities of London and Windsor, respectively. Should this be true, then we would have a case of the equivalent of a vanity licence plate. I’d like to look at this question a little more closely.

O.K., so the “C” is for “Canada” – by chance. We´ll assume for the moment that the “L” and “W” are as in the preceding paragraph. What about the “K”? I thought I had once read, somewhere, that it stood for Kitchener. Or maybe, it was there atavistically, from the previous name of the station. The first of these is a bad theory; the latter – closer to the truth. The CF to CK series was reserved for Canada, by international treaty – signed in, of all places! – Havana, Cuba – with CG being for Coast Guard stations. CBC stations use “CB” as a prefix, but it was officially given to Chile. Should anyone accuse the CBC of acting illegally, the charge would be ridiculous – these medium wave stations cannot be heard both in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and even if that were possible, as long as each kept to their own national language(s), no confusion could arise!

If it were conceivable that the “K” was selected to stand for “Kitchener”, it would make even less sense than if the “L” had stood for London. As I drafted this, I mistakenly doubted that the signal would travel the required 100 miles (160 km.) to London during the day. However, neither of our two sources show Kitchener as being in an expected coverage area.

Omit minor details

Be that as it may, I wonder, if when the station was weaker, would the receivers of that time have had an easy time picking up the signal in London? From the point of view of uncrowded broadcast bands with less man-made static interference, chances would have been better than now, but really, who is interested in listening to programming from such a distance? Windsor has more in common with Detroit, the other motor city, while London, with its very British name, would share more features with Ontario’s provincial capital, Toronto, which has several powerful stations.

The following discussion about distances, which is expanded further below, is inserted to weaken the argument (which cannot be totally discounted) about the London connection.

The Wikipedia article indirectly bolsters what I say above, by saying that CKLW is heard as far away as Toledo, Ohio – a wholly ridiculous statement to make about a 50,000 watt radio station. The antennas are practically as close to Toledo as to Windsor. They were eight miles from where I lived, and I could see, from the Canadian side of Lake Erie, flashing lights from a Toledo-based antenna at night. If any difficulty now exists in hearing the station in Toledo, it is because of a decision to limit signal strength in that direction, a “null” in the signal lobe.

There is another reason that we can connect CKLW with Toledo: The previously-mentioned George B. Storer became heir to his father’s Standard Steel and Tube Company in 1933, and came to own not just the Canadian station, but media in Detroit, Toledo, and elsewhere, at one time or another.13 Would he not have wanted the then weak 1000 watt transmitter to be heard in his home town?

I hasten to add that I do not know if the mistake originated with Wikipedia, or with its source(s). I have seen what looked like a magazine article repeating the ideas in the preceding and following paragraph, and if it could be found again, it would be necessary to check the publication dates, to see who is more responsible for claiming a wonderful achievement for an ordinary event.

Then there is the almost as as ridiculous Wikipedia contributor’s claim that CKLW is heard as far away as Cleveland. From my home, a Cleveland signal occasionally made it to our television set, even though the aerial was pointed toward the Windsor and Detroit TV stations. Thus we have further proof that too much is made of the ballyhooed London connection. As far as distances are concerned, perhaps someone was thinking of how long it would take to drive to those American cities!

The Michigan capital of Lansing is also mentioned as distant. Perhaps, for any potential listener there, it is at present, but based on CKLW’s 1976 information, only a segment past an almost straight line from Onaway to Niles, in the north-west of the lower state is not included in the day-time coverage area.14

So, if the station had been expected, in its early years, to be heard in London, Ontario (and not just benefit an investor from that city), how can the Canadian namesake of the UK capital be nearby, and Toledo far-off, according to the following (approximate) data on major cities in its daylight coverage area?

Distance to various Cities from CKLW Antennas

Locality Miles Kilometers
Detroit and Windsor 20 3615
Detroit Coleman A. Young Airport 25 4016
Toledo, Ohio 40 6417
Detroit Suburb: Macomb 42 6718
Cleveland, Ohio 78.5 12616
Lansing, Mich. 92 14716
London, Ontario 111 17816
Kitchener, Ont. (nulled out) 159 25616
Hamilton, Ont. 187 30016

Further confusion could result from relying on the wrong source. While shows the furthest predicted day-time reach of CKLW as including Hamilton, Ontario (near Buffalo, N.Y.) and going north to Manitoulin Island with a 0.15 mV/m contour, a card from 1985, signed by the station engineer, shows a similar contour, but with 0.5 mV/m. Depending on which source is correct, London may, or may not, be in the distant listening area.5 This detail is not unimportant, for it helps potential advertisers decide whether or not to place their commercials on a particular station.19

The Coverage Area of CKLW

The reader may be further convinced of the above arguments by our own reconstruction of the coverage area. This can be done by comparing the field strength contours of weaker stations which use an omnidirectional antenna in the Detroit area, with the contour of the 5-antenna array used near Windsor. We have also taken a look at a somewhat dated document on antennas, which shows that at the time CKLW established itself, there was a dearth of knowledge on the subject, and that as late as 1987, this was apparently still the case (and probably remains so). Directional patterns for arrays of more than 4 antennas had not yet been dealt with, data on night-time propagation of signals ignored sky waves, and difficulties existed in knowing the right pattern for the intermediate zone.20

We also found a map for the Canadian side, but it is probably copyrighted. Fortunately, we discovered that, had the lakes not been there, soil conductivity regions could be made to fit uniformly on both side of the international border. The only difference of opinion is on the conductivity of the water, which has a value of 10, compared with 8 on the American side.21

We see from these maps that due west of the Windsor-Detroit area, we have low soil conductivity, from values of 2 to 4, while along the north-south axis, and south-west and north-east, values are from 8 to 15 – practically powers of 2 – while the water, as just mentioned, has values at the higher end of this range.

On this basis, we can evaluate how close to a perfect circle the coverage area would be when using an omnidirectional antenna. The acorn, or Basque-capped face form of’s WJR map might be considered to have been reasonably constructed at the local level, (although our own attempt at guessing the pattern gives a rather better geometric shape) but at the westward fringes, we see such a sharp corner indenting the imperfect ovoid, that we find it hard to believe that this pattern is authentic – rounding should not lead to angularities, the successive rings should be like the rings of a tree trunk – the only deviations from a true circle are smooth, not jagged concentricities.22 Further, another Detroit station is shown with a better circular radiation pattern, making us wonder what factors lead to such differences, if not the imagination of a draftsman.

Nevertheless, we have tried to draw our own guess of the contours of the surface wave upon an FCC map [Image 1] of ground conductivity. We deformed the theoretically perfect circle by doubling the increase in diameter for each exponential ratio in conductivity for a given direction. When those values dropped, the process was reversed. Apart from this writer’s bad hand at drawing well, the result is surprisingly similar to that of radio-locator’s. It can be seen that the chin and the cap are the result of areas with a value of 15 both above and below the Detroit area, with extra help to the north by passing over water. The flattening of the sides is due to areas of very poor conductivity.

WJR ground wave

Image 1: WJR AM “Circular Pattern” as affected by ground conductivity. Two outer rings almost approximate that of material on web, Canadian side info not reflected. The wave should distort favorably into the Canadian side. Map (user-constructed) from FCC’s zipped M3 Map of Effective Ground Conductivity in the United States (a Wall-Sized Map), for AM Broadcast Stations at

Continuing, now, with the main ideas about the name:

The Wikipedia article states something that I almost missed, that the call sign means “Canada Knows London and Windsor”. This is something I have never come across before while reading web-pages dealing with this Windsor station. It sounds like a recent creation, and we could then assume that there are other “Canada Knows, e.g. Hamilton and Toronto”, yet CKHT does not respresent (at the time of this writing) any such animal. “Canada Knows Toronto and Ottawa”, would give a Toronto Station extra publicity through the Toronto nickname, “T.O.” Or “OT”; for an Ottawa station, pretending friendship with Toronto. [These exist, but not for these important cities.] I hold this to be a fanciful explanation. Our criticized source later states things slightly differently: that the last two letters in the call sign “[are] said to have stood for London, Windsor” (emphasis added). Although there is some element in favour of talking about London – the investment by a London group in the 30s, and an advertisement in the 60s from the St. Thomas Dragway23 in Elgin County, south of the larger city – we believe that only during its most popular years of Top 40 music would a London area audience have been of some size – but not in the overall listener percentages. But to allege that the London and Windsor were “the two chief cities in the station’s listening area”24 suggests the signal either couldn’t get to Detroit at all, or that it was not an intended target at that time.

