Keith Clark would have turned 90 on November 21st. Here is some information on the bugler who sounded Taps at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy.
KEITH COLLAR CLARK (1927-2002)
Keith Clark was the Principal Bugler with The United States Army Band who was placed in the world spotlight when he was called to sound Taps at the Funeral of John F. Kennedy.
Life has a way of thrusting a person into the limelight when least expected. The sounding of Taps at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy was the first time the call was heard on such a world-wide stage. Millions watched or listened as those twenty-four notes were performed on that chilly day in November 1963. The performance has been the subject of newspaper and magazine articles, discussions, commentary, radio and TV reports and even an audio spectrum analysis. What happened during those 60 seconds is forever etched in the memory of Americans and touched the hearts and souls of people around the world who were mourning the death of the young president.
The musician behind the bugle that day was Keith Clark, the Principle Bugler with the US Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” Today we celebrate his birth and remember him, not only for that rendition of Taps for the President but also as a first rate trumpeter, musician, scholar, devoted family man and one of deep firm religious convictions.
The story of the “Broken Note”can be read by CLICKING HERE
Keith Collar Clark was born on November 21, 1927 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father, Harry Holt Clark, was a professional musician who played flute and violin in several orchestras. When Clark was three, his father placed a toy trumpet on the fireplace mantel hoping to spark his son’s interest in music. Clark asked everyday if he could play with the trumpet. The answer was always the same: no, not until he would make a promise to take it seriously. It did not take long for Clark to make the promise to practice an hour everyday and his father replaced the toy with a real instrument.
At age nine he debuted as a trumpet soloist in a radio contest, and while still a high school student he soloed with the University of Michigan Band, under Dr. William Revelli. Clark took lessons from trumpeter Harry Glantz in New York City, later stating his concepts of tone, style, and musicianship were influenced by Glantz’s playing. He also studied with Clifford Lillya, and Lloyd Geisler. After graduation from Interlochen Music School in 1944, he performed with the Grand Rapids Symphony. In 1946, he enlisted in the military to play trumpet in the Army Band. In 1951 he married Marjorie Ruth Park and together they raised four daughters in the Arlington, Virginia area, not far from Fort Myer. A deeply religious man, his life-long passion for rare books and hymns resulted in a publication, “A Select Bibliography for the Study of Hymns.”
Clark at age 19
Clark in the 1950s
It was during his tenure with the Army Band that Clark received national attention as the bugler who sounded Taps for John F. Kennedy’s funeral. The Taps will be forever remembered as the “Broken Taps.” His bugle is on display at Arlington National Cemetery.
Clark performed at hundreds of funerals in Arlington and had played for President Kennedy many times, including sounding Taps at The Tomb of the Unknowns less than two weeks prior to his death during Veterans Day ceremonies. He also performed for President Eisenhower and recalled that Vice President Nixon once winked at him during a ceremony.
On the afternoon of Kennedy’s assassination Clark, Principal Bugler of the United States Army Band, was going through his collection of rare books on church music with a friend when his 11-year old daughter, Sandy, called up the stairs with the news. After the initial shock subsided, Clark immediately went to the nearest barber for a haircut, thinking he might be asked to sound Taps should Kennedy be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Clark thought it likely that a Navy bugler would be chosen since Kennedy had served as a naval officer during World War II but, “Just in case, I wanted to look my best, and I went out to get my haircut.”
The story of the “Broken Note”can be read by CLICKING HERE
Clark at the Kennedy grave 1964
After retiring from the army, Clark went on to a successful career of teaching, performing, and writing. His love of hymns brought him much recognition as a scholar and he has received numerous awards. He lived in Florida and was quite active as a trumpeter. His collection of hymnals was acquired by Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA in 1982. Mr. Clark’s great love for hymnody and Psalmody resulted in this large collection from various dealers and individuals. Containing more than 9,000 volumes, the Clark Hymnology Collection includes thousands of hymnbooks from various American denominations and churches, as well as several well-known books on hymnody from the 17th century to the present.
Clark with his Hymnal Collection
To download an article about the Keith Clark Hymnal Collection
Click on the image below
A little fun
The bugle on which he performed Taps at the Kennedy funeral was loaned to the Smithsonian Institution in April, 1973. In the spring of 1999 the bugle was moved to Arlington where it is currently on display in the Visitor Center. The bugle was the centerpiece of the bugle exhibit The Taps Project
I asked Clark about Taps and in a letter to me, he wrote, “I feel the thought behind the playing and feeling used in the performance are the most important parts of each sounding of Taps.”
He was not able to attend the opening of the Taps Exhibit at Arlington but I was pleased and honored when I received a photograph of him standing by his bugle.
Clark at the bugle exhibit at Arlington
Keith Clark passed away on January 10, 2002 at the age of 74 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery the graves of fellow musicians.
One of the many letters received by Clark following the funeral
YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT THIS
LETTER BY CLICKING HERE
Clark gravesite in Arlington
This article is Copyright © 2010 Tapsbugler.com