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.
Pickett died on 25 April 2007 in Los Angeles, California from leukaemia. He was 69.