The preeminent Chicago blues bassist of the postwar era, Willie Kent was the city's last surviving link to the Mississippi Delta tradition, backing a who's who of immortals including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Junior Parker as well as fronting his own long-running band, the Gents. Born in Inverness, MS, on February 24, 1936, Kent was the product of a sharecropping family, and was enlisted to pick cotton at the age of six. While local musician Dewitt Munson afforded his first exposure to the blues, as a teen he began dialing in Helena, AR's influential radio station KFFA, where the King Biscuit Time broadcast served as his introduction to formative influences including Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk. By age 11, Kent was a surreptitious fixture at the Highway 61 club the Harlem Inn, catching acts headlined by Howlin' Wolf and Ike Turner. Two years later, he left home for Memphis, and after a brief tenure at a Florida gas station, he migrated to Chicago at the age of 16. There Kent bought his first guitar, which he loaned to musician Willie Hudson in exchange for lessons. In 1959, he joined Hudson's band Ralph & the Red Tops as a chauffeur, occasionally appearing on-stage as a vocalist. Whenever Hudson's bassist brother showed up for a gig too drunk to perform, Kent was summoned as his replacement, eventually taking over the position for good.