Bobby Pickett never wanted to be a singer. When he moved to Hollywood in the early ‘60s, his ambition was to be a movie actor. His resume included a knack for impersonations—he’d learned to mimic quite a few stars, one of whom was horrormeister Boris Karloff. Little did Bobby know, that imitation would earn him both his fortune and a permanent middle name.
As he hustled for acting work, he picked up some extra cash on weekends playing club dates with a group called The Cordials. One of the songs they covered was “Little Darlin’” by The Diamonds. For a lark, in the middle of the song, Pickett recited a monologue in the Karloff voice. It went over well with the crowd. So well that fellow band member Leonard Capizzi convinced Bobby that they should write a rock ’n’ roll song about monsters.
Pickett and Capizzi finished the “Monster Mash” in one afternoon, then cut it with producer Gary Paxton. Eight weeks later, in October 1962, the song was No. 1. Things happened fast in those days.
The graveyard smash has been a perennial, charting again in 1970 and 1973, and getting steady airplay every October since then. It’s also been heard on many TV shows, including The Simpsons and Cheers. Pickett had a minor hit with the Christmas follow-up, “Monster’s Holiday,” and later hosted a monster-themed show on KRLA radio station in Los Angeles. As for his acting career, his main credit is a low-budget cult film called Frankenstein Sings! A campy predecessor to both Rocky Horror Picture Show and Young Frankenstein, it features an Elvis-like, hip-swiveling mummy and Pickett as the mad Doctor F.
PIckett died in 2007 at the age of 69, due to complications of leukemia.
—By Bill DeMain