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Celebrate 150 Years of Taps

Keith Clark, Bugler at JFK’s Funeral


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.

The story of the “Broken Note”can be read by CLICKING HERE

Clark was born on November 21, 1927, in Grand Rapids,  Michigan, and studied trumpet with Clifford Liliya and Lloyd Geisler. After graduation from Interlochen Music School, he played with the Grand Rapids Symphony. In 1946, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as trumpet soloist with the United States Army Band. 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.

The audio can be heard 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


Clark grave

Clark gravesite in Arlington


This article is Copyright © 2010 Tapsbugler.com

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

Leave a Reply

17 Responses to “Keith Clark, Bugler at JFK’s Funeral”

  1. Tapsbugler says:

    Thanks so much for your post

  2. Mary Osterhaus Clark says:

    Keith Clark was my friend and mentor from the time I was 9 years old. He directed the adult choir at my church, and my dad was a bass in that choir. Keith got four of us 10-year-old kids together and taught us how to harmonize a hymn, then had us perform it in a church service. We were pretty scared, but I remember being so pleased that he would take the time to do this. He always supported and encouraged me in my music, all the way through college. I remember him sitting at our dinner table telling us about the Kennedy funeral and the broken note. There’s more to the story than what is written down, but that remains in my memory alone, and will never be publically shared. I lost track of him when he was a professor at Houghton College, but then met up with him again as he was transitioning to retirement in Florida. I kept up with him with a bit of correspondence over the ensuing years, but then he died and that was it. I was so pleased to be able to attend the 50th anniversary of Taps for Kennedy’s funeral in 2013, and to see his dear wife Marge and his oldest daughter Nancy, neither of whom I had seen for many years. I loved Keith, Marge and their family, and I will never ever forget them! He was one of the most special persons I’ve ever known!

  3. Bill May says:

    At 19 years of age I played taps in the U.S. Air Force. At 64 I am playing taps again for the D.A.V. Organization. Keith Clark has always been an inspiration to me.

  4. Tapsbugler says:

    Thank you!

  5. Lisbeth Skala says:

    As a very little girl, my mother sat me down in front of our little black and white tv to watch the historic funeral of our president. I remember the bugler playing taps. 14 years later that bugler was my music professor at Houghton College. He taught me “Brass Class” and “Basic Conducting”. He always had a kind word and boundless knowledge of hymns and music in general. His daughter became a friend of mine since we were in the same year and shared the same dorm floor and were in choir together. Today she posted a memorial to her father so i wanted to visit this site and learn more about him. He was a kind man with a love for people and boundless knowledge of hymns.

  6. Mery Hatson says:

    Youre truly well informed and very intelligent.

  7. John Mason says:

    I was in the US Navy Band during the Kennedy funeral and played when the body was transferred to the Capitol Rotunda, as well as in the funeral procession.

    It was common knowledge amongst all the military bandsmen at the time that the lieutenant in charge of the ceremony refused permission for the bugler to blow warm air into his instrument, thus ensuring that it would be impossible to play. The officer in charge saw him blowing the air and told him not to do it. When the sergeant told him that the instrument was impossibile to play if it was stone cold, he was ordered not to blow the air. He obeyed under protest, told the commanding general about it, and the officer was immediately transferred. But the bugler never told anyone about his orders.

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