With a name like Bob Bouffler it is little wonder he is the coolest man carrying a bugle.
Every weekend Bob brings his effervescent spirit and rousing bugle tunes to the racing crowds in Sydney.
The man in the red jacket has kindly given us an insight into his role as the ATC’s resident Bugler.
Fillies Form: Bob Bouffler, a suave name for a celebrity such as yourself. Where does your name originate from?
Bob Bouffler: The surname was originally “de Bouffler” meaning “of Bouffler”. Bouffler is a French village of approx. 100 people in part of that region which was on the Western Front in WW1.
FF: What attracted you to the Bugle? When did you start? and do you play any other instruments?
BB: My uncle, a trombonist, gave me an old army trumpet when I was seven. He taught me a bugle call entitled “Come to the Cookhouse Door Boys” which I would play to signal the family to come inside for their meals. I also play the Flugel Horn, a variant of the trumpet. I don’t play any other instruments as the trumpet is hard enough.
FF: When you perform, you wear a red jacket. Do you have just the one? And is there a history or significance behind the colour?
BB: I have a red coat, a red spray jacket and a red Driazabone (for heavy rain). My costume is modelled on the English fox hunting costumes. The colour red was bestowed upon privileged hunters by Henry the Second in the twelfth century.
FF: What is the name of the tune you play? Do you know where it originated from?
BB: It originated in the American Civil War when it was called “The First Call” which was played by the senior cavalry bugler to wake up the other buglers. In racing circles it is known as the “Call to the Post”.
FF: How did the gig playing at the races come about? And how long have you been rousing the racing crowds with your bugle playing?
BB: Seventeen years ago I started occasionally deputising for the regular bugler at the time. He started taking so much time off, the AJC asked me to do it permanently. Besides, I had a red coat and he didn’t.
FF: What was your career prior to the playing at the races?
BB:The usual gamut for freelance musos……TV jingles, film soundtracks, licenced clubs, musical theatre, backing international acts, TV variety shows.
FF: We discovered you worked along side Geoff Harvey of The Midday show. Tell us a bit about your time on the show and the banter that went on between the two of you?
BB: I worked with Geoff at TCN 9 for 17 years on the Mike Walsh Show and then the Midday Show hosted by Ray Martin and then Derryn Hinch. Ray’s tenure was the highlight of my career because of my on-camera involvement with the show which Ray encouraged. Midday’s script writers cast me as a naive whipping boy for Geoff. I soon became the popular underdog whom a paranoid Harvey saw as a pretender to his job. That this farce went on daily for 7 years was due entirely to Geoff’s comedic sense. No other bandleader could have sustained it.
FF: Outside of playing the bugle do you have an interest in racing?
BB: Though I don’t bet, I avidly read the racing pages before anything else in the SMH. I like to keep abreast of the racetrack goss and I am especially interested in Max Presnell’s historical features.
FF: You play the bugle a number of times during one meeting, what do you do to keep yourself occupied between each performance?
BB: I do cryptic crosswords.
FF: What is the relevance of playing the Bugle prior to a race?
BB: It is a colourful tradition which alerts the punters that the horses are on the track and approaching the barrier.
FF: Have any bugle malfunctions ever occurred on race day?
BB:Though no malfunctions have occurred, I have absentmindedly launched into “Amazing Grace” a tune which has the same first two notes as the race call.
FF: Do you ever feel like breaking tradition and playing your signature tune ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’ instead?
BB: Punters, notably Singo, have tempted me to break the mould and dare to play something else. Singo, showing his age, wanted a Louis Armstrong song.
FF: Did you play your Bugle the day Black Caviar graced Sydney? In a few words explain the atmosphere.
BB: I have played twice for BC. The atypically large crowds with hordes of her fans wearing her colours made the atmosphere electric. The sense of expectation was palpable.
FF: What has been your most memorable moment at the race track?
BB: Apart from BC’s appearances, the most exciting event was watching Tulloch win the Australian Derby at Randwick in 1957 in front of a crowd of 50,000.
FF: You have played at many race meeting’s, has the crowd changed over the years?
BB: Apart from the vastly smaller attendances today than when I was a teenager going to the races in the 50’s as a brass bandsman, there seem to be far fewer working class punters. These folk populated a cheap infield area of the track known as “The Flat.” Before the last race they were allowed to flood over into the ledger.
FF: Being amongst jockeys and trainers do you ever get any good tips?
BB: Not from jockeys or trainers. Owners of unknown longshots sometimes recommend their horses as dead certs.
FF: What do you do to unwind after a big day on the bugle?
BB: Have a few beers at home with the occasional Chinese take-away whilst watching a good TV series such as Boardwalk.
FF: Are there any young up and coming bugle players ready to step in when you finally hand up the bugle?
BB:I am sure there are but I don’t know of them. Whether or not they would be prepared to ham it up and engage with the crowd is another question. Younger players these days tend to be a bit too cool for such antics.
FF: What is the most rewarding part of your job as ‘Bob the Bugler’?
BB: Knowing that I have performed a perfect rendition of every race combined with a highly charged interaction with the crowd.