Meanwhile, I would like to point out that the first reference to London and Windsor were made in Wikipedia on Sept. 7, 2005 at 12:18 by a certain Weichbrodt. This was the 21st version of the CKLW article. “Canada Knows” was not added until around 200 edits later, made by a MrCeleb2007, on October 20, 2008, and with no source for the claim.25

At any rate, the CKLW partnership with London lasted a mere 10 months.8

Vanity, indeed!

Such vanity names are usually so apparent, that no comment is necessary. WABC, WCBS, WNBC. WNYC. WWVA for West Virginia. A Toledo station, WTOL. Rather than use call letters, many stations around the world use fanciful terms, such as ones I’ve heard in Latin America, “Radio Feeling”, or “Splendid”; or the name of a national hero. Similarly, on short-wave, names of capital cities abounded, such as Radio Belgrade, or Radio Peking International; etc., or the name of a country – Radio Canada International, shortened to RCI. In all the years I dedicated to listening for new stations, never did I hear any pretence that the letters represented an acronym of the call sign. Important U. S. government stations might be an exception, but then, these were all on short-wave, often with relays or transmitters on foreign soil, such as VOA, the Voice of America, AFRTS: Armed Forces Radio & Television Service (various locations), RFI: Radio Free Europe (locations in Europe), or RIAS: Radio in the American Sector (Berlin).

Back to our main theme: Now, I wouldn’t mind hearing from someone at CKLW who knows the truth, but I will not play the role of a reporter. I only present the following idea, and ask, does this not sound like a more reasonable explanation for the name?

Would not CKLW, if it were a vanity call sign, stand for the three largest populated areas in Essex County – Kingsville, Leamington, and Windsor, from the least to the most densely inhabited community? These would be the people listening to the station on the Canadian side, ignoring the fact that the primary target was (or would be) the U.S. market. This certainly sounds better than “Canada Knows London and Windsor”.

Leamington does, or did have, an AM radio station; CHYR, with an entirely different format from that of the station here under review.

Continuously Keeping Listeners: Wherever/Whenever

Well, wherever possible, whenever they tune in, as we explain in the following paragraphs, where we give more ideas on the reach of the signal, and an appreciation of the technology used by the station. The acronym above for CKLW reflects the fact that one can now listen practically anywhere in the world through the Internet, on demand, without having to wait for favourable listening conditions.

Omit technical details, go to memories of the 60s.

Further Considerations on the Coverage Area

800 KHz is a Mexican Clear Channel frequency.

A clear channel frequency is one that gives exclusive, or almost exclusive rights to be free of interference, to a certain radio station at night. Indeed, I have heard several Mexican stations where I lived in southern Ontario. I’ve also heard some Cubans, and a now-defunct station purportedly run by the C.I.A., on Honduras’s Swan Island. That was possible during winter nights, when signals travel farther.

So, put differently, CKLW is not allowed to interfere with the Mexican station. That privilege, it seems, was usurped by a [one-time?] powerful station, PJB, accused of violating international norms, located in Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles).26 Anyway, to respect the Mexican’s “right-of-way”, the night-time coverage area of the Windsor station requires a different pattern. But these two different patterns are both modified cardioid types, pointing in the same general direction, and with the left half covering most of Lake Michigan, the right: most of Lake Erie – rightly suggesting that signals travel well over over such bodies as we have seen, travelling across the Lake Erie to Toledo.27

CKLW antenna pattern

Image 2: CKLW’s Reach: Blue-Green Inset: Antenna arrangement (Based on (searching for CKLW); U.S. Ground Conductivity Map (FCC), Bottom Left: daylight reach in 1976, to the right of this: daylight and night-time patterns in July, 2017 (FCC files: ses/AM_DA_patterns/305450-55065.pdf and ses/AM_DA_patterns/305450-55064.pdf), accessed 20170820.



FCC Data (Daytime) for CKLW used to approximate pattern on bottom right of previous image. Accurately done, it would be about the same.

A comparison of the “predicted” range of several Detroit area stations (including CKLW) shows a monotonous inclination to stronger signal strengths over the Lake Huron area.28
A further example of the influence of these lakes was my reception, one summer day, during a thunderstorm, this writer heard an American boat with a panicky “Mayday” to the U.S. Coast Guard on the Marine band emergency frequency of that time [2.182 Mhz]. While the occupants of the boat were pleading for immediate help, the authorities were asking for particulars such as name, date of birth, etc. The end of the story is unknown, but it shows how a marine-based signal gets out, even through summer static, with the weak power and small antenna of a motor-boat or yacht.

I think the first time I became acquainted with the concept of clear channel was after receiving a confirmation for having tuned in to WFAA of Texas. Later, with much difficulty, I managed to get WBBM from Chicago, on 780 KHz, squeezed between the powerful 50,000 watt locals, CKLW and WJR, 760 KHz, Detroit. I think that 770 and 790 KHz were the only frequencies on which I had never heard anything. It was a happy moment for some hobbyist listeners (such as I had been) when CKLW had a technical problem for a short period of time one day,29 thus giving those persons an opportunity to log something new.

I would also question, or at least be jealous about, the claim that CKLW was sometimes heard in Scandinavia at night, allegedly possible because of the way its antennas sent out the signal at that time. When we have night-time darkness at a transmitter site, and it is just dawning elsewhere (which would not be impossible with the Scandinavia scenario), there exists a short possible period of time in which to hear a distant station. To make any claims other than that about the direction in which the signal was broadcast, I would like to know for just how long it was heard.

(On the other hand, during the right times of the Scandinavian year, dawn could last a long time – remember the 24 hour days, the 24 hour nights, so therefore, we have a lot in between.)30

Such a claim, ideally, should be backed up by the so-called SINPO, SINFO, or SIO rating which is often given by radio hobbyists in their reception reports: 5 points maximum for the best situations in each of the following categories: S being signal strength; I: interference, N: noise, F: fading, P: propagation conditions, O: overall evaluation. Even a strong signal can be drowned out by noise or interference from another station, such as Detroit area stations WJR and CKLW did to clear-channel WBBM. For this reason, local stations must have (or had to have) a separation of at least 30 KHz on the dial.

If, to simplify, SIO were 111, that is, S: barely audible, I: suffering extreme interference (whether from noise or another station), O; unusable; then not much was accomplished as far as having heard that specific station goes.

Our “wiki” writer is surprised that because of an “extreme” signal to the north and east, the station could be heard as far “west” as Arkansas, Iowa, and Texas. [S]he is unaware, then, of both night-time skip of sky-waves, which some literature just ignores when discussing propagation of radio waves; and the temporary phenomena associated with sunset or sunrise in a particular area, which require less-privileged stations to reduce power. The even more unfortunate are off-the-air.

Further, from the map of the predicted night-time signal,31 we do see that the signal goes somewhat more than double northward than southward during these hours, but this ignores the physics and the ratio involved. Let’s assume the antennas were horizonal, rather than vertical. In a perfect world, At 30, 150, 210 and 330 degrees, we still have a 50% signal, roughly the proportion of north to south signal strength mentioned above. The power ratio requires a 10-fold increase in power for every ten decibel increase in the sound level,32 about the increase (but the comparison is hardly valid) in sound level obtained by adding a whisper. Let’s assume it is valid for radio frequencies. So, the southward signal would be the same as for a transmitter of 5,000 watts. I have almost certainly heard a station of such weak power from the Deep South.

