|City of license||San Francisco, California|
|Broadcast area||San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, California|
|Slogan||"106 KMEL Hip-Hop & R&B!"|
|Frequency||106.1 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||1946 (as KGO-FM at 96.9)
1947 (as KGO-FM at 106.1)
November 30, 1960 (as KFRC-FM)
|Callsign meaning||"KAMEL 106" (name of former branding and camel mascot)|
|Former callsigns||KGO-FM (1946-1955)
|Former frequencies||96.9 MHz (1946-1947)|
|Owner||Clear Channel Communications|
|Sister stations||KIOI, KISQ, KKSF, KNEW, KOSF, KYLD|
KMEL (106.1 FM) is an Urban Contemporary-formatted radio station located in San Francisco, California. Owned by Clear Channel Communications, it has been one of the most well-programmed urban radio stations in the United States, owing to its unusual roots from being an Album Oriented Rock format to a Top 40/CHR format, from a Rhythmic CHR format all the way to the current Urban Contemporary format. Under the Clear Channel banner, KMEL is the largest urban radio station in its roster outside the New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago radio markets, as well as the conglomerate's designated flagship station in the respective urban radio division.
KMEL has studios located in the SoMa district across the street from the Caltrain station and railyard, and broadcasts at an effective radiated power of 69,000 watts from the San Bruno Mountain area south of San Francisco. The station's powerful signal can easily be heard all over the Bay Area and covers areas as far north as Santa Rosa, as far east as Elk Grove in the southern portion of Sacramento County, and as far south as the Santa Cruz Mountains and, reputedly, the Salinas Valley. It is currently one of the highest rated stations in the Bay Area, with the largest listening audience males 18-to-34 demographic.
- 1 History
- 2 Current On-Air Talent
- 3 KMEL's current format and programming
- 4 Points of interest
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
106.1 FM began as KGO-FM, sister station of KGO. The FM station was originally licensed at 96.9 FM in 1946. KGO-FM moved to 106.1 FM on November 3, 1947, with facilities at a former General Electric plant on East 12th Street in Oakland. On January 14, 1955, KGO-FM moved from 106.1 to 103.7.
RKO General, owner of Top 40 powerhouse KFRC, eventually purchased the station and on November 30, 1960 it became KFRC-FM. The station's call letters changed to KFMS in November 1968, then KKEE in October 1972. In September 1973, the KFRC-FM call letters were reinstated, and the station began a Bill Drake and Paul Drew-programmed "nostalgia rock" format. playing oldies and soft rock as "K106" (Don Sainte-Johnn, PD).
On July 2, 1977, after Century Broadcasting purchased the FM station, K106 was rebranded KMEL, playing Album-Oriented Rock ("AOR"). Their mascot for the rockradio station was a camel with a set of wireless headphones (henceforth the call letters) and was known on-air as "Kamel 106" and "KMEL FM 106, Rockin' The Bay!".
KMEL was a top-rated station during that time with their tightly-formatted approach, and with newer rival KSFX helped force legendary rival KSAN to switch to country music in 1980. That same year, KMEL signed popular New York radio personality and San Francisco native Alex Bennett as host of its new show, "The KMEL Morning Zoo". Alongside was news reporter/sidekick Joe Regelski and KFRC's Renel Lewis; the show helped propel KMEL even higher in the ratings. During this era, afternoon DJ Geno Mitchellini also helped give KMEL one of the highest ratings in the Bay Area market for his afternoons time slot.
The year 1982 saw many changes at Bay Area rock stations. In January 1982, KMEL obtained a new rival when KCBS-FM (97.3) transformed itself from an Adult Contemporary-format station into KRQR, "Rocker 97", "The Bay Area's New Rocker", "I'm A Rocker!", "The Rocker", and began its long run as a dominant rock station. In May 1982, KSFX dropped rock and went to a talk format as KGO-FM. A month later, Bennett and Regelski both left KMEL in a disagreement over a newly hired consultant, only to resurface in August at new rock station KQAK, "The Quake FM99". In September 1982, KFOG entered the battle for rock-listener marketshare after dropping its Beautiful music format in favor of an eclectic mix of rock.
