|Single by Boots Randolph|
|B-side||"I Really Don't Want to Know"|
"Yakety Sax" is a pop-jazz instrumental whose music was jointly composed by James Q. "Spider" Rich and Homer "Boots" Randolph III. Randolph, a saxophonist, popularized the selection in his 1963 recording; Benny Hill later made it more widely known as the de facto theme music of his comedy 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. 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 noteworthy performances
- 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. 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."
- During the Beach volleyball tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the theme was played when the sand-rakers came out between games.
- In 2011, Sanne Mestrom played Yakety Sax during a classical music concert by Andre Rieu & JSO at Radio City Hall, New York.
- In April 2015 it was used as theme music for video of reporters chasing Hillary Clinton's campaign van while visiting Kirkwood Community College.
Television, film, radio, and internet
"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 ITV comedy program The Benny Hill Show, 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. Aldrich was the musical consultant for the series.
This use of the piece, and the chase scenes themselves, have been parodied in many other movies and TV shows, including Get a Life, the 2006 American film V for Vendetta, and the animated TV shows Family Guy and South Park.
- Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 34. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.
- Rockin' Song of the Week No.100 - The Highliners, at Rockabillyville; published 29 May 2010; retrieved 17 June 2012
- Golen, Jimmy (28 July 2012). "Beach volleyball brings its beat to Olympics". Associated Press.
- Andre Rieu at Radio City Hall on YouTube
- "Boots Randolph, 80; versatile musician recorded `Yakety Sax’". Los Angeles Times. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Get a Life - Season 2, Episode 7 - "Chris Becomes a Male Escort"