Bobby "Boris" Pickett

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 to try his hand at show business. As a member of a vocal group called The Cordials, he would do impersonations between songs, often using his impression of Karloff, which was a crowd favourite. 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 a half an hour.

To record their song, they approached producer Gary Paxton, who sang The Hollywood Argyles' hit, "Alley Oop". Pickett and Paxton, along with Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae and Rickie Page 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, who all turned it down. Not discouraged, he had a thousand copies pressed 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.

Over the years, the song has been re-released three times and re-entered the Hot 100 on August 29, 1970, peaking at number 91 and again in May of 1972, when it reached number 10. Several attempts were made at other "monster" songs. Some, like the Christmas themed "Monster's Holiday" were even minor chart hits, but none could match the success of the original.

"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. The song has become a part of American pop culture, so much so, that it has even been played to wake up the astronauts on Halloween Day.

Over the years, The Monster Mash has been used in several movies, including "Sweetheart's Dance" & "Halloween III" and has been heard on such popular T.V. shows as The Simpsons, Cheers, Rosanne, Doogie Howser, Happy Days, and Sesame Street. Even Boris Karloff himself sang the song on mid-sixties TV.

As for Bobby, he remained in demand for Halloween performances and continued to tour at small venues and special events throughout the US, performing his final gig in November, 2006. He died of leukemia on April 25th, 2007, at the age of 69.

For more, be sure to read Gary James interview with Bobby "Boris" Pickett