Coverage through Time: A Technological Marvel

For those who can think back to the time when radio and television receivers always needed to have their tubes (valves) replaced, one must really appreciate the logistics of keeping a radio station up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year after year, with only one minor fifteen-minute mishap, as far as I know.29 Many other radio stations shut down for a few hours at the end of the week for maintenance. Day-only stations have even less maintenance problems. The place must have been run like the more successful NASA space launches, with triple-redundant circuitry – well, double, at least, with instant switching to the back-up when required. If a thumb-sized vacuum tube can burn out about every 6 months, imagine the gigantic tubes which have to burn in the tens of kilowatts range. And they had to be very accurately temperature controlled, comparable to the precision required in running a computer CPU.33

Like NASA, CKLW does not have the almost-perfect record which I had attributed to it before writing this article. The former has mixed up the metric and the British Systems of measurement, the latter just seems to have had some bad luck. A chronology:
— June 17, 1946. A tornado cut the power, and the studio could not get news in or out. The source for this information implies that the transmitter had to switch over to a local energy source, and that the studio relied on batteries. On the whole, the station did seem to continue transmitting, improvising with music. This event, though, is before the 50,000 watt days, and the station was off air between 4 and 5:30 A.M.34 The information for when it became a 24-hour station has not been found.
— September 1, 1949. CKLW becomes a full-powered station, with its antenna array more or less as at present. Perhaps this was the last time it was off the air for 90 minutes a day. Just in case anything should go wrong, the following year they got an emergency transmitter – but why should they have to get permission for this? It’s like asking for permission to have a life-saver in a boat!34,35
— Some time in the mid-70s, the 15-minute hiatus mentioned above. No details found.
— 1979. It seems probable that when CKLW was testing its stereo set-up, regular programming had to be cancelled. If not, it would have been necessary to interrupt regular programming with a series of audio frequency tones, and somehow, stereo and mono would have to run simultaneously. Unlikely! The first of these took place on July 3, so-called Test #2 on July 1 and 2 [sic!]36
— An event on a date unknown, to be taken with a grain of salt. A former DJ mentioned being at the studio with the station off-the-air, so that the station engineer could take measurements in Ohio of the strength of the Bonaire station PJB. Under those circumstances, the Caribbean transmitter was heard in the Detroit area as well as any local.37
— May 1, 2017. A fire at the transmitter site in May, 2017, caused a 13 hour long hiatus in operations, and a return to the airwaves with only 5000 watts.34 A fully-automatically-run station without a system to quench a fire! A sign of decline!

It used to be a pleasure for me, when driving by the CKLW’s rural site, to catch a glimpse of what could be seen of the transmitter. Now this has been boarded up, probably as a protection from vandals on the one hand, and because of the reduced necessity for personnel to be around for the upkeep of modernized equipment.

Playing Around

I must have started listening to CKLW just around the time that it became an RKO-General Station. That was so long ago, that I did not remember that it was called “The Big Eight”.38

I can say, though, that the DJ’s were entertaining. Did any other radio station ever, for some moments, tease the audience with the “short-wave” sound? This is an in-and-out fading, caused by out-of-phase radio waves, with a repetitious coming and going Doppler effect. [Indeed, without knowing what it was, I first heard this latter phenomenon from vehicles driving past the smoothly curved portion of the highway in the shadow of CKLW’s antennas.] It is not a sound one will hear in a discoteque, but almost one from another galaxy; and with the Internet having made short-wave all but obsolete, younger people might never hear this unworldly roller-coaster sound effect again, except through a pale comparison given in a physics class, when two tuning forks of identical frequency are struck at slightly different moments.

The following, too, was heard: a DJ, trying to be funny, claimed to control the radio with words comparable to the beginning of the old program, The Outer Limits. Instead of saying, “Do not adjust your TV set”, it was, “I control your radio, I can increase or decrease the volume” – something like that. And he did.

How can they do such a thing? Well, since this is A.M. radio we’re talking about, they probably mixed a more powerful audio signal with the 800 KHz frequency, risking interfering with another station, or a malfunction. Something called a discriminate audio processor was later used for similar effect.39 There is a technical (legal) obligation not to overdo this. In fact, the FCC in the U.S. has recently issued a regulation that advertisements cannot be louder than the rest of the programming [Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act] – bad news few the innovative few who would have made (or bought) a device to lower the volume at the time of a commercial.

I think both of the above stunts were done by a morning hour DJ.

Another fake effect was the idea of using a tape-recording of teletype machines as a background of the news. Someone once noticed this sound at a time when teletype was no longer in use.40

I remember the jingle for Tom Shannon, but not the citable and colourful claim, “The sun never sets on the Shannon empire”.41

Arguably, even a stronger entry was made by the “Bird”, Robin Seymour, introduced by the song beginning, “Everyone’s talking about the bird …”, words from “Surfin’ Bird”, sung by the Trashmen.

Tony Fitzherbert in Monitoring Times5, 42 describes some later jokes played by DJs, perhaps he himself was the victim of one with the claim of a 3000 foot high antennas. More interesting anecdotes by former DJs are included in the latter of the preceding footnotes.

Why the Continent Kept Listening to Windsor’s CKLW

Here we attempt to gauge the vaunted fame of CKLW.

Its power, and the reach of its signal, cannot be what distinguished it. 50,000 watt stations are a dime a dozen.

One often comes across words such as “powerhouse”,43 “loud”,44 “this very high-powered, high-energy station with this tremendous signal…”;45 “the big booming sound of the station in its hey-day”.46

We must look elsewhere for the key to this station’s fame.

In the first place, we must place the music director. This is a person who will not be known by the listeners, but gave them what they craved. Her name was Rosalie Trombley, and her fame was international – stars would visit or phone her: Stevie Wonder, Chicago, Kiss, The Osmonds, Paul McCartney, Three Dog Night, Alice Cooper,47 Michael Jackson, (as part of the Jackson Five)48 and Elton John, among others. Ms. Trombley made snappy decisions about allowing a small selection of records to be played for the first time, had others tested in smaller communities before risking play time by the DJs, and was the lodestone by which other AM broadcasters finally decided to play those which they had previously excluded from airtime.49 She was the first woman to receive the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences’ annual Juno Awards.50

It is on the basis of the work of the owners on the one hand, and Rosalie Trombley on the other, that we can look at the claims of CKLW’s prestige. The Hayes article in our footnote modestly starts by claiming it to be “one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll stations ever”, with 20 per cent of the listeners in its market – said to be impossible for anyone today – and the “3rd largest station in North America in 1973.51 In another article it becomes the “the third most listened to radio station on the planet”, and the number one rock and roll station (not saying where) between 1965 and 1970.52

It seems to have been successful even in its early 5000 watt days. Would you believe that in 1937 or ’38, not only did it have a New York City sales office,53 but opened one in Chicago, because “business on CKLW increased so markedly during 1937”?54 Even back then, there were cries of unfair competition.55

Another interesting advertisement claims that of 1642 cars surveyed in parking lots, the dial was at 800 at a ratio of better than 2 to 1. This was a 1940 ad for the station, and emphasized a clear channel status.56

As Canadian content regulations diluted its purported 90% American audience,57 it was able to compensate for its loss by some new forms of fame. Jo Jo Shutty MacGregor became the first woman to be a helicopter traffic reporter around 1971, after having obtained a Miss Teenage Detroit title some years earlier. She married Byron MacGregor of CKLW, himself having created – even though Canadian – a top-selling pro-U.S. record, “The Americans”; which, in turn, led to an award being named in his honour.58

The next big step was to become a stereo station, the first such AM station in Canada. This was facilitated in large part by the chief engineer of that time, Edwin Buterbaugh – a man with a reputation as one of the best.59

Mr. Buterbaugh has also been credited with bringing the sound of the station to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.60 Whether he did, or merely improved upon an existing implementation, CKLW may have been the first radio station in an international tunnel (if not WJR).61

Canadian Content Knaves Lash their Whip

In truth, rogues were found on both sides of the border. As noted in our previous section, American radio stations were already protesting the alleged unfair competition by CKLW as early as 1937, when it had a mere 5000 watts, and a frequency of 1030 KHz. Not only did the authorities receive a complaint from WJBK, Detroit, about unfair competition per se, but a second one, in two parts: (1) that CKLW charged at less than cost (equivalent to dumping by industry), and (2) that up to $10,000 in advertisements that it received rightfully belonged to the Detroit stations.62 A look at the little detail that a 100-watter was protesting against a 5000 watt station might put some context into the grievance – it looks like jealousy about a more capable rival. From the tone of the source quoted, one might surmise that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission was not overly concerned. It was a time of less regulation, and insofar as there were rules to be obeyed, the preponderance of the evidence shows that CKLW, to remain competitive, looked for loop-holes in its favour in later years; while both in the instances of selling the station to the Americans, and buying it back, the Canadians took all the profit, after which the one-time Big-8 was in effect run to the ground by legislation in the northern country mandating that U.S. advertisements must not be accepted, and for which reason, shall we say, the Empire struck back – deservedly. We will now look at these incidents.

