Sax Player Boots Randolph Dies At 80
Boots Randolph, a saxophone player best known for the 1963 hit "Yakety Sax," died today (July 3) in Nashville. He was 80.Boots Randolph, a saxophone player best known for the 1963 hit "Yakety Sax," died today (July 3) in Nashville. He was 80.
Randolph suffered a cerebral hemorrhage June 25 and had been hospitalized in a coma. He was taken off a respirator earlier today, said Betty Hofer, a publicist and spokeswoman for the family.
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. The song was used on the TV program "The Benny Hill Show" more than two decades after it was on the charts. "It rejuvenated the song," Randolph said in 1990. "So many people know it from the show." He also was part of the Million Dollar Band on the TV show "Hee Haw."
Randolph was born Homer Louis Randolph in Paducah, Ky., and grew up in the rural community of Cadiz, Ky., where he learned to play music with his family's band.
He said he didn't know where or why he got the nickname "Boots," although his Web site at the time of his death suggested it was to avoid confusion because he and his father shared the same first name.
Randolph began playing the ukulele and then the trombone, but switched to the tenor sax when his father unexpectedly brought one home. He graduated from high school in Evansville, Ind., then joined the Army and became a member of the Army Band.
After his discharge, he played primarily jazz at nightclubs for $60 a week. He finally landed a recording contract with RCA in Nashville in 1958 and also was hired as a musician for recording sessions.
Randolph had his own nightclub in Nashville's Printer's Alley for 17 years, closing it in 1994 because of declining business and to spend more time with his family. He played regularly at other nightclubs before and after that. He had lived in Nashville since 1961.
Survivors include his wife, a son, a daughter and four grandchildren.
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