George “Bucky” Sallee, who played the bugle at Keeneland race meets for 50 years, died Monday. He was 87.
Sallee had retired from Keeneland in 2013. He had earlier retired from his job at the state Public Service Commission.
In a 2013 Herald-Leader profile, Sallee said music “has always been a good hobby for me. I played for some of the best bands in the country. I toured with Jerry Lee Lewis when he was big.”
Sallee was playing a gig on the tenor saxophone when he picked up a trumpet and drew the attention of a Lexington golf pro who knew that Keeneland needed a bugler.
A few days later, Sallee started the longest musical gig of his life at the Lexington racetrack. He played “Call to the Post” more than 10,000 times.
To understand how much of a Central Kentucky institution Sallee was, consider this: He played at Keeneland for more than 50 years; the legendary Adolph Rupp coached at the University of Kentucky starting in 1930 and retired in 1972.
Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason said in a written statement that Sallee “generously shared his time and musical talent with fans of all ages.”
In the 2013 interview, Sallee said he awoke the day his Keeneland retirement was announced with a song playing through his head. He began to pick out a few notes: “There’s a tree that I see. ... It says, ‘I’ll love you ’til I die.”
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Barbara Sallee, and a son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Visitation is from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Johnson’s Funeral Home, 641 South Broadway in Georgetown. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Nov. 10 at First United Methodist Church,1280 Lexington Road in Georgetown.