In the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, CKLW Windsor/Detroit ruled the airwaves, earning the nickname "The Big 8." During its heyday, CKLW was not just the number one station in the market, but also a trendsetter, with its roster of top-notch DJs and innovative programming. Let's take a trip down memory lane and explore the golden years of this legendary radio station and its impact on the world of Top 40 radio.

CKLW's Rise to Dominance:

CKLW's journey to becoming "The Big 8" began in 1967 when RKO General, the station's parent company, hired Bill Drake as a consultant. Drake and his team, led by program director Paul Drew, implemented the "Drake Format" at CKLW. This format streamlined programming, emphasizing a tight playlist of hit songs, dynamic jingles, and high-energy DJ performances. The result was a radio experience that was fast-paced, engaging, and incredibly popular with listeners.

The Big 8 DJs: Radio Royalty:

Part of CKLW's success was due to its talented lineup of DJs, known as the "Big 8." These personalities were the heart and soul of the station, entertaining audiences with their charisma, humor, and genuine love for the music they played. The Big 8 DJs included legendary names such as:

Tom Shannon - The "Shannon in the Morning" show host, known for his smooth voice and quick wit.
Pat Holiday - An expert at engaging listeners with his infectious enthusiasm and captivating storytelling.
Charlie O'Brien - A versatile DJ who could switch effortlessly between high-energy banter and heartfelt moments.
Gary Burbank - The master of voices, famous for his hilarious impressions and memorable characters.
Big Jim Edwards - The beloved night-time DJ, whose warm personality and deep knowledge of music made him a fan favorite.
These DJs, along with others who graced the CKLW airwaves, were celebrated for their unique styles, engaging presentation, and the strong connections they forged with their audiences. Together, they helped define the sound and spirit of CKLW and set the standard for Top 40 radio during this era.

CKLW's Impact on Top 40 Radio:

CKLW's influence extended far beyond the Windsor/Detroit area. As a powerful 50,000-watt station, its signal reached a vast audience, spanning parts of the United States and Canada. This wide reach, combined with its innovative programming and dynamic DJs, turned CKLW into a major player in the world of Top 40 radio.

Other stations took notice of CKLW's success and started adopting elements of the "Drake Format," further spreading the influence of the Big 8. CKLW's focus on a tight playlist, high-energy presentation, and strong DJ personalities helped shape the sound of Top 40 radio for years to come.


CKLW Windsor/Detroit's reign as "The Big 8" in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s stands as a testament to the power of innovative programming, exceptional talent, and the enduring appeal of Top 40 radio. The station's impact on the industry, the careers of its legendary DJs, and the memories of countless listeners make it an essential part of radio history. As we celebrate the golden era of Top 40 radio, let's not forget the important role that CKLW and the Big 8 DJs played in shaping the soundtrack of a generation.