Keith Clarkâ€™s broken sixth note was considered the only conspicuous mistake in the otherwise ornate and grandiose ceremony. It was thought that it was a deliberate effect. It was not. Clark was present hours before the funeral procession arrived at Arlington and placed in very close proximity to the firing party to appease the television cameramen. Captain Thomas F. Reid, Commander of Co. D, First Battalion, Third Infantry, wrote in his after-action report: â€œThe television network coordinator (Bill Jones from NBC), though generally cooperative, insisted on the placement of ceremonial troops in some areas which were convenient for television coverage, but extremely difficult for the troops concerned. An example of this in [sic] his insistence that the Buglar [sic] stand directly in front of the firing party. This resulted in the Buglar [sic] having to play TapsÂ immediately after experiencing the muzzle blast of the firing party firing three (3) vollies [sic] into his ear, with unfortunate results.â€21
It was cold that day, and because Clark did not have much of a chance to warm-up, it is not surprising that he missed a note. Also, the fact that he was playing for a worldwide audience may have had some effect on him. Tom Sherlock, Senior Historian at Arlington remarked in 2001 that Clarkâ€™s flawed sounding of Taps seemed entirely fitting. â€œIt showed the tension that the nation felt. Itâ€™s part of the emotion. Itâ€™s when a speech is well delivered and a voice cracks because itâ€™s an emotional time. Itâ€™s what should happen. And in that way, it almost personalized it. And it made it immortal.â€22
Clark returned to the band hall at Fort Myer after the funeral to change clothes before teaching several trumpet lessons for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.23Â It was a long day for him. Clarkâ€™s family watched the ceremony on television. His daughter Karen remembered, â€œOur family nervously waited in front of the TV during the live broadcast. When we heard Dad play TapsÂ and break a note, we all groaned in dismay. I was only in third grade and felt total humiliation that of all the perfect playing Iâ€™d ever heard from my Dad (I donâ€™t ever remember him making a mistake, even when just practicing!); it had to be in front of the whole world. Hours later, when he came home, Sandy and I practically jumped him and asked why he had to have made a mistake. His face paled, eyes got huge, and he said, â€œWhat mistake!?â€ He didnâ€™t even know about it until he watched it on TV himself.â€24
The broken note took on a life of its own. Clark reported that for weeks afterward, the same note wasÂ missed by other buglers at Arlington. â€œWe all thought it must be psychological,â€ he recalled.25Â Newspapers picked up on the cracked note, calling it a â€œtear,â€ and the suggestion was made that the note was missed on purpose as in a â€œFrenchâ€ version.26Â The French word sanglotÂ was also used to describe the note. Sanglot translates as â€œsobâ€ and as described in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, indicates a downward resolving appoggiatura (like a grace note) sung to an appropriate sound such as â€œahâ€ or â€œhelas.â€27Â How this relates to a broken note of TapsÂ is when a bugler misses a note, they will usually overshoot it and come down to it, making a â€œsplee-ahhâ€ sound. A broken note is also referred to in the common jargon of trumpeters as a split, a clam, or a crack as in, â€œHe really clammed that noteâ€ or â€œHe split that top note.â€ One article â€œAmericaâ€™s Long Vigil,â€ which appeared in TV Guide on January 25th , 1964 described Clark as â€œThe bugler who played the sour note during Taps .â€ American journalist Edward P. Morgan stated, â€œThe buglerâ€™s lip quivered for the Nation.â€28
In the weeks that followed the funeral, many cards and letters were sent to Clark thanking him for the rendition and expressing their understanding for the missed note. Much of the mail was simply addressed to â€œThe Bugler, Arlington National Cemeteryâ€ yet made its way to Clarkâ€™s hands. One note in particular stated, â€œHold your head highâ€¦In your one sad note, you told the world of our feelings.â€29
After retiring from the Army in 1966, Clark went on to a successful career of teaching, performing, and writing. He served as a music instructor at Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y. He later was a conductor and performer with southwest Florida area musical groups such as the Venice Concert Band and the Atlantic Classical Orchestra.Â Clarkâ€™s great love for hymnody and psalmody resulted in a large collection containing more than 9,000Â volumes. It also brought him much recognition resulting in a publication, â€œA Select Bibliography for the Study of Hymnsâ€ published by The Hymn Society of America. The Clark Hymnology Collection, which includes thousands of hymnbooks from various American denominations and churches, as well as several well-known books on hymnody from the 17thÂ century to the present, was acquired by Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA in 1982.30
The instrument Clark used at the funeral was a Bach Stradivarius field trumpet (bugle) pitched in the key of B-flat. Modeled after the M1892 U.S. regulation field trumpet, the U.S. Army Band had acquired these specially made bugles through the efforts of Army Bandsmen George Myers and Gilbert Mitchell from Vincent Bach during the 1950s, for use at ceremonies at Arlington. Letters from Bach describe theÂ type of professional model he wanted to create for the buglers in the band.31
The bugle, serial number 1962-1, was purchased in April 1962 from the Bach Corporation in MountÂ Vernon, New York. After being used at the Kennedy funeral, the bugle was used to sound TapsÂ at the funerals of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, and Lyndon B. Johnson. The Army BandÂ was later directed to turn the bugle over to the Smithsonian Institution because of its association with theÂ Kennedy funeral. It was transferred on April 3rd , 1973 and placed on display in the National Museum of American History. In 1998 work began by the author to have the bugle moved to Arlington as part of a three-year display of bugles and bugle related materials. Through the efforts of Army Band Commander Colonel Bryan Shelburne, Band Historian Michael Yoder, Arlington Superintendent John Metzler Jr. (whose father was superintendent during the Kennedy funeral), Arlington Historian Thomas Sherlock, and the author; the bugle was moved to Arlington in the spring of 1999 where it is currently on display in the Welcome Center.
