The Black radio family nationwide is mourning the loss of longtime Chicago DJ Herb ‘The Cool Gent’ Kent. Kent was a longtime on-air personality for Chicago’s V103 station and was added to the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest-working on-air radio personality.
The “King of the Dusties” got his start as a teenager after he was accepted into the WBEZ radio workshop at 16. His first big break came in 1949 when he was hired by Gary, Indiana station WGRY. In the ’50’s, Kent coined his “dusty records” phrase and broke records by Smokey Robinson, James Brown and other R&B and soul legends.
During his radio career, Kent worked for 11 different stations and interviewed a number of stars, including the aforementioned Robinson and Brown along with Stevie Wonder among many other notables. Kent also served as a mentor for a young Don Cornelius of Soul Train fame.
“I think my success has had much to do with the way I appeal to my listeners as well as how I tap into the vein of what I call Cool School music,” Kent said in his 2009 memoir The Cool Gent: The Nine Lives of Radio Legend Herb Kent. “It doesn’t matter if it’s old school or new school — there’s a certain quality to some music that just makes it good, makes it timeless, makes it … Cool School.”
For well over six decades, Kent who turned 88 earlier this month, was at the forefront as a voice for the Black community and a bridge between artists new and old. He was a tireless force of nature as well, and was still working up to his passing. Kent was a noted historian of R&B music and his mind held an infinite reservoir of facts.
The family has yet to reach an official statement and memorial services are in development, according to reports.
PHOTO: Herb Kent promo