July 2, 2007 The Tennessean.com reports that Boots Randolph, Nashvilles most celebrated saxophonist and a member of the citys vaunted "A-Team" of session musicians, died this afternoon after suffering a subdural hematoma last week. He was 80.
Mr. Randolph played a major role in the development of the Nashville Sound, where his always soulful playing galvanized popular recordings by the likes of Elvis Presley and Eddy Arnold.
As singular as his work as a sideman was, however, Mr. Randolph was best known for his 1963 hit "Yakety Sax," a juking instrumental inspired by King Curtis saxophone solo on the Coasters 1958 R&B smash "Yakety Yak."
Written with guitarist James "Spider" Rich, Mr. Randolphs record later became the theme song of the long-running British comedy The Benny Hill Show.
"Chicken pickin saxophone" is how Country Music Hall of Famer and fellow A-Team member Harold Bradley described the short, spluttering notes that hooked "Yakety Sax."
Mr. Randolph, too, invoked rural imagery to describe his playing, routinely joking from the stage that he was "the worlds only hillbilly saxophonist."
Brenda Lee, discussing Mr. Randolphs swinging solo on her 1960 hit "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree," said, "I dont care who has recorded that song since, they all copied him."
From his salacious wailing on Elvis 1960 recording of "Reconsider Baby" to the staccato riff he played on Roy Orbisons "Oh, Pretty Woman," Mr. Randolphs contributions indeed were inimitable.
Born in Paducah, Ky., in 1927, Mr. Randolph grew up playing ukulele and trombone in his familys band, which supplemented their household income with public performances during the Depression. He didnt take up the saxophone until he was in high school.
Mr. Randolph's big break came after he sent a tape of "Yakety Sax" to Chet Atkins, then the head of RCA Records in Nashville. Atkins liked what he heard and hired Mr. Randolph to do session work for such artists as Perry Como and Homer & Jethro.
Atkins also signed him to a solo contract but it wasnt until Mr. Randolph moved to the fledging Monument label that his career took off. He became a regular on the "Grand Ole Opry" and was a frequent guest on such network TV programs as "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson."
In 1977 he opened his famous Boot Randolphs nightclub in Printers Alley, a popular tourist attraction until it closed in 1994.
Mr. Randolph is survived by Dee Randolph, his wife of 59 years, his son Randy Randolph and daughter Linda ONeal, all of Nashville.
Funeral services are pending. A memorial service will be conducted by the Nashville Association of Musicians Local 257 at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Boots Randolph Scholarship Fund, Blair School of Music, U.S. Bank, 600 South Main Street, Goodlettsville, TN 37072.