Kent was born in Inverness, Sunflower County, Mississippi. Although he had played the bass guitar in Chicago's clubs since the 1950s, Kent worked full-time in careers other than music until he was over 50 years of age. Following heart surgery, he stopped work as a truck driver, and formed a band. In 1971, Kent took up residence at Ma Bea's Lounge in West Madison, Chicago. The house band became known as Sugar Bear and the Beehives, headed by Kent (the Sugar Bear) with guitarist Willie James Lyons and drummer Robert Plunkett. For the next six years, this troupe backed visiting musicians, such as Fenton Robinson, Hubert Sumlin, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson, Carey Bell, Buster Benton, John Littlejohn, Casey Jones, and Mighty Joe Young. The house band's proficient playing led to their recording a live album in October 1975 at Ma Bea's, billed as Ghetto.
- 1975 – Ghetto (Storyville Records)
- 1989 – I'm What You Need (Big Boy Records)
- 1991 – Ain't It Nice (Delmark Records)
- 1991 – King of Chicago's West Side Blues (Wolf Records)
- 1993 – Live at B.L.U.E.S. in Chicago (Wolf Records)
- 1994 – Too Hurt to Cry (Delmark Records)
- 1996 – Long Way to Ol' Miss (Delmark Records)
- 1998 – Everybody Needs Somebody (Wolf Records)
- 1998 – Make Room for the Blues (Delmark Records)
- 1998 – Who's Been Talking with Lil' Ed Williams (Earwig Music Company)
- 2001 – Comin' Alive! (Blue Chicago Records)
- 2004 – Blues and Trouble (Isabel Records)
Awards and honors
- W.C. Handy Awards: Best Blues Instrumentalist, Bass 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005
- Critics' Choice: Most Outstanding Blues Musician, Bass from Living Blues magazine (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001)
- Readers' Choice: Album of the Year 2001 from Soul Bag magazine, France, for Comin' Alive
- Critics' Choice: Album of the Year 2001 from Soul Bag magazine, France, for Comin' Alive
- France Blues Award: Best Blues Musician, Bass for the years 2002, 2003
- Chicago's Album of the Year 1998: for Make Room for the Blues
- Library of Congress' Best Blues Recording of the Year 1991: for Ain't It Nice
- "RootsWeb: Database Index". Ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- "Willie Kent obituary". The Times. April 5, 2006. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 130. ISBN 978-1-85868-255-6.
- "Willie Kent - Biography". Williekentblues.com. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
- Jason Ankeny. "Willie Kent | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2006 January To June". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved July 27, 2015.