Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Boots Randolph Helps Us Have Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas

Homer Louis Randolph III was born in Paducah in 1927, grew up in Cadiz and moved to Evansville, Ind., as a teen-ager. Per Roger McBain's fine July 4, 2007, obituary in The Evansville Courier & Press, it was there, as a sophomore at Evansville's Central High School, that "Boots" Randolph switched from trombone to saxophone.

He played in the U.S. Army band and then nightclubs in Illinois and Indiana. And then, writes McBain, at Evansville's Blue Bar in 1961, Chet Atkins saw Boots Randolph and encouraged him to move to Nashville. For the remainder of the decade, Boots Randolph churned out record after record and made a reputation as Nashville's go-to session saxophonist. The sax on Elvis Presley's "Return To Sender?" That's Boots Randolph. On Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree?" That's Boots Randolph. On Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman?" Yup, that's Boots Randolph, too. By the time Boots and Stockings came out in 1969, he was such a dependable and prolific performer that nine of the 30 Monument Record Corp. albums depicted for sale on the inner sleeve of the album are Boots Randolph releases. (Dolly Parton's 1967 debut album is on there, too.)

Boots and Stockings opens with a 2-minute, 38-second "Santa Claus is Comin' To Town"/"Jolly Old St. Nick"/"Here Comes Santa Claus" medley, and it bounces along merrily through five more wholly happy standards for Side One. Boots Randolph might've imagined that the kids would be in bed by Side Two because it's composed of six significantly less jolly numbers ("White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," for example). It's a good record. A man fortunate enough to spend an Advent evening or two stringing popcorn with his daughter through Side One of Boots and Stockings and then wrapping gifts with his wife through Side Two is a fortunate man in this world, indeed.


  1. "Yakety Sax," indeed. That's the Joe B & Denny Show theme song, and, per Wikipedia, it was written by a Henderson guy, "Spider" Rich, for an event in Hoptown.

    My dad was born in 1925 in Madisonville. He moved to Evansville in high school, too. In the 1950s, he had a band for a little while, the Rhythm Masters. He played drums. My Uncle Bill sang. A couple of guys from Henderson filled out the outfit, and they all wore matching sequined costumes for their shows. They gave it a go, but, when they had to pull Dad away from a performance at some tavern on the night that one of my brothers was born in 1957, Mom encouraged Dad to rethink the side gig, and the Rhythm Masters were no more.

    I don't know this to be the case, but, knowing Dad, I'd lay money that he followed Boots Randolph's career pretty closely. In fact, it's possible that it was from Mom and Dad's records that I acquired this copy of Boots and Stockings. I'll bet there was a day when he was doing concrete on the Henderson County Courthouse in the early 1960s that Dad thought to himself, Hey, I could be playing on "Yakety Sax." I'll bet there was a day when he was setting up his pottery to sell at some steamy arts-and-crafts fair in the 1970s that he thought to himself, Hey, I could've been on the main stage. I'll bet there was a time in the 1980s that Dad was on some business trip, hanging out in the Holiday Inn lounge after a day of contract estimating, and thought to himself, roughly, Hey, I should be off gambling with Tom Watson.

  2. I wonder if he ever played in Stamping Ground.