John Clifford Heed (April 23, 1862– February 12, 1908) was an American composer and musician, best known for composing over 60 marches. Born in Hackettstown, New Jersey, on April 23, 1862, Heed began his musical career with the Hackettstown Cornet Band by the age of 11. By the time he reached the age of 17 he was the leader of this band and he had mastered with astonishing rapidity the intricacies of harmony and counterpoint. He became proficient on the piano and violin, and could play most band instruments. In 1882 he had the opportunity to travel with a noted English orchestra through the United States. The cornetist that had come with the orchestra became ill and was sent back to England. Heed was highly recommended and was engaged to fill the cornetist’s place. He received encomiums from the press and public in every city and town visited.
A year later, in 1883, Heed accepted an engagement to become the leader of the Providence, Rhode Island, Brigade Band. This was a position that he held until he was called back to New Jersey to conduct another orchestra and band. Soon thereafter, he went to Worcester, Massachusetts, and spent eight years as a teacher of bands. His next position was a cornetist for Voss’s First Regiment Band in Newark, New Jersey. It was after his Metronome article was written that Mr. Heed went with John Phillip Sousa’s band as a soloist and arranger before contracting tuberculosis in the 1890s. According to local legend in Hackettstown, it is claimed that it was Heed who actually wrote for Sousa his great masterpiece: “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Heed’s best known works include the marches In Storm and Sunshine, Regimental Pride, Metronome Prize, Clipper, The Rouser, and General Miles. He also composed polkas, waltzes, orchestral works, and pieces for cornet and piano. He was referred to as the “March Wizard” by Carl Fisher, one of America’s oldest music houses and who published Mr. Heed’s compositions. He died in Newark, New Jersey, on February 12, 1908, leaving no children and was buried near his family in Union Cemetery in Hackettstown. His original cornet along with various photographs may be seen at the Hackettstown Historical Society Museum in Hackettstown, where the cornet is on loan from Mr. Heed’s family.
My collection includes the following work by J. C. Heed:
In Storm and Sunshine