Robert George Pickett was born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1938. He grew up with movies. His father owned the local movie theater and little Bobby could watch all the films he wanted to. His favorite actor was Boris Karloff.
As he grew up, he spent three years in Korea during that war working with the Signal Corp. Coming back from the war, he decided he would try acting since most of his heroes were actors, so he moved to Hollywood to try his luck. His luck wasn’t very good; he had a lot of trouble getting work. He ran into four high school buddies who were also in Hollywood and they decided to try singing. Maybe they could earn some money that way. They became The Cordials and sang in an Italian restaurant on Friday nights. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
One the numbers the Cordials sang was a cover of the Diamonds “Little Darlin’,” a song that should have been a number one but was stopped at number two, where it spent eight weeks in 1957. To liven things up, Bobby would do a Boris Karloff imitation during the song as an interlude. It was a big hit with the customers of the restaurant. He got together with one of the Cordials, Leonard Capizzi and they wrote “Monster Mash.”
The song is making fun of the dance craze that was sweeping the nation at the time, dances like the Twist and the Mashed Potato, that latter song was the inspiration for the title of the “Monster Mash” and, besides Boris Karloff, during the song Bobby sings in a Bela Lugosi voice, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist.”
As beloved as the song is today, they had quite a time selling it. None of the labels in Hollywood wanted to record it. Finally, they talked to Gary Paxton, who owned Garpax Records (he did “Alley Oop” back in 1960 as the Hollywood Argyles.) Paxton liked the song, thinking it was a cute novelty song. Who knew what a big hit it would be. Surprisingly, the BBC in England though the song was offensive and refused to play it. In 1973, they relented and the song was a big hit in England as well.
Bobby did not have much of a singing career. “Monster Mash” comes back every year at Halloween and we hear it on the radio, so his residuals are pretty good. It actually hit the chart two more times, in 1970, it re-entered the Hot 100 peaking at number 91. But, then three years later in 1973, it came back again and this time, it hit number 10.
Bobby had a consistent, if not spectacular career. He remained in show business the rest of his life. He wrote, produced and acted in numerous programs over the years. He tried other parodies on other things (he even did a Star Trek parody,) but nothing achieved the success of “Monster Mash.”
“Monster Mash” entered the pop chart (the first time) on September 15, 1962 and spent two weeks at number one right around Halloween. Bobby Pickett (he only used the “Boris” name when it related to “Monster Mash,”) died in 2007 of leukemia. He was 69.