Herb Kent The Cool Gent Turns 85

Herb Kent The Cool Gent Turns 85

Herb “The Cool Gent” Kent, the legendary disc jockey is more than just the longest serving DJ (according to the Guinness book of records), he is a walking encyclopedia of soul and R&B music.

This Saturday is Herb's 85th birthday and that also coincides with 25th anniversary of his employer WVAZ 102.7 (V103), but Herb needs to be celebrated not just as a living legend but as a pioneer in radio (of any format), but he is the undisputed king of urban radio.

And there is a party for Herb after the concert (V 103 is having a anniversary concert featuring Chaka Khan & Bell Biv Devoe at Allstate Arena), in the south loop at Marmon Grand Banquet at 22nd & Michigan.

If you want to be entertained, taught about various urban artists and music over the last 60 years and listen to good music, check out Herb Kent’s weekend show on V 103 (Saturdays 8-Noon & Sundays Noon -7). It’s some of the best local radio period. I've spent plenty of time listening to Herb and its time you won’t regret, he was “Behind the Music"long before VH1 ever had that show on the air. He will tell you about artists, songs, what was going on when that song was popular and even what went on afterwards with the artists.

One of the best portions of his show is he will have “battles” between artists, a recent battle was Smokey Robinson vs R. Kelly and he has callers chime in for their favorite of the two. And then he plays the artist songs alternating between the two. He then tells you all kinds of personal stories, facts (and opinions), of the artists.

And you won’t go at least 10-15 minutes without a Cadillac reference, either from him or a caller. You sometimes hear people calling from one of the postal facilities and telling Herb, "he mail trucks broke down, we are delivering the mail in Cadillacs."

Herb usually drives a Cadillac and used to have the vanity plate “Cool Gnt”.

I met Herb about 15 years ago at the old ALS Les Turner Foundation “Mammoth Music Sale” (which ended in 2002), which was a music sale that benefited the local ALS foundation. This sale was second hand music heaven, of donated records, tapes, CD's instruments and sheet music. This sale was held huge tents in the parking lot of Old Orchard Mall in Skokie and often local radio stars came out (since many stations broadcasted live from the sale), and other were part of their stations donating music from the cause. So one weeknight evening I was there going through records and saw the tall cowboy hat wearing radio legend. And yes he truly is a gent, kind, approachable with a deep laugh that matches his excellent radio voice.

As if all that isn't enough Herb Kent is also the biggest supporter of "Steppin Music", which is the music that goes with the south side dance phenomenon (primarily of middle aged, extremely well dressed urban dance fans), that some people refer to as "Cha Cha". Herb often privately DJs Steppin parties and even had a cameo in the 1997 movie "Love Jones" as what else, a DJ at a steppin party.

However, Herb is more than a DJ, he has been involved in the community his entire career, including being on the air on April 4, 1968 (the day of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination), and telling the rioters on the westside to calm down.

Herb is a 1995 Radio Hall of Fame honoree and also has a street named in his honor and is often referred as "The Mayor of Bronzeville". Speaking of mayors, none other than former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley wrote the foreword for Herb's autobiography The Cool Gent: The Nine Lives of Radio Legend Herb Kent.

Herb is also credited with coming up with the term "dusties", referring to older soul music and it fits. Sounds so much better than "Oldies" and like Herb himself, its a smooth definition.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul grad (LA&S '99), and know and love Chicago. Writing is my passion, what I write is what I feel and there is no half steppin' with my work. I simply want to share my thoughts, experiences and opinions. And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say.

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