Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bobby "Boris" Pickett Dead at 69

There are those one hit wonders whose hits are quickly forgotten. They come and go and years later no one remembers them. And then there are those one hit wonders that seem as if their songs will be remembered forever. One of the latter category of one hit wonders died last night. Bobby "Boris" Pickett, whose only hit was the Halloween favourite "Monster Mash," passed on at the age of 69 after a battle with leukaemia.

Pickett was born Robert George Pickett on February 11, 1938 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Growing up Pickett's father managed a movie theatre. It was then at age 9 that Pickett discovered his gift for impersonations, particularly Boris Karloff. In the late Fifties in Hollywood, Pickett would often use his Karloff impersonation in his night club act. He would also use the impersonation in performances with his band, The Cordials. One of the members of The Cordials then suggested to Pickett that he use his Boris Karloff impersonation in a song. With his friend Lenny Capizzi, Pickett then wrote the song "Monster Mash." The song was recorded with a backing band christened "The Crypt-Kickers," whose keyboard player was a then unknown Leon Russell. The song was rejected by four different major labels before Gary Paxton (best known for the song "Alley Oop"--he would later produce songs for Tommy Roe and The Association) decided to release it on his own label. It was Paxton who billed Pickett as "Bobby 'Boris' Pickett."

Just eight weeks after it was recorded, "Monster Mash" hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart the week of October 20. It has since became a favourite with radio stations during the Halloween season. It would also hit the Billboard charts one more time; it went to #10 in 1973. The song has been covered by Mannheim Steamroller, The Misfits,The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and even Boris Karloff himself (on a 1965 episode of Shingdig).

Unfortunately, Pickett was never able to repeat the success of "Monster Mash." A Yuletide novelty called "Monster's Holiday" was released in 1962 and hit #30 on the Billboard chart. Another song, "Graduation Day," only managed to hit #80 on the Billboard chart in 1963. Pickett released a new version of the song, "Climate Mash," in October 2005, as part of a protest against global warming.

Bobby "Boris" Pickett was also an actor. He guest starred in such series as The Lieutenant, Petticoat Junction, Bonanza, and The Beverly Hillbillies. He appeared in the movies The Baby Maker, Chrome and Hot Leather and Strange Invaders. In 1995 he appeared as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Monster Mash: the Movie, based on the hit song.

While Bobby "Boris" Pickett only had one hit song, there can be no doubt that he will be remembered. "Monster Mash" is played repeated every Halloween. It has appeared in such shows as Cheers, The Simpsons, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. As songs produced by one hit wonders go, it is definitely one that won't be forgotten.

1 comment:

Bobby D. said...

I vaguely recall that song--there was a Boris Karloff voice in it? Maybe I am thinking of a Christmas song too-- the mistletoe/mistlethumb joke?

I have a neighbor who had a hit, a one hit wonder. His way of coping is to mention it every day. he introduces himself as the guy who wrote the ____song, and starts to sing it if people look blank.