Randolph was best known for his 1963 song, “Yakety Sax,” which became immortalized when it was adopted as the theme for “The Benny Hill Show.” Since the time that show was on the air, it also been used in countless parodies of the show’s signature wacky chase scenes.
Randolph’s influence far surpasses that tune, however. It is impossible to turn on an oldies radio station without hearing his trademark sound at some point. As a session musician, he played on songs such as Elvis Presley’s “Return to Sender,” Roy Orbison’s “Oh! Pretty Woman,” and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “I’m Sorry.” He also played on Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash songs, according to the Paducah Sun.
In a 1990 interview with the Associated Press, Randolph said, “‘Yakety Sax’ will be my trademark. 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.”
Randolph was born in Paducah, grew up in Cadiz and graduated high school in Evansville, Ind. He was known for coming back to Trigg County and playing free concerts to raise money for causes such as Relay for Life. He played these concerts during the Boots Randolph Golf Tournament at the Lake Barkley course that bears his name. His final concert in Trigg County was in September and was a fundraiser for Board of Education scholarships.
Randolph had been hospitalized and in a coma since July 25. Publicist and family spokeswoman Betty Hofer told the Paducah Sun he was taken off a respirator early on the morning of July 3.
Trigg County resident Becky Freeman said she had known Randolph for about 10 years. She said her mother, Rose Allen Finley, had known him growing him and told stories about him. She didn’t meet him until he came to play while she sang for a local benefit concert. Apparently, Randolph’s family had seen her sing at the Kentucky Opry and recommended that they do a show together. So Freeman was scheduled to perform with before she got to meet the legendary man who played on so many hit records.
Freeman said Randolph did quite a few free concerts over the years and never wanted any compensation for them. Besides concerts for Relay for Life and the scholarship fund, Randolph also played for the high school band boosters and the Thomas-Bridges Association, of which Freeman said he was a member.
Randolph will surely be missed in Trigg County. Freeman went to his funeral last Friday in Joelton, Tenn. and said several locals were there, including John Rittenhouse, Martha Maxfield and David Shore. Even in death, he felt “larger than life,” Freeman said, and there was a large photograph of him there that reminded everyone of this. The presiding pastor’s words, “A great man has fallen,” seemed to sum up her feelings about him, she said.
Freeman said a brass quartet from Nashville played at the funeral, as did a recording of Randolph playing.
“It was kind of eerie,” Freeman said, “but if you closed your eyes, you could just imagine that he was there.”
Freeman said that shortly before Randolph went into a coma, he played in front of a crowd of 8,000 people in South Carolina. He was scheduled to perform at a concert in Memphis in August to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Presley’s death. Although he didn’t live to see this, one could certainly say that Randolph lived a longer and happier life than that other famous Southern musician.