LOS ANGELES If you think Carlos Santana is the baby boomer favorite at this year's Grammy Awards ceremony, 16-year-old Amenza Diaz has something to tell you.
"He's a hottie!" the Burbank, Calif., girl squealed with all the energy of a high schooler in love.
Diaz was one of hundreds of teens who braved dark skies and downpours to welcome Grammy nominees down the red carpet at the Staples Center for the 42nd annual music industry gala.
But unlike many of her giddy peers, she wasn't there for Ricky Martin, 'N Sync or the Backstreet Boys. She was hoping to snag a glimpse of 52-year-old Santana.
Even though the virtuoso guitarist played the original Woodstock festival, his appeal is reaching down to the post-Lollapalooza generation.
Part of his allure, no doubt, has to do with the company he keeps on Supernatural, the album by his namesake band that picked up a Grammy for Best Rock Album in pretelevised awards presentations.
Late-'90s stars such as Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas on "Smooth" (RealAudio excerpt), Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean on "Maria Maria" and hip-hop folkie Everlast on "Put Your Lights On" each lent a hand to Santana songs that picked up additional early Grammys. "Smooth" won the Grammy for Song of the Year.
Diaz's friend Cynthia Dotonsecm, also from Burbank, said it's Santana's music, not his mature features, that turns her on. Like Diaz, the 15-year-old Dotonsecm waited under pouring rain to catch a glimpse of her favorite guitar picker.
"It's just because he's a legend," she said. "His music should have been popular sooner."
Actually, it was. Carlos Santana won his first Grammy in 1988 for Best Rock Instrumental with "Blues for Salvador." And, of course, his Latin-rock band garnered droves of fans in the late '60s and early '70s with cuts such as "Evil Ways," "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va."
But Supernatural, which also includes guest spots from the Fugees' Lauryn Hill and guitar-great Eric Clapton, has been one of the hottest comebacks in rock history with 10 Grammy nominations, including one for the coveted Album of the Year honor.
It's enough even to win over devotees of the Backstreet Boys, like Los Angeles' Brandy Goodson. At 21, Goodson runs into the high age range of the boy band's legions of fans. Perhaps it's that maturity that allows her to root for Santana even over her hunky favorites.
"[The Backstreet Boys] are beautiful and they can sing, and they're gonna win tonight," she said. "But Santana deserves it more. I'll give him that. I'm crazy, but not that crazy."