Herb Kent was one of the superstar DJs here on Chicago radio back in the day. This is one of the many features to come spotlighting some of the great talents from back in the day on Chicago radio.
Born Herbert Rogers Kent in Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Herb was an only child who grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood here in the Windy City. Herb went to Hyde Park High School and Northwestern University. A broadcaster to the end, Kent passed away shortly after doing a show on V103 here in Chicago on October 22, 2016, at the age of 88.
“Herbie Baby,” “Herb Kent The Kool Gent,” “King of the Dusties,” “The Mayor of Bronzeville.” All these names belong to a Chicago radio icon whom I was fortunate to meet, know, and call this amazing man a friend. While not like buds but I have to admit whenever we saw each other, he always remembered me and was kind and eager to talk about music, radio, and anything else we could shoot the shit about for the short times we’d have. I’d call him once in a while about a song or songs, he’d ask me if I had certain songs on digital, I was always humbled by this icon talking to me as an equal. I mean, he didn’t have to, I was just a kid but he was always kind to me and we were both genuinely curious about what we were both doing in our industry.
When I was a little kid, a friend of my father’s had a radio show on 105.9 WXFM. Once in a while, we’d go to the truck stop where Count Bee-Jay broadcast his “Journeys Into Music” show, located at 39th and Morgan. It was a jazz show but I was an R&B freak, my parents were big jazz heads but. While I listened to it all from the pop to to the rock, loved disco too but for me, my passion, what truly moved me was anything with complex arrangements in R&B and the groove of the blues.
Herb Kent was brokering time on WXFM (as did Count-Beejay and anyone else on that station at that time) at that time. I’d ask my Dad if he’d ask “Bee-Jay” to get me to meet Herb. One of my most cherished moments was when I was finally introduced to him in 1979, I was in heaven! Here I am talking to a guy in radio who knew about all the music I loved. We talked about the artists, he shared a few stories about some of them, where they were from, who produced it, which studio it was recorded in, the musicians, the arrangers, it was one of my greatest experiences to be able to talk to someone who cared about it all in the same way I did.
Through the years I’d reach out to him, wish him happy holidays, happy birthday, we’d bump into each other once in a while and he always remembered me as that little “eye-talian kid.” who knew his shit. In 1997, he honored me with an interview at the first (and only) “Cyber City” display at Taste Of Chicago that year.
Herb was one of the few people in the radio industry who understood how technology was going to alter not just radio, but our lives. He was interested in what I was doing on the tech side and he was right there with it all. He was a tech-head! He saw (as I did) how the technology was going to usher in a whole new way to radio. He truly was a visionary in every single sense of the word and without him, I’d never have learned how to ‘step.’
Herb owned night clubs, taught broadcasting (Chicago State), mentored others, made careers for many artists including The Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, Minnie Ripperton, and more. Through it all, this amazing man held a devoted fan base that listened to him through the years at radio stations including WBEZ, WMAQ (Radio), WBEE, WVON, WXFM where he’d introduce the ‘punk-out’ sound to an accepting mixed audience. He’d wind up his career on Chicago’s V103.
What better way to honor a man in his hometown by giving him an honorary street sign named in his honor. “Herb Kent Drive” sits atop a street sign in Bronzeville.
Some of Herb’s professional accolades include
In 1995, Kent was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
In 2009, Kent was recognized by Guinness World Records for the “Longest Career as a radio presenter/DJ (male)” (72 years)
In 2015, Kent received the Chicago Crusader’s Crusading Pioneer Award.
In 2016, Kent received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Chicago Defender and Real Times Media at the Men of Excellence Awards Dinner in Chicago (Source: Wikipedia)
Below you’ll find links, airchecks, interviews, and more with this episode Chicago Radio Legend, Herbert Rogers Kent.