CKLW Windsor/Detroit “Million Dollar Weekend” | 1976

CKLW may have been Canadian, but it was likely the most creative and best station in the RKO chain. It’s also likely that the period of 1970-1976 was probably the height of “The BIG 8”.

CKLW was a 50,000 watt music blowtorch covering most of Eastern North America… and it catered to interests in Detroit as well as to it’s own Canadian listeners. Today, however, this is known as “The Information Station” and primarilly serves the Canadian side of the boarder only. If only Canada’s CTRC knew the monster that was created way back when had the power to affect people thousands of miles away… well perhaps they did know. Either way, the CanCon rules enacted in the 70s may have helped Canadian artists, but it did spell doom for CKLW– as the audience shifted to other, U.S. stations within earshot right across the river.


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  1. steve touma

    cklw, is a legend, that said it all when you talk about detroit/windsor radio.

    The Jocks were all legend, all of them and from pat holiday,johnny williams, brother bill,gary burbank, dave schafer, tom shannon, etc .

    They set the trend the memories, will always live on at cklw , the big 8

  2. george

    I was only eight years old in 1976, but i vividly remember listening to the latest hits by Bob Seger, Paul McCartney and Elton John on CKLW coming from the AM radio in my dad’s car. If you lived in Detroit or Windsor in the 1970’s, you could hear CKLW literally everywhere you went-the mall, grocery store, community centre etc. CKLW was more than a Top 40 radio station, it was the MTV of its’ day.

  3. Ray Mead

    II grew up in the samall northwest Ohio town of Fayette. listened to CKLW from the early 1960’s until I went into the Army .in 1965. When I was in the states I always had one button on my radio set on CKLW. I could pick it up as far away as Baltimore, FT Bragg NC, and FT Knox KY. CKLW was more than a legend, it was a piece of home for those of us from the midwest. I can remember myself and other guys from Ohio and Michigan gathered around a transistor radio after “lights out” listening to CKLW in the barracks and singing along with our favorite hits. It was a whole different world in those days and CKLW was the soundtrack of our lives.

  4. Jay Hunt

    Has anyone ever found an aircheck of Ron Knowles hosting Platter Express on CKLW around 1957-58? Glen Miller’s “Take The A Train” was his theme song and it was one of the most popular teen rock & roll shows of the time.

    Jay Hunt
    Ottawa, Canada

  5. Jay

    I grew up listening to CKLW from the early 70s to the early 80s, when it changed format to swing and big band. I have an idea: Why doesn’t the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland have an exhibit of classic powerhouse radio stations of the past? I think this would be an excellent idea! The exhibit would showcase the DJs, the station location, the music, as well as the music format technology of the era (records, tapes, CDs).

    • Adam

      To paraphrase that era: that would be a groovy idea! I would definitely go see that if they had something like that.

  6. Gary McKenzie

    From an RKO insider’s point of view CKLW was a great radio station in the day but still was not on the level of KHJ or especially KFRC.

  7. Peter

    For those of us who grew up in Boston we are partial to WRKO being #1 !!

  8. Mark O.

    Many thanks for the posting this interesting aircheck. A couple of points though: (1) You refer to the 1970-76 period as being the Big 8’s heyday…note that RKO was obliged to sell the station to a Canadian group in 1970, therefore the heyday occurred after the station was Canadian-owned, and (2) CKLW continued to score very high ratings in the U.S. after the CanCon regulations went into effect…I’d say that the eventual decline of the Big 8 was more related (as in other markets) to the migration of music-radio listeners to FM, not the impact of CanCon. Windsor-based FM music stations which adhere to CanCon continue to score well in Detroit ratings, even now in 2012 (i.e. alternative rocker 89X).

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