Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
Renel has always enjoyed entertaining people.
Born in Oakland and raised there, in Berkeley, and in Richmond, Renel suffered when her family moved to Menlo Park on the Peninsula.
She went to Mills for college, where she studied classical voice and sang in a band with some guys who went to UC Berkeley. After college, she got an entry-level job at KCBS radio and worked her way to writing copy for on-air talent. Four years later, she got a sales job at KFRC, but ended up running the station's public affairs department, an opportunity that got Renel on the air while filling in for a colleague out on maternity leave.
She later got her own show on the station--Bayview: A Look at the Issues and Concerns of the Bay Area Black Community. That lead to Renel's first music set: She debuted as "Rockin' Renel" at midnight on a Friday in 1985.
After a format change at KFRC, she got in at KMEL. Renel was with KMEL when it became one of the first stations in the country to play hip-hop. She eventually got the morning show on the station, the job she held until helping to launch 98.1 KISS FM (now "The Breeze" ... ya keeping up?).
And then ... The San Francisco Giants came a-knockin'.
Tune in Thursday for Part 2 and the continuation of this amazing woman's journey.
Related Podcast: Fellow Bay Area radio personality Dayna Keyes: Part 1 and Part 2
We recorded this episode over Zoom in March 2021.