Boots Randolph, Nashville’s most celebrated saxophonist and a member of the city’s 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. Randolph’s 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 world’s only hillbilly saxophonist.”
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