Bobby “Boris” Pickett, has died of leukemia. Using a very good Boris Karloff impression, he recorded the biggest Halloween song of all time. “Monster Mash” hit the Billboard chart three times, reaching Number ONE in 1962, and then re-charting in 1970 and 1973 for a new generation of fans.
Born Robert George Pickett on February 11th, 1940, Bobby was fascinated by horror movies as a child. By the time he was nine, he started to imitate Boris Karloff, whom he would see at the movie theatre that his father managed in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Following his discharge from the army in 1961, he moved to Los Angeles and joined the vocal group called “The Cordials”. I have discovered approximately NINE 45’s released by groups using this name, all on different labels, but have no way to verify which records Bobby was involved with. His friend and fellow band mate, Lenny Capizi suggested that the pair try to take advantage of the novelty song craze that was happening in the early sixties by writing a tune around Bobby’s Karloff imitation. It took nearly a year after the suggestion to get around to it, but when they did, the two worked out “The Monster Mash” in about an hour and a half.
To record their song, they approached producer Gary Paxton, who sang The Hollywood Argyles’ hit, “Alley Oop”. Pickett and Paxton, along with a then unknown piano player Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae (Ronny & the Daytonas) and Rickie Page (The Bermudas) recorded the tune, and when the session was done, it was Paxton who came up with the idea of putting “Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett and the Cryptkickers”, on the record’s label. Pickett also added all his own sound sound effects: the creaky door opening is a nail being pulled from a piece of wood, the boiling cauldron is Pickett blowing bubbles into a cup of water with a straw and the chains are him moving chains up and down. The song was recorded in just one take.
Gary Paxton took the tape to four major labels, and was turned down by all of them. Paxton then pressed a thousand copies himself and started delivering them to radio stations across California. Soon, the Monster Mash was getting airplay and London Records, who had rejected the song earlier, called Paxton to sign a deal. Eight weeks later, on October 20, 1962, the record hit number one, just in time for Halloween. “The Monster Mash” has been the recipient of three gold records, selling an estimated 4 million copies, and one of only three records to ever hit the Billboard Top 100 on three separate occasions
Pickett followed up his smash hit with “Monster’s Holiday,” just in time for Christmas. His final Hot 100 entry was “Graduation Day” peaking at number 80 in 1963. Bobby also “bubbled under” the Hot 100 with two tunes. These songs didn’t qualify for the Hot 100 but got enough regional airplay to be ranked somewhere between 101 and 135. “Monster Swim” just made it, at number 135 in 1964. Then, 12 years later, in the middle of the disco craze, he hit number 107 with “King Kong (Your Song)” partnered with Peter Ferrara.
Bobby remained in demand for Halloween performances, including a memorable 1973 show when his bus broke down outside Frankenstein, Mo. He continued to perform until late last year. Pickett is survived by is daughter Nancy, his sister, Lynda, and two grandchildren.
No waiting for Halloween – hear Bobby’s songs 24/7 at: TUNEDEX MEMORIES.