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RIP Boots Randolph

Posted at 3:54 PM on July 3, 2007 by Bill Wareham

From the AP:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Boots Randolph, a saxophone player best
known for the 1963 hit "Yakety Sax," died Tuesday. He was 80.

Boots may be dead, but his music is immortal, at least in my head. Here's why: Back in the mid-1970s I spent a couple of years working at a State Fair hamburger stand kitty-corner from one of the Sky Ride terminals. And in that era, the music of choice for the Sky Ride, the sound that the operators apparently felt would attract riders like bees to honey, was the sax stylings of Boots Randolph.

For a dozen days straight they blared an 8-track tape of what I took to be Boots' greatest hits, morning to night. Only the by-then-occasional stock car race and the fireworks after the night's grandstand show could drown it out.

After two years of that, I thought I could take no more Boots Randolph. The problem is, I really had no choice. Turns out Yakety Sax is like that sliver you never totally remove from your finger. It sits there, unnoticed most of the time, until you bump it the wrong way, then you can't forget about it until, well, you forget about it. But eventually you're going to bump it again.

But that's all the fault of the Sky Ride operators, not Boots Randolph, who did have quite an accomplished career. Here's more from his obit:

Randolph suffered a cerebral hemorrhage June 25 and had been
hospitalized in a coma. He was taken off a respirator earlier
Tuesday, said Betty Hofer, a publicist and spokeswoman for the

Randolph played regularly in Nashville nightclubs for 30 years,
becoming a tourist draw for the city much like Wayne Newton in Las
Vegas and Pete Fountain in New Orleans.

He recorded more than 40 albums and spent 15 years touring with
the Festival of Music, teaming with fellow instrumentalists Chet
Atkins and Floyd Cramer.

As a session musician, he played on Elvis Presley's "Return to
Sender," Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman," Brenda Lee's
"Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree" and "I'm Sorry," REO
Speedwagon's "Little Queenie," Al Hirt's "Java" and other songs
including ones by Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash.

He had his biggest solo hit with "Yakety Sax," which he wrote.

"'Yakety Sax' will be my trademark," Randolph said in a 1990
interview with The Associated Press. "I'll hang my hat on it. It's
kept me alive. Every sax player in the world has tried to play it.
Some are good, some are awful."

"Yakety Sax" was used on the TV program "The Benny Hill
Show" more than two decades after the tune was on the charts.

"It rejuvenated the song," Randolph said in 1990. "So many
people know it from the show."