KMEL’s Sana G hip-hops over early bumps
By Ben Fong-Torres, San Francisco Chronicle , Sept. 28 2014
It’s been a year and change since Sana G, happily hosting KMEL’s afternoon drive show, was suddenly bumped to the morning show.
That’s because management had declined to renew the contract of veteran station starChuy Gomez (he has re-emerged on afternoons at “Hot 105.7.”)
Many KMEL listeners protested Gomez’s dismissal and swore they’d never tune in again. Chuy’s shoes, Sana agrees, were muy grande.
“Yeah!” she exclaimed from behind her control board. “We’ve had legendary talent on here. Anybody who comes into a situation behind somebody who’s been on for 20 years, there’s going to be a fan base there that’s dedicated. … People don’t like change. Of course, it’s going to be a little rough in the beginning, but as time goes on and people see that we do bring some great entertainment to the radio, things have gotten easier.”
It’s all easy-breezy on one recent morning in a studio at Clear Channel (now iHeart Media; see next item), where Sana faces co-host/entertainment gal Miss Kimmie, who started at KMEL 15 years ago as a receptionist, and former intern D.C., who also hosts the midday show and adds a male voice to the mix. (G Biz, who won a temporary co-hosting gig through a station contest, is out today.) Also on the team: producer Max Rosenhaus, who provides audio elements and keeps track of time; music mixer Lexx Jones; and traffic reporter Lady Ray. (Aside from Rosenhaus, the crew members prefer to see their radio names, rather than their given ones, in print.)
They talk easily and energetically, whether it’s about celebrity gossip, the “clown of the day” (a dumb criminal or a jerk, or both) or personal matters.
Sana G is clearly the leader of the pack. Born in the Central Valley, she was attending Fresno State, majoring in criminal justice, when she did a Sunday show on the campus station.
“Somebody told me I should be on B95,” and a demo tape later, she was on Fresno’s hip-hop station. She worked in Houston before joining KMEL in 2006. She doesn’t divulge her age, but since she let slip that she graduated from high school in 1991, she’s probably, oh, 39. “I’m young at heart,” says Sana, a single mother, “and I don’t look half bad, to boot.”
These days, most radio stations are cutting back on personnel and payroll. But Sana, who worked solo on the afternoon shift, said, “A morning show should be an exchange. It makes it more well rounded. I think people are more drawn in because there’s different characters with different opinions. Sometimes it’s like a soap opera.”
People are being drawn in. According to operations manager Don Parker, KMEL always has been strong among listeners ages 18 to 34. But in the more coveted 25-40 demographic, “we were out of the top 10 consistently. Now we’re consistently in the top 10.”
He ascribes the improvement to Sana G. “You don’t put anybody on the morning show unless you feel they have the ability to connect,” he said. “We saw her ability to connect not only with 18 to 34s, but also the 25- to 40-year-olds. She has a broad-based appeal.”
Compared with Gomez’s show, Parker said, Sana’s has more varied content. “In this age,” he said, “people will not come to a station for music alone. They have too many choices. The content from personalities is more important than it’s ever been.”
Besides online options, KMEL faces competition from Gomez’s new station and from “Q102.” Sana expresses little concern. “The more you pay attention to what everybody else has going on, the more you take away time and effort on what you’re doing,” she said. “God bless ’em, but it’s all about the Sana G morning show.”
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