Proof of Canadian Ownership

At the time of the preceding complaints, it was the Western Ontario Broadcasting Co. Ltd. which was in control. This was the situation from 1933 to 1956, and we are forced to think that this company is connected with the Rogers Broadcasting Co., a.k.a. Standard Radio Ltd., since it is also named as an owner, and we know it to be Canadian.

In 1940, 1942, and 1945, we find various employees affiliated full or part-time with one or another of the 3 branches of the Canadian armed forces, while in 1940, the station engineer came from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1943, the managing director was on the board of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. In 1948, it advertises itself as the “f]inest and most up-to-date of Canada’s progressive radio stations.” A 1953 slogan was “Western Ontario’s Most Powerful Voice”. On this basis, it seems safe to say that the station is Canadian, and not an American station on Canadian soil, as alleged by an unnamed Member of Parliament in 1953. To this we must add that CKLW was interested in opening a TV station as a counterpoise to the American influence of the Detroit stations (1953), and that it was the CBC itself which made decisions about ownership, not only about the television affiliate, but about stock transfers (1956).63

CKLW Becomes American-owned, but by Whose Fault?

We may take it as true that CKLW was partially sold to RKO in 1956, and that in 1963, RKO owned 100% of the shares. One account suggests skulduggery in this – it is alleged that there was a manoeuver to sell all shares at $500 each to RKO, netting $400,000.64

Now it does look like an American station on Canadian soil, but so what? The same two cities which harboured CKLW studios were home to the major automakers, Ford, General Motors, etc.

By what is known as the auto pact, Canada got to make 10% of all cars, corresponding to its percentage of the population with respect to that of the U.S.A. CKLW’s audience was equally divided, let us suggest that Canadian content, in all fairness, should not have been more than a tenth of the broadcast material. Sure, the Americans owned the station, but it was Ontario Hydro (Canada) which received payment for the monthly 36,000 Kilowatt-hours – that’s a low figure! – that was consumed just by the transmitter; it was Bell Telephone Canada Ltd. which received the money for a telephone line in use 24 hours a day, Canadian communities received the property taxes, and there being no double-taxation treaties in effect (I assume), even Americans were paying income tax to Ottawa, if they worked on the Canadian side.

When Rosalie Trombley was working for RKO, she, in effect, received income from American owners, which flowed into the Canadian economy. That made the Canadian economy stronger than if she had received money from her own country. Further, RKO might have been the owner, but was restricted in the actual management.65 These are all matters that may have been used to defend the station as the Canadian government tried to regain control, but what we see, is that they wanted more than a “tithe”.

Indeed, while all the stories one reads about CKLW refers to the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) 30% requirement imposed in 1969, Canadian content had been imposed even upon U.S. magazines sold in Canada before that, obliging publications such as TIME to include 10% (I believe) of its pages on Canadian news.66

In fact, it was as early as 1956 that an effort was made to gain some control, a 75% ownership rule was made by the Canadians, but existing stations were exempted from this clause. This included CKLW (U.S.), CFCF (British), and CFRB (publicly-listed, with no restriction on share ownership.67

The Canadians, having sold high to RKO, would, under the new rules, force RKO to sell it back a possession valued at $32 million, for only $4 million.3 One would think that the Canadians would be more than happy with this situation, but more was to come.

The Canadian Parliament enacted, in 1976, legislation which would no longer allow tax deductions for Canadian income tax purposes for advertisements directed primarily at Canadian markets and carried by non-Canadian broadcasters.68

It transpired that both Presidents Carter and Reagan objected to this legislation, to no avail. The U.S. held a hearing on this, to take retaliative measures. Although now Canadian-owned CKLW had an American counsellor defend the position of CKLW against the proposed reprisal, alleging both that CKLW advocated against the Canadian legislation, and that the proposed countermeasures would be harmful to the States, to the tune of $1,300,000.69 The U.S. did take action in 1982.

In 1988, CKLW had a mere 1% of the listeners in its market … and was reportedly happy with that.70

Now, let’s look at the preceding facts a different way.

The Injustice of the Canadian-Content Rules

Considering that Canadians feel that if the United States sneezes, Canada catches the cold, it makes sense that the larger, but less powerful country, takes measures to protect itself. One does not want to get sick, even from friendly contact.

The solution cooked up by some French-Canadian nationalists in the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau government was to mandate a 30% Canadian content rule. I know a Latin American country, not overly friendly to the U.S. for over half a century, yet such a rule about “national” content had not been in force in the 20th Century, and the degree to which any such regulations now apply, have a significant impact only upon the smaller players in the market – and the larger players are the foreign companies! Nationalism, indeed!

While CKLW was originally launched as a station to serve the Canadian market, it made sense, considering its geographic location, to serve all those within its reach. Can we imagine the owner of a business who would say, “Sorry, we only serve the locals”? The object of a business is to make money. A look at the map, and the population statistics of the area covered by CKLW, makes it clear that a hefty profit could be made by serving two countries, not one.

Originally, there was not too much concern about this. A radio signal cannot be confined, just like that, to a small radius.

The Americans were not Soviets, they did not jam the Voice of CKLW! It was a sort of unrestricted commerce in radio signals before the North-American Free Trade Agreement.

One can talk all one wants about protecting a national industry, but what obligation is there to create one, when it could not exist naturally in the first place? We don’t put fish farms in the desert, we don’t put a mine shaft in the ocean. Certain latitudes, such as Canada’s, are not convenient for launching space missions, so such countries avail themselves of more convenient sites. India has a Bollywood, but can its near-neighbours, which oblige women to cover up even their faces ever compete with the world’s major film studios? Logic requires that dedication is to what can best be done.

But along come the French-Canadian nationalists – and I do not object to their protecting their specific interests – but why did they think they could dictate to English-speaking Canada on issues which did not even affect Quebec? CKLW did not have any impact upon that province.

Did, perhaps, these intellectuals feel that such French surnames which helped complete the CKLW roster had become too anglicized?

Let us take a look at some of these names: DuMahaut (1939), Laferet (1940), Laforest (1941), Campeau (1943), LeSueur [?], Beaumont (1973) – all their first names seemingly quite adapted to an English-speaking environment.71

It can be alleged that the push to Canadian content had a racist edge to it. CKLW, it is said, played all the Motown material, and was visited by all its stars.72 Motown Records showed its appreciation on the occasion of CKLW’s 50th anniversary in Billboard Magazine. They are no more. So, in effect, Canadian content rules killed more diversity than it promoted. We might consider that, with the large Afro-American audience in Detroit no longer having a reason to listen to “Canadian” CKLW, Canadian content meant that a type of apartheid had been put into force on 800 KHz. Like the pre-civil rights U.S., or South Africa before Mandela, this was “No Blacks Allowed”.

The string of regulations imposed upon broadcasters is worthy of all the most bureaucratic states in the world. Nobody even mentions the auditing files (and I wonder how much revenue the Canadian government lost, rather than gained, by foisting an unwanted product upon both the station and its listeners), but our readings show requirements for keeping tapes of every day’s entire broadcast, hewing to the precisely defined music category which a station claimed to play, defining who can advertise, limiting the amount of money that could be given out in prizes, – not to speak of the obligatory public service requirements that must be met even in the U.S.

When CKLW became a 50,000 watt station, its inauguration was attended by the then-governor of Michigan, the Hon. G. Mennen Williams. The Canadian side sent the number 2 equivalent, the Hon. Ray Lawson, Lt. Governor of Ontario, about whom I find nothing on the Internet. So, Canada gave permission for this “powerhouse”, but it was the Americans who nurtured it.

On the occasion of CKLW’s 25th anniversay, the same Gov. Williams did “… hereby proclaim Sunday, June 2nd, 1957, as CKLW 25th Anniversary Day in Michigan, and call upon our citizens to join with me in offering congratualations to this fine institution on its Silver Anniversary and for commendable progress in the field of radio as the public servant of two nations.”73

We again see that CKLW and this Michigan notable, then a Supreme Court Justice of his state, share the news, on the occasion of the death of the famous archery expert, Ann Marston.74

Even if Canadian, CKLW is a Detroit Station!

