Pandemic prompts bugler to bring nightly song to Midtown neighborhood

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When the sun meets the horizon in one Midtown neighborhood the solemn sounds of a bugle can be heard among the trees.

Who’s playing that majestic melody, you may ask. It’s Bill Bullock, playing from his front porch.

Bullock said he’s been playing the bugle since he was a little boy, having become familiar with the different bugle calls while staying at a YMCA boys camp one summer.

“A bugle came around back in wartimes, when they could get a loud message to a lot of people far away,” Bullock said.

He carried his hobby from childhood into adulthood — playing the tunes of the bugle to corral his kids out of bed. In recent years, he decided to play his bugle for a different audience.

“When I play ‘Taps’ at funerals, I feel it’s just a little small something I can give back in appreciation for all those that have been in the military,” he said.

Bullock is the state director for Bugles across America — an organization dedicated to playing live taps at military funerals. He said the group has about 15 buglers across Shelby County.

“The military doesn’t have a lot of buglers,” he said. “So, when you get ‘Taps,’ you usually get some recorded version of it.”

Bullock said he’s performed at countless military funeral over the years.

Some may wonder why he plays the symbolic melody on his front porch every evening. He says it all started with coronavirus.

“One evening it was about sundown, and I said, you know, I’m just going to play it.”

He’s been playing nearly every day since and says he has no plans on stopping.

“Sometimes the sound of ‘Taps’ is soothing, calming, and reflective for some people, and I would say that I hope that I am conveying that message,” Bullock said. “Maybe just a little bit of calm in these times that we had in the last months.”

This story was updated to correct the number of buglers in Shelby County.

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