If you read Elvisblog, you probably also visit other websites devoted to Elvis. So, it is safe to assume you have already read articles recounting the death of Boots Randolph and the connection between him and Elvis. Rather than retread that same ground, I would like to reminisce about my one occasion to get close and personal with Mr. Yackety Sax.
It was back in 2004 during Elvis Week in Memphis. The big celebration that year was the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ first recording “That’s All Right.” During those years with special significance (25th anniversary of Elvis’ death, etc.), Darwin Lamm, Editor and Publisher of Elvis…The Magazine. always presents his famous “Good Rockin’ Tonight” concerts. These concerts have been held in a variety of venues from Mud Island to the Orpheum Theater to the Peabody Hotel Grand Ballroom. In 2004, Lamm upgraded considerably and staged his events at the prestigious Cannon Center. This is the home of the Memphis Opera Company, and it featured superb acoustics. I worked backstage doing any kind of “gofer” duties that came up. I got to go for ice, bottled water, extra Xerox copies of the song list, and so forth. It was a great job, because I rubbed elbows with dozens of people with real Elvis connections.
The Cannon Center didn’t come cheap, so Lamm used the facility for two concerts the same day. On August 13, he presented “The Legends” at 6:30PM and “The TCB Band” featuring Terry Mike Jeffrey” at 10PM. “The Legends” concert was built around Elvis’ original guitarist Scotty Moore, his original drummer D J Fontana, and his original background vocalists The Jordanaires. Boots Randolph was the big-name guest artist. Singing duties were handled by an impressive list of talents: Billy Swan, Lee Rocker, Eddie Miles, Stan Perkins, and the unannounced surprise guest, Ronnie McDowell.
McDowell’s band joined the other musicians for the show, and, in my opinion, this resulted in a special addition to the sound,. Steve Shepherd was McDowell’s keyboard player, and once they started playing, I truly loved the sounds Shepherd produced on that keyboard.
“The Legends” concert turned out to be a superb event, and the hit of the show, without question, was Boots Randolph. He came out to do one of Elvis’ best blues numbers, “Reconsider Baby,” and he nailed it. For a man from the heart of the Nashville country-music community, he could really wail the blues. The audience just ate it up, and they gave Boots a huge ovation. Next he jumped into his signature song, “Yackety Sax,” and it was just a magic moment. You would have never guessed this was a seventy-seven-year-old man blasting away on stage.
I watched from stage-right, as did Terry Mike Jeffrey, the vocalist for the second concert with the TCB Band. He was just as impressed with Boots’ performance as I was. After the show, I noticed Terry Mike talking to Boots backstage. I quietly moved within hearing range and overheard the best news. Terry Mike asked Boots to perform during the second concert as well — and Boots agreed. I don’t think any compensation was involved, but Boots was a showman and he was on a roll. He was happy just to perform before another group of music lovers.
When the second concert started later, I was again on stage-right. After the first song or two, Boots Randolph showed up and took a seat on a folding chair near me. The chair next to him was empty, so I jumped at the opportunity to sit next to a celebrity. Boots was certainly dressed like one. He was impeccable in a sharp suit and tie. However, he didn’t act like a celebrity. He was very friendly to me, and we chatted softly about a few things between songs.
The main topic that stands out in my memory was a question I asked him about the difference in the two bands. “The Legends” had Steve Shepherd on keyboard, while “The TCB Band” had Glen D. Hardin on piano. Hardin is an excellent musician, but I was struck by how much more I liked Shepherd’s keyboard work. So, without leading the question, I asked Boots’ which he liked best, the keyboard sound in the first concert or the piano sound going on in the second. He started out saying he liked them both equally, but the longer he talked, the more he leaned toward the keyboard. I was pleased this respected music giant thought the same way I did on a musical matter.
Soon it was time for Boots to go on stage, and he went out there and wowed them again. I had been in the presence of a true legend and was thrilled that he was kind enough to chat with me briefly.
Boots Randolph was scheduled to be part of this year’s Elvis Week concert, “Scotty Moore – The Last Man Standing” on August 15th. His death will leave a huge void on stage and in the hearts of many people. I was so looking forward to hanging out with him again backstage. We’ll miss you, Boots.
© 2007 Philip R Arnold All Rights Reserved www.elvisblog.net