Bobby “Boris” Pickett
(1938 – 2007)
DJ Name: Pickett PICKs the hitz
All the ghosts and ghouls are going to take to the streets on Sunday (and probably Friday and Saturday, too, let’s be honest, it’s #Halloweekend) asking for candy that hopefully doesn’t have razor blades in it and maybe even dance to a song that was a graveyard smash. In honor of the man behind the biggest Halloween hit, we’re using this spooky szn to write about Bobby Pickett, who wrote “Monster Mash.”
It was a cold October night and the wind began to blow
When the beat entered his body, Bobby couldn’t say no
So all of a sudden, he started tapping his feet
And he wrote “Monster Mash,” everyone got out of their seats.
They did the mash, they did the monster mash.
But, of course, Bobby didn’t just come up with a record-setting jam out of nowhere. No, Bobby had a playlist full of favorite spooky tunes that he turned to for inspiration while he was writing “Monster Mash.” You can listen to that playlist here, and don’t forget to crank it up at your Halloween party this weekend:
Bobby Pickett was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, not too far away from where the witches burned in Salem, on February 11, 1938. Papa Pickett was a theater manager and Young Bobby took to watching lots of horror movies with his dad (couldn’t be us! No thank youuu). Somerville, at the time, was right smack dab in the middle of where Universal Studios liked to film scary movies. So as a kid, Bobby got to watch as famous actors like Bela Lugosi (aka Dracula) and Boris Karloff (aka Frankenstein’s monster) stalked through make-believe towns in “Dracula,” “The Mummy” and “The Wolf Man.” Again, we would very much like to sit out during the filming of “Dracula;” we know it’s fiction but it’s still scary, OK!!
Bobby went to Somerville High School (where maybe he hung out with Buffy and slayed vampires, we dunno) and then joined the Army in 1956. He served in Korea for about three years before returning home to practice his Frankenstein impressions (inspired by fellow shufflette Mary Shelley, who allegedly did the ~monster mash~ to summon the spooky spirits before she put pen to paper to write Frankenstein) at local talent shows with the intention of making it big in Hollywood.
So Bobby Pickett picked up and moved to Los Angeles in 1960. He got an agent and a roadie named Bart, except maybe not the roadie part – sorry, we couldn’t resist the Tom Petty ref – but then his agent died two weeks after he signed with him. Womp womp. It was back to the drawing board for Bobby, but as luck would have it he ran into four Somerville lads who just happened to be forming a singing group. He told them he could sing a ditty or two, and so he joined the ranks of the Cordials. Sometimes, during performances, he snuck in a Frankenstein’s monster impersonation. No one really knows why the Cordials didn’t *clap clap* cut off Bobby from their group, but he got to keep doin’ his thang.
Though he could get his rocks off with his ghoulish impressions during performances, Bobby dreamed of bigger things, of seeing his name in bright lights. He wanted to cordially tell the Cordials he would not be attending their performances anymore, but the universe had other plans. Poor ol’ Bobby’s acting career just wouldn’t take off. So he sat down with his old Cordial buddy, Lenny Capizzi, who sounds like he should be an extra on The Sopranos, and the two knocked out the lyrics to “Monster Mash” in a mere couple of hours. Four labels passed on the song so Bobby took matters into his own and released it on his own on August 25, 1962. Though it didn’t catch on in a flash, it did eventually reach Billboard’s Hot 100 chart by October 20 just in time for the szn of BOOs.
The “Monster Mash” wasn’t for many muggles, though. Elvis Presley said it’s, “the dumbest thing he’s ever heard” and turns out even Pam Beasley really hates the monster mash. But since it’s release plenty of witches, wizards, goblins, ghouls, vampires, and…uh…humans have danced around to this graveyard smash. Pickett cracked the charts twice more with his spooky Christmas parody called “Monster’s Holiday” (b/c obvi monsters rock around the Christmas tree, too) in December 1962 and then “Graduation Day” in June 1963.
Pickett continued to make monster-themed tunes for the rest of his life and even took to the stage in an off-Broadway play (not Frankenstein). He performed concerts up until five months before his passing and essentially cast a spell upon the crowd Sanderson sister style when he sang “Monster Mash.” Once upon a spooky time, his tour bus broke down outside of Frankenstein, Missouri. How fitting. Bobby “Boris” Pickett passed away at the age of 69 from leukemia on April 25, 2007. So as you press play on the “Monster Mash” this cold October weekend and dance around like no ghost is watching, we hope you raise your chalice, goblet or red solo cup in honor of Bobby Pickett, the man who picked the best halloween hits.