09/24/2013 12:04PM

Keeneland: Longtime bugler Sallee retires at 84

Keeneland photo
Longtime Keeneland bugler Bucky Sallee has retired at age 84.

LEXINGTON – Bucky Sallee, the bugler at Keeneland for the past 51 years and a beloved fixture at the track, has retired and will be named the racing industry’s first bugler emeritus.

Sallee will be replaced by Steve Buttleman, who is entering his 18th year of bugling at Churchill Downs this fall. Buttleman also has bugled at Belmont Park and Oaklawn Park, Keeneland said.

Sallee, 84, has had a difficult time hitting all the right notes over the past several years, but that hasn’t affected his popularity at the track. Wearing his signature Keeneland green jacket with gold trimmings and white riding breeches and black riding boots, Sallee typically spent the entire race card wandering between the track and the paddock, greeting fans and posing for photographs when he wasn’t “blowing his horn,” as he referred to his job.

Keeneland said it will honor Sallee during a celebration on opening day of the fall meet, Oct. 4. In addition, the track will provide a mailbox next to the paddock called “the Bucky Box” during the meet to allow fans to drop in letters describing their favorite memories of Sallee.

“Bucky is a Keeneland icon,” Keeneland President Bill Thomason said in a statement. “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. Bucky is a very special member of the Keeneland family and a wonderful ambassador for racing.”

Sallee has said he is most proud of being able to play for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Keeneland in 1984. He also once opened trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and has opened the ESPN Gameday football pregame show when it came to Lexington.

“I’ve played for dukes and duchesses,” Sallee said in an interview with Daily Racing Form in 2011 to celebrate the track’s 75th anniversary. “Ronald Reagan, he was there one day. I blew my horn for him. I could go on and on. Mickey Rooney, he was out there one day, and we just stood by the clerk of scales talking. Can you believe that?”

A native of Lexington, Sallee majored in music at the University of Kentucky. Prior to being hired by Keeneland in the 1960s, Sallee played trumpet and tenor saxophone for Little Enis and the Fabulous Table Toppers, and he has performed with Jerry Lee Lewis, Boots Randolph, Charlie Daniels, Fats Domino, and Pee Wee King.