Herb Kent was “the longest-running DJ in the history of radio,” a radio personality in Chicago, Illinois, for more than seven decades. He was nicknamed “The Cool Gent,” “King of the Dusties,” and “The Mayor of Bronzeville,” by his listening admirers.
Kent was born in Cook County, Chicago. He grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago. He attended Hyde Park High School and as while at the school began hosting a classical music program for Chicago’s WBEZ. After graduating high school, Kent attended Northwestern University. By the late 1940s, he was working at two stations, acting in old-time radio dramas on WMAQ in Chicago and hosting a recorded program on WGRY in Gary, Indiana. He later found work at WJFC-AM and WJOB-AM.
In the 1950s, Kent became known as “The King of the Dusties” for his development of the oldies format that he called “dusty records.” Over the years Kent influenced thousands of young black men in Chicago. He held the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest on-air career.
Kent was the host of Steppin’ at Club 7, a dance program, on Channel 7 in Chicago in the mid-1990s. The title came from Chicago stepping, a dance with which Kent was associated.
Kent served as master of ceremonies for a Freedom Summer rally held by Martin Luther King Jr. At Soldier Field in Chicago, he was also the voice on WVON calling for calm after King’s assassination. Kent was inducted into the national Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in August. He also taught broadcasting and communications at Chicago State University. Herb Kent died within hours of his final broadcast on Saturday, October 22, 2016. He was 88 years old.