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Metropolis / So SoCal

Radio Programming That's Moved by the Spirit

June 16, 2002|MARY DAILY

The first voice many Southern Californians hear on Sunday is Andrea Leonard's. The host of 89.9 FM KCRW's "Morning Glory," from 5 to 7 a.m., delights adventurous gospel music lovers with an eclectic array of spiritual music. "It's a looser interpretation of gospel, beyond the traditional," she says. "It's anything with a religious theme, from jazz to alternative rock." With contemporary gospel easy to find, Leonard, 35, plays more off-the-beaten-track selections. "I spice it up, add some surprise elements. I'll put Ralph Stanley next to Ata Damasco from Hawaii next to 'Freedom Highway' by the Staple Singers."

Leonard, who directs visitor services at the Getty Center during the week and often introduces featured artists at "KCRW Presents" concerts in venues ranging from the Greek Theater to the Knitting Factory, got hooked on music beloved of America's working class in her hometown of Cleveland. As a teenager, she hung out at her uncle's bar, where factory workers gathered to hear blues. At Ohio's Case Western Reserve University, Leonard hosted a blues show on the college radio station. When she moved to Los Angeles in 1989, she began volunteering at KCRW, the National Public Radio affiliated station in Santa Monica. Two years ago, she took over "Morning Glory," which also airs around the world at www.kcrw.com.

Leonard's mix-it-up programming style draws plenty of regulars; a group of workers on the oil rig Platform Irene off the Santa Barbara County coast often calls with requests, as do surfers on the way to catch a wave and nurses headed home after the night shift. As one caller put it: "Baby, you go all the way back. You don't sound old enough to know these songs."

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