The uniform worn by Clark that day is in the Heritage Museum at Fishermenâ€™s Village in Punta Gorda, Florida. Keith Clark suffered an aortic aneurysm after playing the trumpet at an orchestra concert and died on January 10th , 2002. He is buried in Arlington in Section 34 near the grave of General JohnÂ â€œBlack-Jackâ€ Pershing. Section 34 is also the final resting place for other Army Band musicians includingÂ buglers George Meyers and Patrick Maestrolo. Indeed, the broken note has become part of our American heritage as much as the crack in the Liberty Bell, which occurred, by legend, during the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835. Clarkâ€™s one note remains in our collective memory of a beloved president and a buglerâ€™s rendition of a military honor for his commander-in-chief. Thanks to the family of Keith Clark for their help with this article. A commemoration of Keith Clark and the 50th anniversary of the sounding of TapsÂ at the Kennedy Funeral will take place at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday November 16th , 2013 at 10am. For more information, please visit www.tapsbugler.com
Click here for recording of Taps by Keith Clark at the Kennedy Funeral If you have any questions please contact Jari Villanueva byÂ CLICKING HERE
Jari Villanueva is considered the countryâ€™s foremost authority on U.S. military bugle calls, especially the call of Taps . He retired from the United States Air Force after serving 23 years as a bugler at Arlington National Cemetery. He was responsible for moving the bugle used at President Kennedyâ€™s funeral from the Smithsonian Institute to Arlington, was behind the 150thÂ anniversary ceremonies of TapsÂ in 2012, instrumental in having TapsÂ designated as the National Song of Remembrance, and is currently involved with Taps For Veterans, an organization that helps provide live buglers for military funerals. Villanueva is the author of â€œTwenty-Four Notes That Tap Deep Emotions: The Story of Americaâ€™s Most Famous Bugle Callâ€ and is featured on the CD â€œDay is Done: Music Commemorating the 150thÂ Anniversary of Tapsâ€. He currently serves as the Director of the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard and is commander/conductor of the Maryland Defense Force Band. He resides with his wife Heather in Catonsville, MD. His website is www.tapsbugler.com
1Â Karen Clark-Moore, Daughter of Keith Clark, interview by author, 1 February 2013
2Â Dan B Fleming, Ask What You Can Do For Your Country: The Memory and Legacy of John K. Kennedy (Clearwater, Florida: Vandamere Press, 2002), 72.
4Â Keith Clark, personal letter to author, 8 July 1992.
5Â Ernest Kay, editor, International Whoâ€™s Who in Music , (Cambridge, England: International Whoâ€™s Who in Music, 1988), 41.
6Â Barbara Lee, â€œThe Broken Note.â€ Washingtonian MagazineÂ (November 1993): 48-49.
7Â William Manchester, The Death of a PresidentÂ (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), 490-497.
8Â Robert M. Poole, On Hallowed Ground-The Story of Arlington National CemeteryÂ (New York: Walker & Company, 2009), 210.
9Â Manchester, 559
10Â Keith Clark, telephone interview with author, April, 1999
11Â Lee, 48.
12Â Ibid, 49.
13Â Ibid, 49.
14Â Irving Lowens, â€œAccurate Listing of Funeral Music,â€ The Washington StarÂ 1 December 1963
15Â Manchester, 598.
16Â Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer, Bachâ€™s Bugles , www.bachbrass.com/bachologyÂ 2006
17Â Manchester, 600.
19Â Clark, letter
20Â â€œBuglerâ€™s Note Still Plays on Himâ€ Associated PressÂ 22 November 1988.
21Â Thomas Reid â€œAfter Action Report, President Kennedy Funeral (Interment Ceremony)-16 December 1963â€ 3rd U.S. Infantry records, Old Guard Museum
22Â Richard Goldstein, â€œKeith Clark, Bugler for Kennedy, dies at 74.â€ New York Times , 17 January 2002.
23Â Douglas Bialecki, â€œBugler Recalls JFK Funeral Tapsâ€ Vero Beach, Florida Press-JournalÂ 22 November 1988 13A.
25Â â€œBuglerâ€™s Note Still Plays on Himâ€
26Â â€œBehind the Scenesâ€, Eureka Humboldt Standard , 6 December 1963, 4.
27Â Stanley Sadie, editor, The New Groves Dictionary of Music and MusiciansÂ (London: MacMillian Publishers Limited, 1980) Vol. 16 472.
28Â â€œAmericaâ€™s Long Vigilâ€ TV GuideÂ (25 January 1964) 21.
29Â Letters and postcards send to Keith Clark after the funeral in the possession of the Clark Family.
30Â Keith C. Clark Hymnology Collection www.regent.edu/lib/special-collections/clark-hymnology.cfm 2013
31Â Vincent Bach, Letters to Sergeant George Myers, 14 and 20 February 1950
The JFK Bugle
An audio file TAPS SOUNDED AT THE KENNEDY FUNERAL NOV 1963
You can view the video of Clark sounding Taps here:
Much more information about the “Broken Taps” can be found in the booklet “Twenty Four Notes That Tap Deep Emotions: The story of America’s Most Famous Bugle Call”, by Jari Villanueva, visit http://www.jvmusic.net
Video of JFK Funeral
Video of entire Graveside CeremonyÂ
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