By Karen Andrew
Enquirer Staff Writer
QUEENSGATE - James "Huby" Hubert Heard , a musician, songwriter and singer, died of a heart ailment at Good Samaritan Hospital July 29. The Queensgate resident was 53.
"A very gifted and talented musician of Cincinnati has once again left us," said his longtime friend, Sharon Ford of Queensgate.
He was born in Hamilton to the late Hollie Hubert and Elma D. Heard, both musicians and singers.
His mother discovered Mr. Heard's musical ability when he was 5 years old and enrolled him in piano lessons. He played his first piano recital at Harrison Elementary in Hamilton when he was in first grade. He also became a musician for the Little Miami Baptist Church in Oxford.
He and his best friend, Roger Troutman, later of the duo Roger and Zapp, started a band while attending Garfield High School in Hamilton.
When he was 13, Mr. Heard moved to Cincinnati to become a musician for the Bibleway Church of God In Christ.
Mr. Heard, a graduate of Withrow High School, was discovered during a church service by musician and recording artist Billy Preston. Mr. Heard left Cincinnati to join Preston in Los Angeles, where he lived for the next 30 years.
He played keyboard for Billy Preston's group, The God Squad, for about 13 years and made appearances on such television programs as Soul Train and American Bandstand.
The group won four Grammys for the songs, "Will It Go Round in Circles," "Nothing from Nothing," "Outta Space" and "Space Race."
In the early 1970s, Mr. Heard toured in England playing keyboard for The Rolling Stones. In 1975, he played on the Stone Alone solo album by Rolling Stone member Bill Wyman.
He was also a member of Leon Russell's band, which later became the Gap Band, whose hits included, "Party Train," "Early in the Morning" and "Drop the Bomb."
Other artists he played keyboard for included Angela and Renee, Teddy Pendergrass, Stephanie Mills, Ray Charles, and Brothers Johnson.
In 1999, Mr. Heard joined Preston and other former band members to tape a television show, Motown Live.
He returned to Cincinnati in 2001 and in March 2002, he performed in a reunion show at Bogart's with the Brothers Johnson, and Bootsy and Catfish Collins.
In September 2002, Mr. Heard became a member and minister of music of the New St. Paul Baptist Church in the West End.
Recently, he wrote and produced his CD, Eternal Praise, a gospel music collection with Little Bootsy Collins laying down the tracks. He performed in a video for one of the album's songs, "I Really Love the Lord," which was filmed in front of Music Hall, Fountain Square and inside New St. Paul Baptist Church.
He was preceded in death by a daughter, Janelle Donovan.
Survivors include daughters, Shaunda and Catrice of Westwood, Erotica of Queensgate and Shaureen of Avondale; son, Marco Arnez of Virginia; 18 grandchildren; and cousins Marlene Coston of Avondale and Sandra Bradley of Westwood.
Services have been held.
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