Yes, in Billboard it was often referred to a a Detroit radio station – but what did this mean? That it was physically there, or that it served that area? Did not the French Canadian intellectuals realize that Detroit is a French word, and that the Detroit region was once a part of French Canada, lost by the French to the British in 1760, then by the British to the Americans in the War of Independence in 1796? Why not win it again, metaphorically-speaking, through radio? And, as our last Billboard reference in this series shows, the magazine was so imprecise in its use of language, that CKLW Detroit is placed under “Canadian News”, perhaps putting Detroit in Canada again!75

On the basis of the preceding argument, we might go still further. Windsor and Detroit share a river, named as the latter city. We say, the Nile, the Saint Lawrence, the Amazon. Maybe this one-mile wide river doesn’t have the same fame, but the boundary goes right through the middle. In that sense, CKLW could claim to be a Windsor station, a Windsor-Detroit station, or a Detroit station (as it did), even if it had had no U.S. offices, and no U.S. audience. There’s a 50% ownership of the Detroit River.

If the Canadian intellectual elite thought that being lumped with Detroit was bad, they must not have cared about their opinion on the world stage that much, but it did extend beyond its listenership. CKLW’s fame has been found in a now-online American magazine as early as 1935, in Radio Mirror, alongside four other Canadian stations, two of them of the CBS network: CFRB and CKAC, and CFCF and CRCT associated with NBC.76

The above-mentioned CFCF of Montreal was perhaps the first commercial broadcaster in existence,77 although even it did not know when it officially began its activities.78 It was fortunate in not having to divest itself of British financial interests in 1958, when a new Broadcast Act mandated 75% Canadian ownership.79 Furthermore, in spite of being a station serving the English-speaking Quebeckers, a different type of French-Canadian nationalist, Maurice Duplessis of the Union Nationale party, stated his party’s commitment to the free market, saying, after winning the provincial elections; ” … I express the hope that CFCF and other private stations will at last get from the state, controlling interests, the share of justice and liberty, which belong to private enterprise.” [sic]!80.

CKLW was listed as a Canadian station to be tried for in the hobbyist publication Communications Handbook, (1966).81

It had enough confidence in itself to advertise, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, in the national [U.S.] magazine, Esquire.82

The death of one of its DJs, Terry Knight, got it mentioned in his obituaries, of which we have found two: one in Billboard, the other in the British newspaper, The Independent,83 thus lending CKLW a mention in the Old World.

Besides the audience it had in the immediate Detroit area, it would have a further reputation in the southern U.S. states, where stations had refused to play Motown-type music.84 In this sense, the American South was as parochial as the Canadian Radio-Television Commission, which aided in the loss of audience through its rules.

A few odds and ends, because the material “just keeps on comin'”. In Radio Ink, “The Greatest Top 40 Stations Of All Time!”, dated August 21, 2017, CKLW rates 7th. This is based on 15 parameters, some of which seem contradictory, such as no need to resort to tricks vs. eccentricity, or making “Herman’s Hermits sound like the the Second Coming”, In the “75th Anniversary of Radio” edition of Radio Ink, we find a 1968 promotion for the station, claiming that “More Detroit Housewives listen to CKLW Radio 8 than any other station”, and in smaller print, “CKLW is first… and the same applies to men… 50,000 persuasive watts …”.

The name of CKLW would be propagated by these publications, which were also sold outside of the United States and Canada. In addition, it would get mentioned in the smaller hobbyist publications of various countries, by those who would want to share the information that there was a chance of hearing the station. So, while not an international broadcaster in the formal sense of the word, we can state without fear that it was known beyond the narrow constraints of “The Strait”, Detroit‘s translation into English.


To sum up, CKLW was a leader in playing the kind of music young people liked to hear. It would later become the first AM stereo station in Canada, under the engineering skill of Edwin Buterbaugh, winner of a Billboard award. The station is still fortunate in having its antennas in a wide open space. The present owners, we trust, have the financial clout to keep the station a leader in the Southern Ontario Region.

Why do we say it must have been one of the top ten stations of its time? The claims that it was one of the top 3 in the world, if not the best, are unsubstantiated by anything other than hearsay. We can believe it was tops in the Great Lakes area, and through the vast U.S. audience, the Canadian leader – a lead the nationalists were not interested in. However, if we could look at its history of innovation and awards, its acclaim by music stars, its influence in hitting upon the hits (pun intended!), its mixture of Canadian, American, Motown and other music, the famous helicopter newscaster, the star radio engineer, the experiments with AM stereo – even with all that, perhaps I have exaggerated, but we must have hit upon, by some kind of placement of values in a mathematical matrix, a most outstanding rating for this station praised from Hollywood to the little town of Harrow, Ontario, from which its antennas can be seen.

And maybe CKLW could have a contest for the best phrase representing its call letters. Canada’s Kind of Link to Windsor. Anything that sounds good to the management. My final suggestion, which would be good for an all-news station, such as it is now, is:

Continuously Keeping Listeners Well-informed.

Addendum: The Antenna Array, Yesterday and Today

Antennas can range from simple to complex, the telescopic variety, and the rabbit ears being examples of the former, gigantic movable curtain arrays used in short-wave being representative of the latter. The basic principle of a good receiving antenna for a single frequency (not convenient for a common household radio), or a good transmitting antenna is that it be a quarter, half, or full wavelength in size – truer for reception than for transmission. So, a radio enthusiast in California who wanted to try to tune in to CKLW would ideally have a horizontal antenna strung as high as possible at a right angle to the direction of Windsor, Ontario. The ideal would be a half-wave length, for 800 Khz, this is 183.75 meters. This would require lots of space, even this writer had to content himself with 40 meters.

The A.M. Broadcast band, together with the physics of the towers, cost, and local regulations, often do not permit more than a half wavelength in height, but this size is deemed inefficient for local coverage. Exceptionally high is the half-wavelength WLW 703-foot tower in Cincinnati, Ohio (I have a figure of 800 feet, but that must include the base.)

The usual situation is to have a quarter-wave antenna – if possible, while in theory, a height of 5/8 of a wavelength gives the best ground wave.

We include this introduction to point out the Mr. Fitzherbert1 probably put a zero too many when he claimed the antennas were 3000 feet high. The largest antenna in the world was around 2100 feet. While we have no exact figures, gives a figure of 88 electrical degrees (of a wavelength), converting metres to feet, we get the result of 300.

I suspect that all 5 antennas are not actively used, at least in years past, it was reported that four were used during the night, and two during the day [Edmund A. Laport, Radio Antenna Engineering, New York; McGraw-Hill, 1952, Fig. 2.70, p. 191, view of antenna coupling network (old towers). This helps account for the different radiation patterns.

A picture of the original 50,000 watt array is found in an advertisement for Canadian Bridge Co. Prominent are the heavy guy wires. Canadian Broadcaster and Telescreen, Aug. 22, 1952, p. 8. This may be compared with the current, lighter looking towers on The transmitter buiding is featured both in the latter (in faded colour), and in black-and-white, in Billboard, CKLW 50th Anniversary Supplement, Aug. 7, 1982. Something called a dissipation array in featured in Roy B. Carpenter, Jr., Lightning Strike Elimination, The Story of Dissipation Array Systems, LEA Report No. Santa Fe Springs, CA: LEA-82-6, 1982, Fig. 19, p. 24. The old base insulator is shown in Fig. 2.64, p. 187, Laport.

Originally uploaded July 29, 2017; completely revised, October 9, 2017.

© 2017, Paul Karl Moeller

Notes and References

All criticism relates to the Wikipedia article “CKLW” as available at the time of this present author’s write-up. Accessed 20170728.

This article does not incorporate material from Wikipedia, it merely refutes or criticizes some of its material. For this reason, we hardly mention anything about personalities, or facts before or after the 60s, with some notable exceptions. The format to all news, and perhaps to stereo, I first read about in an magazine for radio amateurs, CQ, 73, or Popular Communications, which I bought somewhere in Latin America.

