Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s Song “Monster Mash” Became a Graveyard Smash in 1962
Quick, go comment below…. what is the most recognizable Halloween song?
Now that you’re back, did you write “Monster Mash?” It was today (October 20) in 1962, that the song rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, just before Halloween, and stayed there for several weeks. The song was released months earlier by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, and recorded with Gary S. Paxton, Leon Russell, Johnny MacRae, Rickie Page, and Terry Berg who credited themselves as “The Crypt-Kickers.” The song, co-written by Pickett and Leonard Capizzi, featured on the album The Original Monster Mash, was a hit in the United States but was actually banned in the UK because the BBC felt it was “too morbid.”
After the success of “Monster Mash,” Pickett ran with the parody songs. He released a follow-up song called “Monster’s Holiday” for Christmas and eventually in the ’80s “Monster Rap,” among others. Have you ever wondered where Pickett got the idea for the catchy “Monster Mash” tune? He apparently sang the song “Little Darlin'” with his band the Cordials, but sang as if Boris Karloff were singing during a performance and the crowd ate it up! Pickett grew up loving horror movies and loved to do impersonations, so it seems that his two passions met with one incredible tune.
Pickett once shared, “It was an amazing time to be cutting records. The day we cut ‘Monster Mash,’ Herb Alpert was in the same studio cutting ‘Brave Bull,’ and Jimmie Rodgers was recording his hit, ‘Honeycomb,’ at the studio, too. My attitude toward this project was, ‘Yeah, sure it’s a hit—just give me a check and some copies for my friends and family, and I’ll be happy.’ Gary Paxton did all the audio effects, like the straw in a glass of water to get that bubbling lab sound. Gary pulled the rusty nail out of a board to get the coffin creaking sound; he dragged chains across the linoleum floor to get the chain effects. My part of the record was done in a half hour.”
While he never quite saw the same success with the music that followed “Monster Mash,” he did continue to write, perform, and even co-wrote several musicals called I’m Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night and Frankenstein Unbound with Sheldon Allman. Pickett also acted a bit, appearing in films such as Lobster Man from Mars, It’s a Bikini World, and as the narrator of the film Spookley the Square Pumpkin. He released an autobiography called Monster Mash: Half Dead in Hollywood in 2005 about his meteoric rise and fall from fame.
Prior to his death in 2007 at the age of 69 after a battle with leukemia, he was asked if he ever got tired of the song, especially around Halloween. His answer was simple: “No. ‘Monster Mash’ has paid my rent for the last 33 years. I have no complaints!”