"Yakety Sax" is a 1963 45 rpm single written by Boots Randolph and James Q. "Spider" Rich, and recorded by Boots Randolph.
The composition includes pieces of assorted fiddle tunes such as "Chicken Reel", and written for a performance at a venue called The Armory in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. There is also a bar of "Entrance of the Gladiators" worked into it.
This piece of music is not to be confused with the Leiber and Stoller song "Yakety Yak", recorded in 1958 by The Coasters. The tunes are similar, and both feature the "yakety sax" sound, but are distinctly different melodies. Randolph had recorded an earlier version of "Yakety Sax" that year for RCA Victor, but it wasn't until his re-recording for Monument Records that it became a standard.
Other noteworthy performances
- Guitarist Chet Atkins recorded a variant version of "Yakety Sax" 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". He later recorded a slower-tempoed version, with verses that he recited rhythmically to the music. One of his lines references getting a "Shave and a Haircut", which happens to be the closing notes of his previous instrumental version of the tune, though not his vocal remake.
- Bill Haley & His Comets recorded this piece on at least two occasions, and it was a staple of their live performances, usually featuring saxophonist Rudy Pompilli.
- Glen Campbell once performed "Yakety Axe" on The Tonight Show, with his guitar held behind his head.
- An electronic version (titled "Yakety Moog") was recorded on the album Switched On Nashville by Gil Trythall.
- The bass line in the Phish song "It's Ice" closely resembles the main saxophone melody.
Television and film
Yakety Sax is often used on television as a soundtrack for outlandishly humorous situations. It is frequently used to accompany comedic chases.
- It was used frequently in the sketch comedy program, The Benny Hill Show, to accompany otherwise silent, rapidly paced comedy bits (often involving a chase scene).
- This music was used in the film V for Vendetta during the Deitrich Half-Hour show, as a tribute to The Benny Hill Show.
- This music was also used in the film Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, when the Gauls escape from the pyramid in the darkness.
- It was used in the opening title of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart of the April 5 2006 "Afrospanicindioasianization" special episode.
It made a second appearance as part of Stephen Colbert's mix tape during the 'toss' to The Colbert Report on August 23 2006 and a third on September 14 2006, when correspondent John Oliver introduced it as "a secret song that makes things go faster.
- This music has been used at least twice on The Simpsons: in "Treehouse of Horror XIV", and during a Benny Hill spoof in the season 14 episode "A Star Is Born-Again".
- The music is played by the Bill Clinton parody in 2001: A Space Travesty.
- In the eighth-season South Park episode "Quest for Ratings", it was played in the fictitious TV shows Close Up Animals With a Wide Angle Lens and Close Up Animals With a Wide Angle Lens Wearing Hats.
- The song is featured in the credits of the "Spaghetti Jesus" episode of Upright Citizens Brigade during a sped-up chase scene.
- The music is occasionally featured in the Oddball segment of Countdown with Keith Olbermann to accompany bizarre and humorous TV and Internet clips.
- The song is used in a sketch from ''The Man Show featuring Adam Carolla.
- The song is occasionally used on the Way of the Master radio show as an introduction augmented with audio clips from controversial televangelist Benny Hinn just before the open.
- In the second episode of Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus, the western version of this music is heard in the beginning of the Chicken Mining Sketch and the end credits sequence after everyone was turned into chickens in the end of The Tale of Happy Valley sketch.
- In My Name Is Earl, the theme is heard during one of Earl's sitcom coma dreams.
- In the end of last episode from the 7th season of That '70s Show, "Til the Next Goodbye", Kelso is running naked around motel parking lot, like Benny Hill used to, and Yakety Sax is playing during the scene.