The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Herb Kent

Share on Social Media

Information about Herb Kent

Profile image of Herb Kent

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Radio Personality

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Beans, Rice
Favorite Time of Year:
October, Indian Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cruises
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
10/5/1928
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Radio Personality

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Beans, Rice
Favorite Time of Year:
October, Indian Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cruises
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
10/5/1928
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Herb Kent is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Born on October 5, 1928, Herb Kent was raised on Chicago's South Side, where he received early musical inspiration from the rhythm & blues clubs that dotted his neighborhood. Often, he stood outside the windows of these clubs listening to the tunes being played inside. As a young teen, he became involved in drama workshops and studied classical music at Hyde Park High School. By age sixteen, Kent had already given an on-air performance on Chicago's prestigious WBEZ Radio station with his workshop. The year was 1944, and Kent's passion for radio was solidified.

During the remainder of the decade, he continued to participate in workshops, particularly with the Skyloft Players, a local theater company. He built scenery and performed in the ensemble along with the other players for several years. The theater was a perfect testing ground for the improvisational skill required to host a radio program, and in this environment Kent excelled. Finally, in 1952 he was given a salaried position as an on-air radio personality with WGES Radio, where he hosted a one-hour country and western show. He developed a distinctive on-air style and, with it, a substantial fan base. After three years with the station, he moved on to the Head Announcer position at WBEE Radio.

Throughout the following two decades, Kent hosted radio shows on several stations in Chicago. Though each station had a platform and a format of its own. Kent's style of humor, critique, and banter was immediately recognizable to his loyal listeners, no matter what station broadcast his shows. One of his most iconic stints was with WVON Radio between 1962 and 1970. Many members of the broadcasting community have stated that Kent greatly helped to launch the careers of such R&B artists as The Temptations, Minnie Ripperton, Curtis Mayfield, and Smokey Robinson because of his enthusiastic, on-air embrace of their music. During his broadcast on WVON, Kent became widely known as the "Voice of the People" for Chicago's South Side, the spokesperson for local African America. He became known widely as "Herb Kent, the Cool Gent", and even served as producer for an R&B group named The Cool Gents.

During the 1960s, Kent also became known as a prominent Civil Rights activist because of his outspoken views on the lack of social and economic equality in America. For several years, he broadcasted his WVON show live from a different high school each week so that he could provide community youth with an alternative to the typical Friday night activities. After his retirement, he continued his work with community leaders to create programs that provided a productive environment for South Side youth.

A few of Herb Kent's many awards and recognitions include his 1995 induction into the Museum of Broadcast Communications Radio Hall of Fame. In 1996, Kent witnessed the official dedication of a street on Chicago's South Side in his honor: "Herb Kent Drive". He was also recognized by the dedication of a United States postal stamp bearing his image which was included in the 1998 "Golden Days of Radio" series. The following year, Herb Kent was named the Honorary Mayor of Bronzeville by the citizens of that South Side community.

At the time of the interview, Kent was a columnist at N'Digo Magazine, the Chicago-based African American periodical.

Kent passed away on October 23, 2016.

See how Herb Kent is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Herb Kent's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Herb Kent remembers living with his mother as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Herb Kent talks about going to school in a white environment
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Herb Kent discusses his early interest in radio
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Herb Kent talks about growing up in Chicago's Ida B. Wells housing project
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Herb Kent describes his personality as a child and teenager
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Herb Kent discusses his family's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Herb Kent does not know the details of his family's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Herb Kent describes his inspiration to have a career in radio broadcasting
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Herb Kent talks about being discouraged from pursuing a career in classical music radio
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Herb Kent discusses racial conflict and cultural differences between blacks and whites
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Herb Kent talks about the racial climate of Chicago in his early years
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Herb Kent discusses the importance of a college degree
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Herb Kent describes his first jobs in the radio business
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Herb Kent talks about the influence of Al Benson and other African American disc jockeys
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Herb Kent talks about selling airtime and ratings competition in black radio
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Herb Kent discusses working with disc jockeys Al Benson and Sam Evans
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Herb Kent details his first airtime on black radio
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Herb Kent talks about his public image in his early radio days
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Herb Kent talks about working at WGES with disc jockey Sam Evans
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Herb Kent talks about the popularity of African American disc jockeys in Chicago
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Herb Kent describes the differences between WBEE and WGES
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Herb Kent discusses the work environment at WBEE
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Herb Kent talks about how he helped various doo-wop and R&B music groups
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Herb Kent talks about the popularity of doo-wop and R&B during the 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Herb Kent talks about the relationship between disc jockeys and musicians
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Herb Kent discusses his firing from WBEE
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Herb Kent shares a light moment with his boss and discusses his success at WJOB
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Herb Kent discusses the changing definitions of rock and roll
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Herb Kent tells of his move to WHFC (WVON)
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Herb Kent discusses the success of Leonard Chess and WVON
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Herb Kent describes the work environment at WVON during the 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Herb Kent talks about the impact of WVON on Chicago's African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Herb Kent describes some of the characters he created at WVON
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Herb Kent talks about other black disc jockeys in Chicago
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Herb Kent talks about the decline of WVON in the early 1970s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Herb Kent talks about changing his style to fit the FM radio market
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Herb Kent discusses limitations for blacks in the radio industry
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Herb Kent talks about his newfound appeal at Chicago's WVAZ radio station
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Herb Kent discusses his popular appeal
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Herb Kent talks about working in television
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Herb Kent talks about his role in popularizing the Chicago dance style called "steppin'"
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Herb Kent discusses his future aspirations
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Herb Kent describes what he wants his legacy to be
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Herb Kent discusses his concerns for the black community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Herb Kent discusses the effect of radio conglomerates on the industry
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Herb Kent discusses the effect of technological advances on the radio industry
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Herb Kent discusses his age and his popularity
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Herb Kent briefly talks about what his mother thought of his success
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Herb Kent talks about some of his favorite musical artists
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Herb Kent talks about the impact of black music on society
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Herb Kent explains the impact of black disc jockeys
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Herb Kent remembers some of the influential black disc jockeys in Chicago