With four AOR stations in San Francisco, in addition to two more in San Jose, KMEL faced stiff competition. Though KQAK gave up its AOR format the following April and switched to modern rock, KRQR and KFOG still put enough pressure on KMEL to bring about a significant programming change at the station.
KMEL dropped their AOR format on August 25, 1984, and flipped to a mainstream, Contemporary hit radio ("CHR") format. The station was a successful in capturing marketshare. They relaunched "The KMEL Morning Zoo" with Renel Lewis, her new co-host Johnny London, and their news reporter/sidekick Ronnie Engelman. The success eventually helped push main CHR rival KITS toward a modern rock format as "The New Live 105 FM". The station took on the branding as "106 KMEL" from then on which would be a holdover for their urban format years later.
While KMEL was still billed as CHR, the station's programming started to drift in a rhythmic direction which served as the forerunner of its current format. Program director Keith Naftaly helped make this incarnation of KMEL again one of the top stations in the Bay Area.
In early 1987, KMEL hired popular club DJ Cameron Paul away from rival KSOL because of his sizable following; this was a harbinger of a change in format and, as the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, KMEL became one of the first crossover pop stations in the nation to target young multiracial audiences with not-yet-mainstream hip-hop, dance, freestyle, house, and reggae music.
The station also embraced new jack swing R&B music at its heyday, which was the basis for KMEL innovating the annual two-day Summer Jam concert series. These parallel music and marketing developments paved the way for KMEL's evolution into its present-day Urban Contemporary format.
By September 1992, Century Broadcasting sold KMEL to Evergreen Media. The new owners guided KMEL into its current urban contemporary format. At the time it was alternately called "KMEL Jams, More Music 106 FM", "106.1 KMEL Jams", "KMEL Jams 106 FM, The People's Station", "106 KMEL, The People's Station" The present-day format has made the station less synonymous with the previous short lived formats and became more recognized in the Bay Area's African American community all the while targeting a wider audience to date, thus giving it heritage status through the callsign. Evergreen patterned the diversity of the station after its then-sister station KKBT in Los Angeles by maintaining a multi-racial staff to ensure KMEL had "No Color Lines" under the new phase of the format.
Also in 1992, KSOL, which ironically suffered in ratings due to KMEL's newfound success, retooled itself and became "The New Wild 107" (KYLD) and quickly emerged as KMEL's prime competitor for their mutual core audience demographic. The fierce competition over the coveted 18-34 "urban" listening audience continued for another four years until the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 made it substantially easier for radio stations to solve their problems with competitors by simply buying the competition. Evergreen Media, ended the ratings war with KYLD by purchasing it later that year. Meanwhile, a third competitor, KHQT out of San Jose, was also in competition with the two stations until 1995 when it changed formats under new ownership.
Chancellor Media (later AMFM Inc.) later purchased Evergreen Media (along with subsidiaries KMEL and KYLD), and AMFM was then swallowed up by Clear Channel Communications via a $24 billion deal in 1999. Controversially, KMEL canceled its Sunday night Street Soldiers public affairs program. Today, the program has been renewed and airs every Sunday night from 8-9pm PST. The program focuses on current events and controversial topics that effect the African American community and its youth.
Current On-Air Talent
Sana G. In The Morning
- Sana G. host
- Miss Kimmie entertainment reporter/co-host
- Lady Ray traffic/co-host
- Pacey producer
- Kenard "K2" Karter
- DJ Rick "The Dragon" Lee and "The 106 KMEL's 12 O'Clock Throwback Mix" mixer
- Big Von Johnson former KYLD DJ.
