George “Bucky” Sallee, the bugler at Keeneland for more than 50 years, will retire to become Bugler Emeritus beginning this fall, the track announced.
“Bucky is a Keeneland icon,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said in a release from the racecourse. “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.”
In the early 1960s, Frank Atkins, the club pro at Picadome Golf Course who moonlighted at Keeneland during the race meets, asked Sallee to help him by filling in as track bugler. Since then, he has performed his signature “Boots and Saddles” for the post parade and “Assembly” at post time, missing only one day when his wife died on a Saturday in the early 1970s. She was buried on a Tuesday, when there was no racing, and returned to work on Wednesday.
A native of Lexington, Sallee began taking trumpet lessons at age 7, and majored in music at the University of Kentucky. He played trumpet and tenor sax in the 1950s and early 1960s with such bands as Little Enis and the Fabulous Table Toppers, and Lexington jazz musician Clarence “Duke” Madison. During his career, Bucky has performed with a number of headliners, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Boots Randolph, Charlie Daniels, Fats Domino and Pee Wee King.
The public is invited to join Keeneland in honoring Sallee on opening day of the fall race meeting, Friday, Oct. 4. Special commemorations are planned prior to the first race, and Sallee will sign autographs during the afternoon.
“Being a part of the Keeneland family has opened a lot of doors for me during my career,” Sallee said. “I’ve watched race fans literally grow up from kids to adults with their own children. It’s been a lot of fun.”