Yakety Sax

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Not to be confused with Yakety Yak.
"Yakety Sax"
Single by Boots Randolph
from the album Yakety Sax!
B-side "I Really Don't Want to Know"
Released 1963
Format 7" (45 rpm)
Genre Zydeco
Length 2:00
Label Monument Records
Writer(s) Spider Rich
Boots Randolph
Producer(s) Fred Foster

"Yakety Sax" is a pop-jazz instrumental whose music was jointly composed by James Q. "Spider" Rich and Boots Randolph. Boots Randolph, a saxophonist, popularized the selection in his 1963 recording; comedian Benny Hill later made it more widely known as the theme music of The Benny Hill Show.

The selection, which includes pieces of assorted fiddle tunes, was originally composed by Rich for a performance at a venue called The Armory in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Two bars of "Entrance of the Gladiators" and "The Girl I Left Behind" are also worked into it.

Randolph's take on the piece was inspired by a sax solo in the Leiber and Stoller song "Yakety Yak," recorded in 1958 by The Coasters.[1] The tunes are similar, and both feature the "yakety sax" sound. Randolph first recorded "Yakety Sax" that year for RCA Victor, but it did not become a hit till he re-recorded it for Monument Records in 1963; this version reached #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Other performances[edit]

  • Glen Campbell recorded the song in 1969 on his album Glen Campbell Live.
  • Guitarist Chet Atkins recorded a version of "Yakety Sax" in 1965 called "Yakety Axe." Atkins's version used a similar tempo and showcased his country guitar picking style in place of a saxophone. The title change referred to the colloquial term for an electric guitar as an "axe." In 1990 he collaborated with Mark Knopfler on the album Neck and Neck where he recorded a slower-tempo version, with verses composed by Merle Travis that he recited rhythmically to the music. The original version of "Yakety Axe" was Atkins's highest charting song on Hot Country Songs, reaching number 4; it also went to number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] Atkins and Randolph, who both worked together on Elvis Presley recording sessions in the 1960s, occasionally merged their two versions of "Yakety Sax/Axe" in joint TV appearances, with each musician trading off a "verse."
  • Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Yakety Sax" on three distinct occasions: for Orfeón of Mexico in 1964, for Guest Star Records of the US also in 1964 (which was released on a split single with Haley's "Yakety Sax" on the A-side and "Boots's Blues," a track by Boots Randolph on the B-side), and a live concert version for Sonet Records of Sweden in 1968. "Yakety Sax" was also a staple of Comets live performances, usually featuring saxophonist Rudy Pompilli, who was featured on the Orfeón, Guest Star and Sonet recordings.
  • In 1989, the British band The Highliners released "The Benny Hill Boogie," which is based on "Yakety Sax."[3]
  • In 2006, the saxophone player Sanne Maestrom in André Rieu's orchestra played a classical rendition of the yackety sax as part of Rieu's New York Memories performance at Radio city hall.[4]

Television, film, radio, and internet[edit]

"Yakety Sax" is often used in television and film as a soundtrack for outlandishly humorous situations. It was frequently used to accompany comedic sketches in the Thames Television comedy program The Benny Hill Show,[5] where it accompanied otherwise silent, rapidly paced comedy sequences that typically involved a farcical chase scene. Indeed, thanks to Hill, "Yakety Sax" is so closely linked to the show that it is also known as "The Benny Hill Theme." On The Benny Hill Show, the music was performed by Ronnie Aldrich and His Orchestra.

This use of the piece, and the chase scenes themselves, have been parodied in many other movies and TV shows, including Get a Life,[6] the 2006 American film V for Vendetta, in the 2015 Doctor Who episode "The Girl Who Died", and the animated TV shows Family Guy and South Park. The stop motion animated sketch comedy series Robot Chicken featured a brief sketch depicting Benny Hill's funeral (using dolls) where the attendees have a Benny Hill Show type chase scene with many of the usual gags and a song similar to Yakety Sax. The theme was used during the 2012 Olympics beach volleyball event between sets (where rakers must rush to smooth out the court).[7]

In 1962, The Lorenzo Show, a children's show aired locally in Baltimore on WJZ-13, used Yakety Sax as its theme song, but renamed it the "Lorenzo Stomp".[8]


  1. ^ Greg Adams. "Boots Randolph's Yakety Sax! - Boots Randolph | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 34. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  3. ^ Rockin' Song of the Week No.100 - The Highliners, at Rockabillyville; published 29 May 2010; retrieved 17 June 2012
  4. ^ "Andre Rieu's 2006 New York Memories Yackety Sax". You Tube. fxmy032701. 
  5. ^ "Boots Randolph, 80; versatile musician recorded `Yakety Sax'". Los Angeles Times. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  6. ^ Get a Life - Season 2, Episode 7 - "Chris Becomes a Male Escort"
  7. ^ "Olympics beach volleyball: Bearskins, bikinis and Benny Hill". BBC Sport. 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  8. ^ Jacques Kelly (2008-02-09). "Whatever happened to . . . Lorenzo the Tramp". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-10-23.