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Saxophonist Boots Randolph Dies at 80

Saxophonist Boots Randolph, best known for his 1963 Top 40 instrumental hit “Yakety Sax,” died at Skyline Medical Center in Nashville on July 3. He was 80. Randolph had been in a coma since suffering a cerebral hemorrhage on June 25.

“Yakety Sax,” which later became the theme song for TV’s Benny Hill Show, was inspired by the sax solo in the Coasters’ R&B hit “Yakety Yak.” Following his brief flirtation with the hit record charts, Randolph became a top Nashville session musician.

Still active late in his life-Randolph performed over 200 live dates a year-he was a fixture in Nashville nightclubs for more than three decades and had released a new album, A Whole New Ballgame, just last month-his first-ever jazz recording. During his long career as a session musician, Randolph recorded with many of the greats who frequented Nashville’s studios, including such rock and country pioneers as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly. He can be heard on Brenda Lee’s perennial “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Al Hirt’s hit “Java” and Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Later on, he lent his sax work to REO Speedwagon’s “Little Queenie.” Randolph also performed in the house band on TV’s Hee-Haw program.

Randolph was born Homer Louis Randolph in Paducah, Kentucky on June 3, 1927, and grew up in nearby Cadiz. He took the nickname Boots to avoid being confused with his father, also named Homer. Randolph first learned to play ukulele and trombone before picking up the tenor saxophone. After serving in the Army, he signed with RCA , but he was not a success as a solo artist with that company; his only chart single was cut for the Monument label, to which he signed in 1961. He also recorded more than 40 albums, 14 of which, all on Monument, charted between 1963 and ’72.

Originally Published