Saturday, March 04, 2006
Chicago bluesman Willie Kent loses battle to cancer
Bassist Willie Kent, a mainstay on the Chicago blues scene, died on March 2 after a battle with cancer, according to his Web site, www.williekentblues.com.
In an article written by Bill Dahl on www.allmusic.com, Kent and his band, the Gents, were "among the last of a dying breed around Chicago: a combo that intuitively knows the meaning of ensemble playing, rather than functioning as a generic backdrop for endless guitar solos."
Big Ray Stewart, who played with Kent for several years, called his friend "the godfather" of Chicago blues, according to The Associated Press.
"Willie Kent was the last traditional blues player in Chicago," Stewart said. "Any time you could find Willie Kent in the club, you could always find two things: a lot of lying and a lot of laughing."
Like many bluesmen, the Mississippi-born Kent moved to Chicago. By 1952, at age 16, he became a regular at clubs, backing legends including Little Walter, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, to name a few.
He also played with Jimmy Dawkins and Eddie Taylor before forming his own band, Willie Kent and the Gents, in the mid-1980s. For more than two decades, the band helped define the modern-day blues scene in Chicago. Appropriately, Kent won 10 W.C. Handy Awards for best blues instrumentalist, bass. Living Blues magazine also honored him six times with its critic's choice award for bass players.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Ruth; by nine children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and by a brother, Walter, of New York. Click here for the obituary.