Boots Randolph - A Tribute
Elvis' Sax player, 1960 - 1967
Featuring, "The finest sax solo in rock history"
Homer "Boots" Randolph was one of the key players in the band known as the "Nashville cats" or the Nashville 'A-Team'. The band also included other Elvis musicians such as Harold Bradley and Hank Garland on guitars, Floyd Cramer on piano and Buddy Harman on drums.
This band were a truly creative force producing over 100 top ten sixties chart hits out of RCA's Studio B.
Boots Randolph's sax solo in Elvis' astounding 'Reconsider Baby' has been described as, "The finest sax solo in rock history".
Homer "Boots" Randolph died July 3rd 2007.
If you like Elvis in the sixties, and especially Elvis singing the blues, then you have to appreciate the wailing, honking saxophone work of the amazing Boots Randolph, who sadly died last week.
Homer Louis Randolph was born in Paducah, Kentucky, 3 June 1927. Since his father was also named Homer, his younger brother chose his nickname "Boots", thus naming one of the world's most famous saxophonists.
During the 1960s Boots Randolph was one of the leading musicians in the Nashville studios and played on scores of hit records by such artists as Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers and of course Elvis. Boots also had his own amazing success in 1963 with the whacky tenor-sax sound of 'Yakety Sax', which became the theme music for The Benny Hill TV show. Boots later on in life rightly joked that, "Every saxophone player in the world has tried to play it!"
Raised during The Depression, Boots played both the trombone and the saxophone in high school but was mostly self-taught while listening to big bands on the radio.
In 1958 the Coasters had a chart hit with 'Yakety Yak', which featured a brief but humorous tenor sax solo from the New York musician King Curtis. Randolph took an idea from this solo and developed it into a full-length instrumental, which he called "Yakety Sax". He sent it to Nashville RCA producer Chet Atkins, who liked what he heard and took him on as a regular Studio B session musician. Interestingly Boots' first version of 'Yakety Sax', which was released under the name Randy Randolph, did not sell.
Boots Randolph's first successes on the charts were with teenage-singer Brenda Lee including chart-topping 'Sweet Nuthin's' and 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree'. Another big hit featuring the distinctive sound of Boots was Johnny Tillotson's 1960 'Poetry in Motion'.
A revolutionary musical turning-point was of course Boots' work with Elvis on his first post-army LP 'Elvis Is Back!'. With Elvis at a creative high and singing in top form, these were landmark sessions producing seven million-selling singles. In a magical end-of-the-night performance Boots spontaneously contributed a scorching solo to the one-take wonder of 'Reconsider Baby'. This has been described by highly respected writer Greil Marcus as "The finest sax solo in rock history".
Boots Randolph's sax-work did indeed fit perfectly within Elvis' new Nashville band and often seemed to push Elvis' blues work to new highs. It would be Boots growling solos that could turn songs like 'Like A Baby' into the dirty blues that it so needed to be. Another stunner would have to be one of Elvis best-ever low down & dirty sixties rockers 'Such A Night'.
(See more on 'Elvis Is Back!' here at our EIN spotlight & FTD review)
Boots however came close to topping all of these with his roaring solos on Elvis' 1961 single 'I Feel So Bad' as well as 1966's 'Down in the Alley.' Boots could also play whatever was required of the session, sometimes adding percussion, or clarinet and he even played the "jug" on Kissin' Cousins' 'Barefoot Ballad.'
Boots playing was also very important to another ex SUN star Roy Orbison and he contributed to the sound of the massive hits 'Only the Lonely', 'In Dreams' and of course, 'Oh Pretty Woman'.
Interestingly although Randolph's original version of 'Yakety Sax' did not sell, a re-recording, attributed this time to "Boots" Randolph, made the US Top Forty in 1963. This led to him making albums such as 'Yakety Sax' (cover above), 'More Yakety Sax' (1964) and 'Yakety Revisited' (1970).
Randolph was in a clique of musicians known as the "Nashville cats" or the 'A Team' which also included Elvis' other musicians Harold Bradley and Hank Garland on guitars, Floyd Cramer on piano and Buddy Harman on drums. They were so comfortable with each other that they could improvise arrangements on the spot and they can be heard on hundreds of hit records.
On 25th March 1961 Elvis performed in Hawaii for the USS Arizona benefit. Elvis' set-list was outstanding and it was the only time that Elvis was recorded performing with his 50's band, as well as members of Nashville's A-team including Boots Randolph.
The band featured Scotty Moore and Hank Garland on guitar, Bob Moore on bass, Floyd Cramer on piano and D.J Fontana on drums. The Jordanaires were also present.
While the recording is of poor quality (to soon be upgraded by FTD) Elvis rocks through some absolute classics. Released on the 'Elvis Aron Presley' box-set, it is worth checking out Boots' fine interaction with Elvis on a fabulous bluesy 'Reconsider Baby'. Elvis urges him on to extend his sax solo, "One more time, one more time."
Right: The Bloch arena USS Arizona benefit 1961. Elvis' look of glee at Boots blowing the blues says it all.
Boots played in Elvis' band from April 3rd 1960 through to September 1967 and appears on most of Elvis’ creative sixties albums including ‘Pot Luck’ and ‘How Great Thou Art.’ He also played on many film soundtracks such as ‘Blue Hawaii’, ‘Kid Galahad’, ‘Roustabout’, ‘Spinout’ and through to ‘Clambake’.
On Boots' last session for Elvis his contribution was as vital as always with the two marvellous tracks ‘Big Boss Man’ and ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’ being standout highlights.
In 1977 Randolph opened his own club in Printer's Alley in Nashville which became a popular tourist attraction for many years. It eventually closed in 1994, but Boots still continued to record and earlier this year he released an album of standards called 'A Whole New Ballgame'.
In 2002 at the 25th Anniversary Elvis Week in Memphis, Boots was an absolute highlight when he performed on stage with other Elvis musicians including Scotty Moore, The Jordanaires and bassist Bob Moore. When Boots let rip with an astounding version of 'Yakety Sax' he played with the excitement and energy of a man half his age.
Throwing his performance off as "no big deal", the audience gave him a standing ovation that he truly deserved. It was a sensational moment that was also enhanced by seeing him play all those famous Elvis sax solos one more time, including a fabulous trip back to 'Reconsider Baby.'
(Right: Boots at the 25th Anniversary Concert 2002. Photo by Paul Gansky)
Boots was booked to perform this year at Elvis Memphis Week and although he sadly won't be there in person, there is no doubt that his fabulous spirit will live on.
Boots Randolph suffered a cerebral haemorrhage June 25 and had been in a coma. Aged a very young 80 years-old, Boots died 3 July 2007.
Some other sensational Elvis tracks which feature Boots Randolph
'Return To Sender' (Classic Boots)
'King Of The Whole Wide World' (Take 3 shows Boots blowing at his soulful best)
(See EIN FTD in-depth review of Kid Galahad)
'Give Me The Right'
(See EIN FTD in-depth review of 'Something For Everybody')
'I Believe In The Man In The Sky'
(See EIN FTD in-depth review of 'His Hand In Mine')
'Gonna Get Back Home Somehow'
'She's Not You'
'Girls, Girls, Girls'
'Witchcraft' (one of Boots’ finest solos)
'Come What May'
'Fools Fall In Love'
Spotlight by Piers Beagley, July 2007. - With thanks to Joan & Paul Gansky for the inspiration.
-Copyright EIN, July 2007.
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