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The Cool Gent: The Nine Lives of Radio Legend Herb Kent Hardcover – February 1, 2009
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"Truly, a legendary radio personality. Like all of his adoring fans, I applaud Herb for his nearly 65 years of contributions to Chicago’s radio airwaves and for furthering his inspirational reach through this book." Richard M. Daley, mayor, Chicago
"Herb Kent is one of the great DJs of all time, and one of the great human beings of all time." Gene Chandler, "Duke of Earl"
"Herb Kent is more than a radio legend. He’s an American icon, and anyone who has ever heard him on-air knows why . . . Mr. Kent’s charm and wit have earned the respect of millions of devoted fans and listeners and have inspired a number of aspiring African-American broadcasters . . . as far as I'm concerned, the Cool Gent’s story is long overdue." Rod R. Blagojevich, governor, Illinois
"Herb’s distinctive voice has entertained and informed Chicagoans for more than 60 years . . . this book will give readers a tremendous opportunity to experience the life, both personal and professional, of Herb Kent, one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!" Earl Jones, president, Clear Channel Radio Chicago
"Herb Kent paved the road of success that I'm on today." Tom Joyner, radio host, The Tom Joyner Morning Show
"This fine gentleman is loved by everyone, and was born to be 'the Greatest Jock' ever, and that's what he is." The Mighty Dells: Marvin Junior, Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale, Michael McGill, and Johnnie Carter
About the Author
Herb Kent is an urban radio pioneer and legendary DJ who first went on the air in 1944 and still broadcasts today. He was the first African American to be inducted into the Museum of Broadcasting Radio Hall of Fame. He teaches broadcasting at Chicago State University. David Smallwood is a journalist and the coauthor of Profiles of Great African Americans. He is a founder of, contributor to, and former editor of N'Digo, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, and a former reporter and editor for the Chicago Sun-Times and Jet Magazine. Mayor Richard M. Daley has been the mayor of Chicago since 1989.
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Top Customer Reviews
My mother would always still listen to the radio. she would say things like, "Mr. Spann's Daughter."
Herb still emcees shows in the Chicago area and his own "performances" are always fun to watch and hear. And when an "old school" music artist is in the news; Herb's is the voice that many in Chicagoland listen for to hear an authoritative take on the life and career of the artist in question. His on-air tales of his encounters with noted black music artists are usually blunt, funny and true-to-life. His weekend radio shows are usually "must-listen" events for many middle age blacks in the Chicago area.
I grew up listening to Herb Kent and am glad that his shows are streamed on-line so that I can hear him wherever I go. Long reign the undisputed "King of the Dusties"!
Herb, who's now past 80 years old, contends that like most "cats" he was given nine lives. He's been spared from permanently checking out in remarkable ways-- being run over by a car as a child, nearly driving off a cliff himself in the mountains of West Virginia, even missing a horrendous and potentially deadly car crash thanks to WVON "Good Guy" E. Rodney Jones' burning desire to get a pig ear sandwich in Milwaukee. Not all of the stories are as amusing. The insistence of his general manager at WGCI that he enter drug rehabilitation or be fired certainly saved his life. And almost immediately afterwards, Herb successfully battled cancer of the esophagus that nine of out of ten of his doctors said was 100% fatal.
I worked with "Herbie Baby" for three years (so I can tell you he's one of the classiest guys I know-- right up there with Ramsey Lewis, who I think even sleeps in a three-piece suit) and I never knew these things about him. In fact, he didn't even tell his daughter or program director he was undergoing chemo and radiation. That's how private a man Herb is. So it's rather shocking to see him open up so candidly about his life-- the bad as well as the good.
Along the way he relates how he rejected some great advice from Hugh Downs, to his regret. But also how he rejected the notion of his college radio professor that he'd never make it in broadcasting because of the color of his skin.
As you would expect, the book is full of short vignettes about the various artists he's known and worked with over the years, starting with his own Kool Gents and their lead singer, Dee Clark. You'll hear about the Dells, the Impressions, the O'Jays, Minnie Riperton, Smokey Robinson, James Brown and a riot at Midway Airport involving the Jackson 5. You'll hear the full story of "The Wahoo Man", Herb's creation that ended up almost as legendary as the Cool Gent. But you'll also hear about a standoff between Carbondale police and Herb's bodyguards that ends up involving the town's mayor and how Herb went to jail for standing up to an unreasonable cop.
The book even asks a musical trivia question at the beginning of each chapter, with the answer at the end.
"Cool Gent" works as a remembrance of the music of the `50s, `60s and beyond, as a history of Chicago's black radio and as an insight into, as he puts it, "a little guy who wanted to be on the radio since he was a whipper-snapper, finally gets in, succeeds greatly, crashes, recovers, and rises to the top of radio again." Long may he reign.