- DJ Rick "The Dragon" Lee and "The 106 KMEL's 5 O'Clock Drive Time Hip-Hop Mix" mixer
- Shay Diddy
- DJ Boy Wonder mixer
- Steven "Q" Quintero
- Drew Hefner
- D.C. *
- Radio Reem
- DJ Amen mixer
- DJ Knuckles mixer
- DJ Boy Wonder mixer
- Eric Edwards
- Pat Garrett
KMEL's current format and programming
The majority of KMEL's playlist features music under rubric of the Urban Contemporary format, heavy with hip-hop and R&B. In addition to competing with sister station KYLD which uses a Rhythmic contemporary format, KMEL also competes with its Urban adult contemporary ("Urban AC") counterparts: sister station KISQ and pioneering Urban AC station KBLX (now owned by Entercom, while KBLX would be pretty much KMEL's only competitor today). While most hip-hop stations elsewhere tend to have a mainstream urban format should it be co-owned with an Urban AC, KMEL has been allowed to protect its format approach only because KISQ leans more mainstream/old school R&B and KYLD leans partially Top 40/Pop-ish in its format. KMEL reports as rhythmic contemporary per Mediabase, even though they're not a rhythmic contemporary station (another urban station on the rhythmic panel of Mediabase & urban panel of Nielsen BDS was WJHM in Orlando, Florida until morphing to rhythmic and was moved over to BDS' Rhythmic panel in February 2012. Another station, WPGC-FM in Washington, D.C., would follow suit in July 2012). Per Nielsen BDS reports, they are urban contemporary, KBFB in Dallas/Fort Worth are rhythmic contemporary stations per Mediabase reports, but they report on the BDS urban panel despite being the only rhythmics in those areas where there are existing urban contemporary stations (WKYS/WERQ & KKDA-FM). KMEL, as of 2012, is now listed as urban contemporary per RadioStationWorld.com rather than rhythmic. It is one of the last remaining urban contemporary stations on the Mediabase rhythmic panel.
KMEL suffered a setback in ratings between 2009 and 2010. This was mainly due in part to Arbitron phasing out the diary keeping approach to ratings for the PPMs. This contributed to the brief decline of KMEL's ratings since the station has a specific audience target. While any longtime urban contemporary stations in other major cities (like WPGC-FM in Washington D.C. and KPRS in Kansas City) had to introduce songs typical of what is played on rhythmic radio stations to reboost ratings, KMEL programming executives decided not to revert to its rhythmic/urban roots; it remained urban and instead the playlist rotation was tightened as of 2010 in order to keep the longtime station from changing formats.
In addition to its typical daytime mixture of hip hop and R&B, KMEL plays R&B and soul slow jams from roughly 10:00pm to 1:00am Monday through Thursday. The 10:00pm hour of that shift is known as "The Ten O'Clock Booty Call" with the remaining two hours devoted solely to slow jam love songs dubbed as "The KMEL Lounge". Urban contemporary gospel airs on Sunday mornings. KMEL is one of two area stations to play gospel; KBLX is the other. It even plays Old School hip hop and soul during midday mix show "The Twelve O'Clock Throwback Mix", on Friday mornings "Funky Fridays", and mixed in general during their weekend playlist rotation.
In line with its slogan, "The People's Station", KMEL broadcasts the community-affairs show Street Soldiers, hosted by Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, on Sunday evenings. However, the station's commitment to community activism in its programming was notably questioned by the activist community in the aftermath of the post-September 11 firing of DJ and long-time Community Affairs Coordinator David "Davey D" Cook. Though the station stated that economic considerations had forced it to let Cook go, many felt that he had been dismissed for programming decisions and on-air remarks construed as "unpatriotic" in light of the country's "earnest" mobilization for the War on Terror. (See "The controversial firing of Davey D," below)
On August 15, 2013, KMEL fired longtime morning host Jesus "Chuy" Gomez after he had served for 20 years.