To avoid undesirable linking, the letters “http”, “https”, and “www” are usually avoided. Web sites can be successfully pasted and found in Google without these prefixes (at least at the time of this writing).

1. The past tense is used, as this writer may have left this world as you read this. Here we refer to “The Classic CKLW Page!”,, accessed 20170819. We also recommend the articles or summaries in the next 4 notes, which contain many details omitted in the present write-up.
2. There is a station history summary in, accessed 20170819. The information about the first owner may not be correct, likewise for the information in Wikipedia.
3. A story of how RKO had to sell the station cheap: Mark Elliot, at, accessed 20170909.
4. An audio file “CKLW NPR Lost & Found Sound Feature 8 27 99” at –, accessed 20170913, and attributed to Greg Barman.
5. An interesting read, but who knows how exaggerated – the mere mention of 3000 foot antennas makes the author (or editor) suspect – it would have been taller than the CN Tower in Toronto, taller than the fallen Warsaw Radio Mast (Wikipedia, accessed 20170917, which held the world’s record [Guinness] for the height of a guyed tower at around 2100 feet: Tony Fitzherbert, “A Profile of Legendary CKLW” in the April 1991 edition of the Monitoring Times, pp. 14-16, available on as
6. A very good write-up about the nationalistic policy and the competent music director (who was instrumental in the selection of musical diversity): David Hayes, “Sounds of Motown”, The Walrus, [date in the link →], accessed 20170819. This article was repeated, perhaps informally, by Glen Livingstone on, “CKLW: The Big 8 – What Went Wrong?”, Nov 19, 2007,, accessed 20170822.
7. Jo Jo Shutty MacGregor, Motor City Radio Flashbacks site:, (no clear title, various pictures, more complete at, also mentioned as first female newscaster (needs verification!) in “BYRON MACGREGOR AWARD – Best Newscast (Radio)”, More information on The Macomb Daily, Linda May, “Service Circuit: CKLW fans can support Ronald McDonald House charities July 15”, posted: 06/23/17,, accessed 20170808.
8. Based on a Nov. 1933 merger date the beginning of CFPL London ”History of Canadian Broadcasting”, CFPL, [].
9. Ian Anthony, on Edward Samuel Rogers, In “Contributions to Professional Engineering”, 2009, Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario.
10. Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Trade and the Subcommittee on Taxation and Debt Management of the Committee on Finance, United States Senate, ninety-seventh Congress, Second Session on S. 2051 and S. 2058, May 14, 1982,, accessed 20170915. Specific references: Robb, general counsel, p. iii, 164, 217, 219, 220 mayor, p. 206, 217, 220; general manager 206, in letter by Leslie G. Arries, Jr, WIBV-TV; correction, not general manager: 228; Southfield offices: 217, Storer: 218, 221. “neighbor’s land”: 222.
11. Christopher H. Sterling. ed., Biographical Encyclopedia of American Radio, New York: Routledge, 2011, pp. 366-7;, accessed 20170921.
12. Erik Barnouw, A History of Broadcasting in the United States: The Golden Web: Vol. II – 1933 to 1953, New York: Oxford University press, 1968, p. 220, footnote;, accessed 20170924.
13. “National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, detailing WJBK-TV Studios Building, with “Narrative Statement of Significance”, Section 8, p. 9, accessed 20170923.
14. 1976 CKLW QSL card; Accessed 20170802 on Radio Timeline, “Coverage Maps,accessed 20170825,; the Federal Communications Commission of the United States even puts 100 miles as a limit, which would make that distance a fringe area, though some tolerance could be admitted for antenna directivity. Our doubts about the originally 5000 watt station being able to reach London are somewhat confirmed by the U.S.A.’s Federal Communication Commission, which states, “Useful daytime AM service is generally limited to a radius of no more than about 100 miles (162 km), even for the most powerful stations. “,
15. Taken as a point between the two cities, due north, on the Detroit River.
16. Calculation using Google Maps co-ordinates, converted to decimal through, distance calculated at Mid-city points selected, except for the arguable reach for Hamilton, for which a point near Burlington was chosen. Kitchener, though closer to Windsor than Hamilton, is not within the coverage area due to the heart-shape of the signal’s contour – it is stuck in the almost dead signal area which is the cleft between the two lobes.
17. Same as above, closest point selected.
18. Same as preceding, but furthest point selected.
19. Paralleling what was just said, a certain rfry, in post 5. “Re: Sound of AM back in 60s and 70s” on Radio Discussion Boards left a comment on 06-13-2010 in favour of WJR, saying that CKLW pretended to have a 0.5 mV/m contour in an area in the north, where it did not;, accessed 20170915. The accusation may or may not be valid. An old WJR advertisement shows it as covering all of Michigan, without even showing its contours. See and look near the bottom for an item with a Michigan map labelled WJR. Some of the counties are not even within the fringe area, generously defined here as (we restate) 0.1 mV/m, when the fringe area of is 0.15 mV/M. A further distortion is to suggest that radio-locator’s distant coverage area, with the 0.5 mV/m contour in the primary coverage area, (read: local). Granted, the year of this item is unknown, and it looks old, but the point is, the comparison is not a fair one.
20. Ross III, John Edwin. AM Broadcast Antenna Engineering Problem Report.[Thesis] College of Engineering, University of West Virginia, Morgantown, W. Va.,, accessed 20170819.
21. “BPR-2 — Application Procedures and Rules for AM Broadcasting Undertakings: |Ontario Ground Conductivity Map”,
23. From this writer’s memory of the jingle sung for that venue.
24. <emCKLW, “History”,, accessed 20170728.
25. Wikipedia, “CKLW”, information laboriously sought under the “View History” button.
The purely commercial creation of a text from the call sign is seen in an ad for advertisers on WCCC, with the slogan “We have your Market Command Complete Communications” [sic]. The word “Market” is more important than “complete”, “have” is essential. In other words, the call letters have what might be called a false acronym, a match would be more like WHMC. Admittedly, sometimes the letters do represent something, as in CFRB, “RB” is Roger’s Broadcasting. However, one-time 500,000 watt WLW had its call sign handed out systematically, the claim that “LW” meant “world’s lowest wages” … hmmm! – some DJs might have said the same of CKLW.
26. Wikipedia, “CKLW”, Under “CKLW Today”,; also see note 37 below, by former CKLW jock Savage; comment 3 by “gr8oldies” at 09-04-2016, 10:42. on Radio Discussion Boards “Thread: AM Frequency of the Week: 800”, accessed 20170911. CKLW Counsel (Senate Hearing, note 10) pointed out that in 1933 CKLW was the only “cleared” channel station on the North American continent (p. 221).
27. 1976 CKLW QSL card, (note 14.)
28. was used to identify existing AM stations in Detroit, attention being paid to the number of antennas. Some suburban Detroit stations were also evaluated, e.g. Livonia, Farmington Hills, Monroe. This latter had a perfect circle for local night-time coverage, and an almost perfect circle for the more distant area.
29. For 15 minutes. Ed Reis, on Ed. Buterbaugh, in “The Chicago Chronicles”, in The Local Oscillator, Feb. 2009, Vol. 20, Issue 2, acc. 20170806 at
30. The Walrus, p. 77, says CKLW, when conditions allowed, could be heard as far north as Sudbury, east to New York, south to Florida, and reportedly, even in New Zealand. This might be compared with the claim that WJR’s omnidirectional night-time signal is heard in all 48 states, most of Canada, and authenticated by mail returns [meaning, as I interpret it, from radio hobbyists such as I was.] The card is at, accessed 20170728. The laws of physics do not make it impossible, but highly improbable, I feel, that a broadcast band signal from the Northern Hemisphere would make it to the south. Nevertheless, we again have the possiblity that this happened when it was dusk at one place, and dawn at another.
31. (Night-time signal map for CKLW; compare FCC’s at
32. This is a simplified definition. See Joe Wolfe, “db: What is a decibel?” at the Physclips page of the school of Physics, Sydney, Australia,, accessed 20171001.
33. If there is a Radio CPU, it would be in Bolivia.
34. A fire at the transmitter site in May, 2017, caused a 13 hour long hiatus in operations, and a return to the airwaves with only 5000 watts. In its earlier, 5000 watt days, June 17, 1946, the station was also off the air, due to a tornado at Windsor, but this was not a transmitter problem. Both of these events mentioned in: [“”] No details about the return to 50,000 watts have been found.
35. Part of the maintenance mystery has been solved through a comment by former CKLW disk-jockey Gary Tinnes on Real Top 40 Radio Repository under “Johnny Williams, CKLW Composite, 1972-1973”, where he states that on Sunday nights, this was done by switching to 5000 watts. The Gary Tinnes CKLW Collection!, accessed 20170912.
36. Edwin R. Buterbaugh, “Test Results of the Harris Corporation V-CPM AM Stereo System Conducted by CKLW Radio on Behalf of the Canadian Department of Communications Technical Advisory Sub-Committee on AM Stereo. July 13, 1979. Document presented to the Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C., in the Matter of Stereophonic Broadcasting, F.C.C. Docket No. 21313”, document found at, accessed 20170905.
37. Related by “Savage”, Thread: “CKLW – Detroit’s Worst Top 40 Station”, 11-09-2012, 08:46 AM #111, on Radio Discussion Boards.
38. While there are ample references to “The Big Eight” on the Internet, it is nothing more than another way of referring to its frequency. We find a WTRY in New York State on 980 KHz called “The Great 98”, (16th map down on the page): https://
39. I had thought that this, abbreviated DAP, was the answer, based on this quote, “…radio DJs and technicians … wanted their stations to seem louder than the stations near them on the dial. To achieve this, inventor Mike Dorrough developed a device in the sixties called a “discriminate audio processor”, …”. David Byrne, How Music Works, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2017, p. 128,, accessed 20170912. Unfortunately, further investigation suggests that the technology is not of the 60s, but of the following decade.
