Bucky the Bugler to retire from Keeneland

ctruman@herald-leader.comSeptember 24, 2013 

More than 50 years ago, musician George "Bucky" Sallee, who normally played the tenor saxophone, was goofing around with a trumpet during a country club gig.

Next thing he knew, he got an offer to play at Keeneland.

On Tuesday, Keeneland announced that Sallee, 84, is retiring. Trumpeter Steve Buttleman of Louisville will be the new bugler.

Sallee, of Georgetown, is known for his renditions of Boots and Saddles and Assembly during the Keeneland meets.

The only day he missed during his tenure was when his first wife died.

[Daily Racing Form Q&A with Bucky Sallee from October 2011]

Sallee took time off from his job with the Kentucky Public Service Commission, from which he is now retired, to work his Keeneland duties.

"Bucky is a Keeneland icon," Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason said in a news release. "He is a favorite among fans of all ages, having generously shared his time and musical talent with so many people during his storied career."

Sallee said he had relished the opportunity to get to know people in the horse industry and race-goers. He is a track favorite among patrons, with whom he often poses in his green jacket and top hat.

Even in retirement, he will probably play for some local club meetings and events, he said Tuesday.

Buttleman, 49, has performed the call to the post at racetracks including Churchill Downs, Belmont Park and Oaklawn Park. He also performs patriotic music and a version of My Old Kentucky Home for events.

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved at Keeneland and hopefully in the Lexington community," Buttleman said. "Obviously Keeneland is steeped in tradition. I wanted to continue to do what Bucky has been doing."

Keeneland plans to honor Sallee on opening day of the fall race meeting on Oct. 4.

Special commemorations are planned before the first race. Sallee will sign autographs during the afternoon. Fans will be able to share their memories of Bucky online, or drop a letter in the "Bucky Mailbox," which will be next to the paddock on opening day.

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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