Points of interest
KMEL is noted as the station that helped launch the careers of many Bay Area hip hop & R&B artists in the 1980s and 990s, including En Vogue, Tupac Shakur, Digital Underground, Oaktown's 3.5.7., MC Hammer, Timex Social Club, Tony!, Toni!, Tone'!, E-40, The Coup, Too Short, Suga T., Club Nouveau, Coolio Da' Undadogg, Mistah F.A.B., and Mac Dre just to name a few.
Many popular Bay Area and national media personalities either got their start or spent time working at KMEL, including Joe Regelski, Mary Hollyway, Alex Bennett, Gino Mitchellini, Theodore Mizuhara, Johnny London, Ronnie Engelman, Howard "The Refrigerator" Hoffman, Yo! Sonny Joe Fox, Don Sainte-Johnn, Ricky Shaw, "Marvelous" Mark McKay, DJ Cameron Paul, Michael Erickson, Rick Chase, Billy Vidal, Diana "The Real Lady D." Steele, Carmen, Evan Luck, Rosary Bides, The Baka Boyz, Lisa St. Regis, Efren Sifuentes, Renel Lewis, Trace-Dog Nunez and Franzen Wong, Mark Todd, Kevin Nash, DJ "X", who is currently know as DJ "Earl Gray", Billy "Bill The Gill" Alexander, DJ Short-E (currently at KHHM in Sacramento), DJ Slim (currently at KJHM and KDHT in Denver), Kimberly Clemons, "Broadway" Bill Lee (who is now at WCBS-FM in New York), David "Davey D." Cook, Christopher Lance, MTV's Sway Calloway, DJ King Tech, and Jesus "Chuy" Gomez.
The station has played a significant role in the promotion of hyphy music in the San Francisco Bay Area by playing tunes from many of the local artists associated with hyphy. KMEL's mixshows have long contained exclusive hyphy music which can seldom be heard over the airwaves elsewhere in the country. Because the station broadcasts live via streaming audio from their website, it gives the genre a platform for possibly worldwide exposure.
The controversial firing of Davey D
On October 1, 2001, radio personality and hip-hop activist David "Davey D" Cook was terminated, due to what the station said were consistently low ratings. His dismissal occurred after new Program Director Michael Martin took charge of the station, happened at the same time as the station changed many programming elements, and coincided with the layoffs of several other station personnel, including on-air personalities Trace-Dog Nunez, Rosary Bides, and Franzen Wong. Cook, however, claims his departure was due to his political views, including his having aired statements from California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and rapper Boots of The Coup voicing opposition to the War in Afghanistan.
- Billboard - Google Boeken
- Chang, Jeff (2005). Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York, New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 440. ISBN 0-312-30143-X.
- Chang, Can't Stop Won't Stop, 441.
- Chang, Can't Stop Won't Stop, 442.
- Johnson, Chip (October 26, 1999). "Opposition To KMEL Merger / `Street Soldiers' creator speaks out in Oakland". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
- Street Soldiers Radio Program
- Baudry, Jennifer (December 19, 2001). "Another 9/11 Media Scapegoat?". AlterNet.org. Retrieved 2007-03-01.
- Vaziri, Aidin (August 17, 2013). "KMEL fires popular morning host 'Chuy' Gomez". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- Kava, Brad (2007-01-17). "For 20 Years, KMEL Has Been King of the Hip-Hop Hill". RedOrbit.com (San Jose Mercury News).
- Chang, Jeff (2003-01-22). "Urban Radio Rage". SFBayGuardian.com. San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- Is KMEL the people's station? : a community assessment of 106.1 KMEL. Oakland, CA: Youth Media Council, 2002
- 106KMEL official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for KMEL
- Radio-Locator information on KMEL
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for KMEL
- Bay Area Radio Museum: The Complete KMEL Airchecks Collection
- KMELforever.com: A Website Dedicated To The Preservation Of The History Of KMEL
- KMEL Summer Jam - The Original "Summer Jam" concerts by Andrew Knyte of NJS4E
- Cameron Paul Blog
- KMEL profile on Radio Station Zone
- 1986 KMEL audio clip