40. This was, according to information given, used by all similar RKO stations. The Classic CKLW Page! “CKLW 20/20 News”,
41. Motor City Radio Flashbacks site: DETROIT CKLW AM 800: 1965 NEWSPAPER FLASHBACK! Tom Shannon and Ferocious Fame, “The Sun Never Setting” is mentioned on, where there is a downloadable RealMedia file with 7 minutes of Shannon (from July 28, 1965, where we here a reference to “The Big Eight”.
42. In order not to repeat what others have said, we refer the reader to Fitzherbert (op. cit.), p. 15, first column, 2nd para., for a snippet of 20/20 News. In the first new paragraph on p. 16, he describes some practical jokes. Former DJ Mike Rivers contributions are found on The Classic CKLW Page on its page “A Few Memories”. Steve Hunter was the victim of a gang attack. from which he managed to escape, and did “… anything for a ratings point”, described in his “The Long-Lasting Impact of CKLW on the Whole Radio Industry”, also on The Classic CKLW Page.
43. From a Google search, we got this, and the detail mentioned: The station where you listen to/record AT40 – The 70s/80s …
44. Hayes, op. cit., p.79, followed by the word “brash”.
45. Tim Trombley, quoted by Karen Bliss, “The Legacy of Rosalie Trombley, Radio Pioneer Immortalized in Bob Seger’s ‘Rosalie’ and Breaker of ‘Bennie and the Jets’”, Billboard, 1/21/2016,, accessed 20170808.
46. Al Kent, Custodians of the Hummingbird, Pittsburgh; Penn.: Durrance Publishing (RoseDog Books), 2017,, accessed 20170819; probably citing Mike Austerman or Art Vuolo, Jr., (but not attibuted): “On the Radio: He may be gone, but the signal and his memory will last forever”, found on, September 2, 2008, accessed 20170907.
47. This, and the following note, interrupt the data from note 49. Cooper’s credit to Trombley: “We owe her everything”, cited in an article © 2016, Windsor Public Library: “Rosalie Trombley”; through her, the station was the first to play his “I’m Eighteen” [see note 6 for sources]; another source claims it Cooper says it was Trombley’s son who played it, though cooper’s then producer credits Rosalie directly: “Does Radio Work? Ask Alice Cooper.” by [uncertain] Greg McGlone at The Radio Agency,, the article in effect being an ad for the former on, accessed 20170912; and a picture of Cooper at the CKLW studios, posted by Tinnes (note 35), second picture on page (with Tinnes), and under “Ted Bear Richards Halloweenie Show CKLW Detroit, 1974”, with another picture.
48. In Elliot, “He Should Have been charged with Theft” [not referring to Jackson!], note 3.
49. Hayes, p. 78., 1st column.
50. Bliss, op. cit. Other Canadian awards are mentioned here. Ironically, the Juno awards, were named after Pierre Juneau, responsible in part, for the demise of CKLW’s fame. In spite of launching the career or success of some Canadian artists, I have found no pictures of her with any.
51. Hayes, p. 77.
52. Thomas George, “AM Radio Ruled the Airwaves”, Lakewood Observer, Volume 8, Issue 3, Posted 9:45 PM, 02.07.2012;, accessed 20170821. Reference note 56 purports that it was the most listened to in North America, number 3 in the world.
53. Frank Ryan, gen. mgr. of CKLW, appoints Philip A. Fuss as Eastern sales rep of CKLW, address Rockefeller Plaza, bound in Broadcasting and Broadcasting Yearbook 1938, on,, accessed 20171002. Also mentioned under “1938”, in our note 2, but there we have the additional information that the office was closed in the same year, due to the opening of a national sales representative firm [U.S., presumed].
54. Ibid., an advertisement: This event is also mentioned elsewhere, see note 2, under “1938”
55. Ibid., in article “WJBK Claims Affiliation of CKLW On Mutual Net is Unfair Competition”; The second complaint is found on the same page, under the subtitle, “Studios in Two Cities”, also mentioned as the final item under “1938”, see note 2. That business was good in 1937, op. cit., WJBK, Detroit, also complained to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1938 that the CKLW identified itself as a Windsor-Detroit station. Considering that we have just said that there were studios in two cities, i.e. those named in the complaint, can it said that there was any dishonesty?
56. An advertisement by CKLW: “Parking Lot Test Scores CKLW a 2 to 1 favorite”. on Faded Signals web site,, accessed 20170820. The suggestion that CKLW was number one in the world was probably copied from Fitzherbert (see Note 1). Under “Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award 2016, we find that CKLW “routinely” was in the top five in Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio:
57. Ritchie Yorke, “Artist Claims CKLW’s Keen Interest Affects U.S. Hits”, Billboard, 26 May 1973, p. 58,, searching for “cklw radio away cleveland toledo”
58. A pictorial history of Jo Jo MacGregor on the Motor City Radio Flashbacks site: For MacGregor, see RTDNA Canada‘s “BYRON MACGREGOR AWARD – Best Newscast (Radio)”, n.d.,, accessed 20170808.
59. Edwin Buterbaugh, Obituary, Windsor Star, Sept. 2 to Sept. 4, 2008: He obtained an award from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. Accessed 20170806. Billboard named him Engineer of the Year (in 1977 – the year is mentioned in “‘CK 50 YEARS | CKLW ED BUTERBAUGH ENGINEERING AM STEREO . . . AUGUST 7, 1982”, Motor City Radio Flashbacks site, copying item from Billboard, Aug. 7, 1982, accessed 20170806. A page of the Windsor Star viewed through quotes an industry insider, Art Vuolo Jr. as saying that Buterbaugh was “‘one of the greatest and most respected chief engineers in the radio industry.’”
60. While we have a couple of sources claiming that CKLW was put into the Detroit Tunnel in the 1960s,, with History of Canadian Broadcasting, “CKLW” claiming this was done by Engineer Stewart Clark in the middle of that decade, it contradicts itself somewhat by saying it was Buterbaugh who did this, and that CKLW was the only station that could be heard. This last claim is contradicted in the Wikipedia article on the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which also mentions WJR as being currently heard; also with the wiring installed in the ’60s. Interestingly, Buterbaugh, though a Canadian, had left CKLW to go to WJR as its chief engineer (date not ascertained).
61. There is a dearth of information on this topic. Happily for the tunnel mentioned, it was the first international tunnel for automobiles (as far as I can determine). As for tunnels in such cities in New York, i.e. not international, we cannot find the comparable information.
62. Yearbook, 1938, at
63. Noting that our second footnote (, under the years mentioned) has much of the information we have gleaned from the Broadcasting and Broadcasting Yearbook 1938, we might suppose that other yearbooks gave much of the additional information, which we have presented in summarized form.
64. Caroline Van Hasselt, High Wire Act: Ted Rogers and the Empire that Debt Built, John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd., 2010, pp. 48, 59;, accessed 20171002.
65. I may be wrong on this point, which may have been valid for the time it was not the 100% owner.
66. An exact reference to this has not been found, it is based on the writer’s memory. Nevertheless, we have seen sources which show that there was a concern about magazines such as Time and Reader’s Digest. Such concerns paraelled those about broadcasting. See “The Canadian Magazine Dispute” on In 1996, the U.S. took Canada to the WTO over an 80% magazine tax.
67., under 1958.
68. Hearing before the Subcommittee …, op. cit., p. 20.
69. Ibid., p. 206, 218, prepared statement – pp. 222-3.
70. Elliot, op. cit.
71. All names gleaned from
72. Elliot, op. cit.
73. CKLW’s Silver Anniversary DocView.aspx?dbid=12&id=18917&page=1&cr=1. The proclamation, coming from a U.S. government source, would be in the public domain.
74. Gail D. Hershenzon, Image of America Michigan Memorial Park, Arcadia Publishing, 2007, p.97,
75. All the following are Billboard references, considering CKLW a Detroit station: under “Vox Jox: a National Accounting of Disk Jockey Activities: Detroit Data — … Joe Gentile, of CKLW Detroit…, 22 May 1948 p 43. “Drake to Guide All RKO Programming, by Eliot Tiegel Drake, … will immediately take up the assignement to oveersee and modify: CKLW, Detroit; …”, p. 26 Jul 15, 1967; “Gavin Programming Parley to Draw All-Star Speaking Cast
… those scheduled from the radio industry to speak included … Paul Drew, program director of CKLW, Detroit, …”, p 24 November 25, 1967; “Canadian News: From the Music Capital of the world : Toronto … CKLW Detroit …”, p 54 October 27, 1973. On the other hand, the following might require an explanation to the Canadians: “CKLW-Detroit, Owned by Essex Bcstrs. Ltd. , Address 3000 Guardian Bldg, Detroit 28”, The Radio Annual and Television Year Book, 1962, p. 413, while under “CKLW – Windsor” it states, “(See U.S. Listing, Detroit, Mich.)”, p. 632.
76. Radio Mirror, Sept 1935, irror/Radio%20Mirror%203509.pdf
77. “AM broadcasting”Wikipedia; accessed 20170917.
78. “CINW”, under “History”, Wikipedia; accessed 20170919.
79. CKLW-AM”, under 1958,; accessed 20170819.
80. “supports Free Radio”, Canadian Broadcaster and Telescreen, Aug. 22, 1952, p. 9. The publication is against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation through its authors, cf. “Satire”, p.10, where we get: ‘”They want to leave the milk and take the cream.” “So naturally it’s right” (they say in heat) “To dictate policy and then compete.”‘ The CBC is also criticized on pp. 4 and 5 in separate articles, the thrust being that it represents socialism.
81. Hobbyist-Specials/Communications-Handbook-19 66.pdf
82. Motor City Radio Flashbacks,”CKLW-AM RADIO 80 * MAGAZINE AD * 1962″, posted NOVEMBER 19TH, 2013, from July 1957 editon of Esquire,; and in same, “LOOK WHAT WE FOUND HERE . . . A CKLW-TV 9 ’62 AD! FEBRUARY 26TH, 2014 A CKLW TELEVISION 9 AD (featuring Conrad Patrick)”, at the bottom of which it says, “… and you’ll enjoy the NEW SOUNDS on CKLW Radio 80”, Esquire Magazine, November, 1962.
83. Billboard, Richie Unterberger, Rovi, “Terry Knight: Biography”, (no date) at, and Pierre Perrone, The Independent, “Obituary: Terry Knight”, 10 November 2004,
84. Elliot, see note 1.


