Luther Kent -- also sometimes known as Big Luther Kent or Amos Kent, and as Duke Royal -- has been a fixture on the New Orleans music scene since the mid-'60s. Born Kent Rowell in New Orleans in 1948, he came from a heavily musical household; his whole family played and sang music together, and his older brother was a member of Stark Whiteman & the Crowns, who often rehearsed in the Rowell home. He began playing piano and drums at an early age, although he initially had no aspirations as a singer. That changed in 1961 when he was entered into a school talent show and won the competition, reportedly with an impromptu version of "In the Still of the Night." He turned to singing, heavily influenced by the R&B and early soul sounds around him, and by age 14 was in a band and shortly thereafter had his first recording contract, with the Louisiana-based Montel Records label, releasing his first single, "I Wanna Know," under the name Duke Royal.
He spent most of the mid- to late '60s singing with a band called the Greek Fountains. At the start of the 1970s, however, he joined a Baton Rouge-spawned group called Cold Grits, who were signed to Lou Adler's Ode Records label and included his cousin Duke Bardwell on bass. But Cold Grits broke up before they could get more than a single released, which left Kent tied to Ode contractually, but without a band. It was at this point that he was asked to front the post-David Clayton-Thomas incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears on tour, which he did through much of 1974 and 1975 and part of 1976. He was still under contract to Ode Records, however, which prevented him from ever recording with the group (which was signed to Columbia Records).
He recorded his first solo album, entitled World Class, in London at Abbey Road Studios, with musical support that included the Brecker Brothers and members of the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1978, Kent joined with Charlie Brent, the former musical director for Wayne Cochran, forming a large New Orleans horn band christened Luther Kent & Trick Bag. Numerous guest artists visiting the city came to sit in with Trick Bag, including Boz Scaggs, B.B. King, Slim Harpo, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimmy Page, Bonnie Bramlett, Gregg Allman, Etta James, Joe Cocker, Bo Diddley, Rita Coolidge, the Righteous Brothers, Ike & Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, ZZ Top, Rickie Lee Jones, Billy Preston, and Billy Eckstine.
Luther Kent & Trick Bag released three albums on CD, and Kent began a career in television commercials as well, which earned him a Cleo Award working in tandem with John Fred. He was signed to FM Records in 1987, and later, with producer Mike Post, recorded the album Past Due. Thanks to Post, who was also well-established in the field of television music, Kent was heard singing on the title theme to the series Cop Rock. In more recent years, he has released several albums of New Orleans music. ~ Bruce Eder