1940 – “Monster Mash” singer Bobby “Boris” Pickett is born in Georgetown, Texas.
Pickett was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, a blue-collar city just north of Boston
. His father was a theater manager, and as a 9-year-old he watched many horror films. He would later incorporate impressions of them in his Hollywood, California nightclub act in 1959. Pickett was a United States Army veteran, who served in Korea.
Pickett co-wrote “Monster Mash” with Leonard Capizzi in May 1962. The song was a spoof on the dance crazes popular at the time, including the Twist and the Mashed Potato, which inspired the title. The song featured Pickett’s impersonations of veteran horror stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (the latter with the line “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”). It was passed on by every major record label, but after hearing the song, Gary S. Paxton agreed to produce and engineer it; among the musicians who played on it was pianist Leon Russell. Issued on Paxton’s Garpax Records, the single became a million seller, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks before Halloween in 1962. The tune remains a Halloween perennial on radio and on iTunes.
A Christmas-themed follow-up, “Monster’s Holiday,” was also released in 1962 and reached #30 in December that year. Another of his songs, “Graduation Day”, made #80 in June 1963. Pickett also recorded a novelty spoof on Star Trek called “Star Drek” with Peter Ferrara, again performing some of the various voices, which was played on Dr. Demento’s radio show. There was also an early 1980s musical “sequel” to the monster mash called “the Monster Rap” which featured Bobby teaching the creature to speak through “rapping”. Though not nearly as popular as the original “Monster Mash” , it found a reasonable following with the Dr. Demento fanbase. In October 2005, Pickett protested inaction on global warming by releasing “Climate Mash,” a new version of his hit single.
Film and writing
In 1967, Pickett and television author Sheldon Allman wrote the musical I’m Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night. It has been produced by local theatres around the USA. They followed it up later with another musical, Frankenstein Unbound. In 1995 the co-writers of Disney’s Toy Story, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolov, produced a movie of it, originally entitled Frankenstein Sings, but later released in the US under Monster Mash the Movie. Pickett starred in it with Candace Cameron, Jimmie Walker, Mink Stole, John Kassir, Sarah Douglas, Anthony Crivello, Adam Shankman and Carrie Ann Inaba. On ABC-TV, he appeared on the guest segment of “The Long Hot Summer,” with Roy Thinnes and Nancy Malone, in August 1967.
In 2005 Pickett published his autobiography through Trafford Publishing. It was called Monster Mash: Half Dead in Hollywood.
Pickett died at the age of 69 on April 25, 2007 in Los Angeles, California, due to complications from leukemia. His daughter Nancy Huus was at his side when he died. He left two grandchildren, Jordan Huus and Olivia Huus. The May 13, 2007 episode of the Dr. Demento show, featured a documentary retrospective of Pickett’s work.