Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I am saddened by the death of Boots Randolph.

Reading your column about him brought to mind something he said during a concert in Nashville, when he talked to the crowd between musical selections.

He mentioned how he reluctantly recorded a couple of vocals, that actually became hits. Yet he didn't sing at all during that show. Was he kidding?

His sax playing is legendary, but no one I know is aware of him singing.

What can you tell me about these two songs?
—Rodney Childress, Sarasota, Fla.

DEAR RODNEY: Mr. Randolph was not kidding and was accurate on all counts.

Don't be too shocked. When discussing this very topic with Boots in 2004, he said: “most people don't realize it, but a high percentage of musicians are also able to sing. Maybe not great, but at least they'll carry a tune.”

His first and best-known vocal is “Percolator” (RCA Victor 7395), a November 1958 issue. On this teen rocker, Boots does a fine job with the vocal as well as providing his own sax accompaniment.

Though “Percolator” became popular in just a few scattered U.S. markets, it really scorched some of the European charts — especially in Germany, where “Percolator” is still perking on their oldies stations.

For the record, this “Percolator” has nothing whatsoever to do with the 1962 instrumental hit by Billy Joe and the Checkmates.

Also noteworthy is the flip side, an instrumental Boots wrote titled “Yakety Sax.”

Despite promising reviews, “Yakety Sax” did very little that year. Yet when reissued five years later (Monument 804) it made everyone's Top 40.

In 1969, Benny Hill selected “Yakety Sax” as the theme of his self-titled TV show, forever connecting it more to the Benny Hill Show than a 1963 hit record.

Amazingly, Boots' other vocal hit, “Big Daddy” followed the same route as “Yakety Sax.”

It first came out in 1961 on RCA Victor (7835), and flopped, only to fare much better when Monument reissued it six years later (45-1038).

Very rarely are there two different records by the same artist, both issued first by a major label without success, then both selling far better when reissued by a small or independent company.

DEAR JERRY: My favorite 1960s channel recently played “Beg, Borrow Or Steal,” a hit song I remember quite well and even have on an album.

Much to my surprise, the dee jay identified the group as the Breed.

Later I searched through my records and found my copy credits the Ohio Express.

My Ohio Express cut sounded identical to the one on the radio by the Breed.

Also, who are some of the folks to record “Ramona”?
—Ramona White, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR RAMONA: Their name changed, but the Rare Breed (you're missing the “Rare”) and the Ohio Express are the same group. Their recording of “Beg, Borrow Or Steal” is identical regardless of which name is credited.

The first issue, by the Rare Breed, came out in early 1966 backed with “Jeri's Theme” (Attack 1401). Though a seemingly perfect release in the peak year for garage bands, #Beg, Borrow Or Steal” did not hit any of the charts.

Over a year later, this Mansfield, Ohio band became the Ohio Express and signed with Cameo-Parkway. The re-release of “Beg, Borrow Or Steal,“ with a new B-side, “Maybe” (Cameo 483), reached the nation's Top 30.

The third Ohio Express hit, #Yummy Yummy Yummy” (Buddah 38) came along during the Bubble Gum music craze and gave the band their first Top 5 hit.

Another gum-based tune, #Chewy Chewy” (Buddah 70), also did quite well for the Ohio Express, landing in the Top 15.

As for “Ramona,” quite a few have popularized this nifty little tune.

Chronologically, they are: Gene Austin (1928); Paul Whiteman (1928); Ruth Etting (1928); Scrappy Lambert (1928); Gaylords (1953); Louis Armstrong (1953); Mantovani (1953); Lancers (1957); Jim Reeves (1958); Slim Whitman (1960); Blue Diamonds (1960); Al Martino (1965); Billy Walker (1968); Tony Bennett (1961); and Gaylord & Holiday (1977).

The latter duo is Ronnie Gaylord and Burt Holiday, two original members of the Gaylords. This group's 1953 hit just happens to be my favorite of these many Ramonas.

IZ ZAT SO? A native of Paducah, Kentucky, Homer L. Randolph grew up with the nickname Boots. This kept him from being confused with his father, Homer C. Randolph.

Yet for his first three RCA Victor singles, “I'm Gettin' Your Message Baby” (7278); Yakety Sax (7395); and “Blue Guitar” (7515), he chose to be billed as Randy Randolph rather than Homer or Boots.

Keepin' it all in the family, Randy Randolph is the name of Boots' son.

From his fourth release forward, he would always be Boots Randolph.

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