Comments RSS
  1. PJ Roche

    It was about 1973 and I was 13. It was mid-winter and cold. I was laying in bed about 10:15 at night in Pelham, NY (30 min North of Manhattan) listening to a white plastic GE AM only radio. 77 WABC AM a very popular NY pop music station was playing quietly in the dark of my room as I was supposed to be asleep (this was before FM had taken off). I started to hear another station faintly then stronger, I tuned slightly higher than 77 and it came in well. The music was good!

    But they were talking about faraway places like Windsor, Cleveland, Muncie and Saginaw – names I recognized from books I was reading about hopping up cars like Mustangs and Cameros. Windsor and Cleveland were Ford engine types and Muncie and Saginaw were transmissions and it was REALLY cold and snowy there according to their weather reports – it was all car names – could it be near where they make cars? Then it said CKLW – The Motor City – wasn’t that….. Detroit?

    I used to tune in every night, after 10pm CKLW would come in. The music was so good! To a kid who had never been on a plane or past Maine in his life it sounded like a foreign country. One day I mentioned it to guy I worked with here in NY and he had the same story, he used to get CKLW in Brooklyn only after 10 pm at night around that year.

    I think I only listened for one winter. Was it that the signal couldn’t get here unless it was clear and cold and it faded in the spring? Maybe, I don’t remember – but around that spring a cute girl named Carol told me that FM was where it was at – WPLJ NY Rock – be there or be square – so it was FM only for me from then on – I found an all tube FM stereo console being thrown away, gutted the parts out of the cabinet and set them up on a steamer trunk top in my room – bare tuner and amp chassis and bare speakers – but I had FM!

    Thanks for you write up and the ref to the picture of the phased array antenna. I’m going to see if I can show my daughter how to get CKLW tonight, it should be cold and clear!

    • Paul Karl Moeller

      Thank you for your personal recollections on CKLW. Your interest in the dissipation array is interesting – that would be way too technical for most readers (but then, I don’t know what kind of readers this will have). Good luck in your attempt to tune in again, even if the pleasure will be only in hearing the station, and not necessarily in what it transmits nowadays. – Paul.

  2. dennis williams

    I enjoyed reading everything you wrote here. I grew up with CKLW and remember the years the station was on everybodys radios here in Toledo. They were the absolute KING, and I still miss them. I sometimes think now, with Detroit on the upswing and really starting to come back as a prominent city, they sure could use CKLW to come back. Fire it back up, all new people, new hit music, same everything they did before. They’d probably go to number 1 again. I wish the people running Bell media would consider this. I really do think, it could be done again. And Windsor and Detroit would benefit from it. Dennis Williams Toledo

    —- Reply: Thanks for a very upbeat comment! – Paul.

  3. Richard Fry

    Entry 25 in the Notes and References section of this URL discusses a comparison I made of the coverage areas of WJR and CKLW, which was part of a thread at

    Later on in that Radiodiscussions thread, I posted further comments on this topic as concerns the relative daytime groundwave signals of WJR and CKLW near Grand Rapids, MI (Reply #25, there).

    The text of my Reply #25 is pasted below, as a convenience to those interested:

    \\ Focusing on the Grand Rapids area, the ~148-mile, great circle path from CKLW to the GRR airport lies on about the 295-degree radial from the CKLW site. Interestingly, that path passes very close to the WJR transmitter site.

    The data from the FCC website for the daytime, theoretical field of CKLW shows about 768 mV/m at 1 km on their 295-degree radial, for 50 kW of applied power. As CKLW uses 88-degree verticals, this means that if all of their power was radiated by a single, series-fed, 88-degree monopole with a 2-ohm connection to r-f ground, that radiator would need about 6.34 kW of Z-matched power applied to it.

    The bottom of the null from CKLW to the NW occurs at 320 degrees, and produces an IDF of 534 mV/m at 1 km for 50 kW. The power needed by the above, single radiator to produce that field at 1 km is about 3.07 kW. So the ~5kW stated by Schroedingers Cat is in good agreement with their average ERP in that sector.

    Continuing with their comparison to WJR, CKLW would need to apply about 87 kW to that hypothetical, single 88-degree radiator in order to produce the 2,848 mV/m IDF at 1 km generated toward that NW sector by the facilities of WJR. //

    Richard Fry (author of same)
    WJR Staff Engr, mid-1960s

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