Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Art Stevens and Boots Randolph

Two men who were important to their respective professions recently passed on. One was Art Stevens, longtime animator at Disney. The other was Boots Randolph, a saxophonist who played with some of music's biggest stars.

Animator Art Stevens passed on May 22 following a heart attack. He was 92 years of age.

Stevens was born in Roy, Montana on May 1, 1915. He started working at Disney in 1939 as an in-betweener, the artist who creates the drawings between key poses made by an animator. The first project to which he was ever assigned at Disney was Fantasia. He would work as an in-betweener on most of Disney's features in the Forties.

It was with Peter Pan, released in 1953, that Stevens became a full character animator. He would work on Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and Robin Hood. Stevens would also direct two features at Disney: The Rescuers (with John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman) and The Fox and the Hound (with Ted Berman and Richard Rich).

Stevens would also provide story concepts and animation for Disney's various space documentaries made for the TV show Disneyland in the Fifties. He also created the title sequences for several Disney projects, including No Deposit, No Return and the original version of Freaky Friday.

Boots Randolph passed today after having suffered a brain haemorrhage on June 25 which left him in a coma.

Boots Randolph was born Homer Louis Randolph III in Paducah, Kentucky on June 3, 1927. He grew up in nearby Cadiz, Kentucky. His brother gave him the nickname "Boots" when he was very young; since his father was also named "Homer," his family followed his brother's example. The Randolph family was musically inclined, and young Boots had learned to play ukelele and trombone when his father brought a saxophone home when he was 16. Randolph then took up the saxophone. Following graduation from high school, Randolph enlisted in the U. S. Army, where he played in the band.

Randolph played nightclubs before being signed by RCA in 1958. He would continue to play nightclubs in Nashville for many years, and toured with the Festival of Music. In all Randolph released over 40 albums. His biggest hit on his own was the instrumental "Yakety Sax" in 1963 (many might remember it as the closing theme of The Benny Hill Show.

Boots Randolph also worked as a session musician and played on some of the biggest hits in the rock era. Among the songs he played on were "Return to Sender" by Elvis Presley, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee, "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, and "Little Queenie" by REO Speedwagon. Over the years Randolph played with some of the biggest musicians in history, including Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Doc Sevrinsen.

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