George "Bucky" SalleeKeeneland Photo
Lexington, KY – “Bucky,” George Sallee, bugler at Keeneland for more than 50 years, will retire to become Bugler Emeritus beginning this fall the track announced this morning.
“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.”
More than a decade ago, on Oct. 9, 2002, Sallee made his 10,000th call to the post.
Steve Buttleman, a trumpeter from Louisville will takeover the bugle duties. Buttleman brings nearly 20 years of experience as a bugler to Keeneland, having performed the call to the post at some of the nation’s most prominent racetracks, including Churchill Downs, Belmont and Oaklawn Parks.
“Steve embodies so much of what Keeneland is about,” Thomason said. “He has a passion for racing and an enthusiasm to share that passion with fans. His No. 1 goal is to make their experience at Keeneland a memorable one.”
Buttleman, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, began playing cornet in the fifth grade, and earned a degree in trumpet from the University of Louisville School of Music, where he studied under noted trumpet professor Leon Rapier. Buttleman is active in the community, playing at civic and charity events around the state, including Lexington’s Junior League Charity Horse Show. He also takes part in outreach tours to promote local tourism, and performed at the 2000 and 2004 presidential inaugural balls in Washington, D.C.
“I am honored to become Keeneland’s new bugler,” Buttleman said in the Keeneland news release. “I have the utmost respect for Bucky and everything he has given to Keeneland, the Lexington community, and the Thoroughbred industry. I look forward to carrying on Bucky’s traditions and his role as an ambassador for racing.”
Keeneland’s fall meet will be held Oct. 4-26 with racing on Wednesday through Sunday. The season kicks off with Fall Stars Weekend, Oct. 4-6, featuring nine graded stakes, seven of which are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” stakes. Gates for opening day are at 11 a.m. and the first race is at 1:05 p.m.