Yakety Sax

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"Yakety Sax"
Single by Boots Randolph
from the album Yakety Sax!
B-side"I Really Don't Want to Know"
GenreNovelty, pop
LabelMonument Records
Songwriter(s)Spider Rich
Boots Randolph
Producer(s)Fred Foster
Music video
Boots Randolph - Yakety Sax (Audio) on YouTube

"Yakety Sax" is a pop novelty instrumental jointly composed by James Q. "Spider" Rich and Boots Randolph.[1][2][3][4]


Saxophonist Randolph popularized the selection in his 1963 recording, which reached number 35 on the pop charts.[5] Comedian Benny Hill later made it more widely known as the closing theme music of The Benny Hill Show. The piece is considered Randolph's signature work.[6]

The selection includes pieces of assorted fiddle tunes and was originally composed by Rich for a performance at a venue called The Armory in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The piece also quotes two bars each of "Entrance of the Gladiators" and "The Girl I Left Behind".

Randolph's take on the piece was inspired by the saxophone solo played by King Curtis on The Coasters' 1958 recording of the Leiber and Stoller song "Yakety Yak".[7] The tunes are similar, and both feature the "yakety" saxophone sound. Randolph first recorded "Yakety Sax" that year for RCA Victor, but it did not become a hit until he re-recorded it for Monument Records in 1963; this version reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Other performances[edit]

  • Guitarist Chet Atkins recorded a version of the song in 1965 called "Yakety Axe". Atkins' 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, Atkins 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.[8] The original version of "Yakety Axe" was Atkins' highest charting piece on Hot Country Songs, reaching number four; it also went to number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100.[9] Atkins and Randolph, who both worked together on Elvis Presley recording sessions in the 1960s, occasionally merged their two versions of the song in joint TV appearances, with each musician trading off a verse.[10]
  • Glen Campbell recorded a guitar version of the piece in 1969 on his album Glen Campbell Live.[11]
  • Bill Haley & His Comets recorded the song on three 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 "Boots' 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,[12] who was featured on the Orfeón, Guest Star and Sonet recordings.
  • In 1989, The Highliners released "The Benny Hill Boogie", which is based on "Yakety Sax".[13]
  • In 2006, saxophone player Sanne Maestrom in André Rieu's orchestra played a rendition of the song as part of Rieu's New York Memories performance at Radio City Music Hall.[14]
  • Dolly Parton mimed performing "Yakety Sax" on a soprano saxophone during an appearance at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia on June 15, 2016.[15]

In popular culture[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, particularly the time-lapse, rapidly-paced silent chase skit that came at the end of almost every episode of The Benny Hill Show.[16] Because of this, "Yakety Sax" is so closely linked to the series that it is also known as "The Benny Hill Theme". From 1983 on, 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 films and TV shows, including Get a Life,[17] the 2006 film V for Vendetta, in the 2015 Doctor Who episode "The Girl Who Died" (with a character referring to the song as the "Benny Hill Theme") and the animated TV shows The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, multiple episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,[18][19] and "The Prime Minister Has No Clothes" episode of Time Squad. 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).[20]

On 7 July 2022, the tune was played outside the Houses of Parliament, by anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray, upon the announcement by Boris Johnson that he was resigning as Prime Minister. This was suggested by actor Hugh Grant.[21][22][23]


  1. ^ Otfinoski, Steven (2000). The Golden Age of Novelty Songs. Billboard Books. p. 204. ISBN 9780823076949.
  2. ^ Gould, Elizabeth (2015). "A Jazz Funeral in Music Education". In Cathy Benedict; Patrick K. Schmidt; Gary Spruce; Paul Woodford (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education. Oxford University Press. p. 147. ISBN 9780199356157.
  3. ^ DiMartino, Dave (April 15, 2016). Music in the 20th Century. Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 9781317464303.
  4. ^ Lindemeyer, Paul (1996). Celebrating the Saxophone. Hearst. p. 77. ISBN 9780688135188.
  5. ^ Aquila, Richard (1989). That Old-time Rock & Roll: A Chronicle of an Era, 1954–1963. University of Illinois Press. p. 304. ISBN 9780252069192.
  6. ^ Eder, Mike (September 1, 2013). Elvis Music FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the King's Recorded Works. Hal Leonard. p. 164. ISBN 9781617135804.
  7. ^ Greg Adams. "Boots Randolph's Yakety Sax! - Boots Randolph | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  8. ^ "Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins - Neck and neck-06 - Yakety axe". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved October 16, 2020 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  10. ^ "Yakety Sax Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph & Ray Stevens". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved October 16, 2020 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ "Yakety Sax (Live At Garden State Arts Center, 1969)". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved October 16, 2020 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "Bill Haley & His Comets ::::: Yakety Sax". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved October 16, 2020 – via YouTube.
  13. ^ Rockin' Song of the Week No.100 - The Highliners, at Rockabillyville; published 29 May 2010; retrieved 17 June 2012
  14. ^ "Andre Rieu & JSO - Yackety sax (Sanne Mestrom - saxophone)". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12 – via YouTube.
  15. ^ "Yakety Sax (Benny Hill Theme)" Dolly Parton@Mann Music Center Philadelphia 6/15/16". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved 24 November 2021 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ "Boots Randolph, 80; versatile musician recorded 'Yakety Sax'". Los Angeles Times. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
  17. ^ Get a Life - Season 2, Episode 7 - "Chris Becomes a Male Escort"
  18. ^ The Ticket Master - Season 1, Episode 3
  19. ^ A Bird in the Hoof - Season 1, Episode 22
  20. ^ "Olympics beach volleyball: Bearskins, bikinis and Benny Hill". BBC Sport. 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  21. ^ "'Benny Hill' theme tune blares outside Parliament after Hugh Grant's request". ca.news.yahoo.com. 7 July 2022. Retrieved 2022-07-07.
  22. ^ Kreps, Daniel (July 7, 2022). "Activists Hijack Boris Johnson Resignation Coverage With 'Benny Hill' Theme, Thanks to Hugh Grant". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  23. ^ Barr, Sabrina (July 7, 2022). "Benny Hill chase music played outside Parliament – and Hugh Grant was behind it". metro.co.uk.