Bobby Pickett originally wanted to be an actor – in fact, you can watch him co-starring with Deborah Walley and Tommy Kirk in the 1967 teen flick It’s A Bikini World. But his claim to immortality turned out to be a record, Monster Mash, which hit #1 in 1962.
Born in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1938, Pickett settled in Los Angeles after a stint in Korea with the Army Signal Corps.
There he hooked up with an a capella quartet called The Cordials, which specialised in doo-wop oldies. The highlight of the group’s set was a version of The Diamonds’ hit Little Darlin’, during which Pickett did a Boris Karloff impersonation that cracked up the crowds.
The routine was so successful that the group decided to write a song around it. The result – Monster Mash – was taken to producer Gary Paxton, who recorded it as a single on his own label, Garpax.
Leon Russell was supposed to play on the session but couldn’t make it, so he played the piano on the B-side, Monster’s Mash Party.
After two minor follow-up hits, Pickett formed a folk duo with his wife Payne and toured Europe, winding up in Afghanistan. In 1972, the couple moved to New York where Pickett drove a cab and wrote songs while she worked as a part-time waitress.
When Monster Mash was re-released in 1973, it sold more copies than it did the first time around – a total of 2 million – going to #3 in England.
Pickett kept busy doing TV (Bonanza, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction), commercials (Pepsi, Lipton Tea) and low-budget movies. He also acted off-Broadway, appearing in Thomas Babe’s Kid Champion in 1979.
He eventually got into writing screenplays and cut a single called Monster Rap that got airplay on New York radio stations.
But it was Monster Mash that paid the rent.