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J.C. Heard was a very supportive drummer versatile enough to fit comfortably into swing, bop, and blues settings. He was in vaudeville shows as a dancer in his youth. Heard's first important job playing drums was with Teddy Wilson's big band in 1939. He later worked with Wilson's sextet, and with Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter. Heard was with Cab Calloway's Orchestra (1942-1945), recorded with top bop musicians, led his own band at Cafe Society (1946-1947), was a member of Erroll Garner's Trio (1948), and toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic. During 1953-1957, he spent time in Japan and Australia; he freelanced in New York during 1957-1966 (including playing with the Coleman Hawkins-Roy Eldridge quintet and in 1961 with Teddy Wilson's Trio); and then, in 1966, J.C. Heard moved to Detroit, where he worked as a bandleader and a mentor to younger musicians into the mid-'80s.