Thursday, May 10, 2012

One Hit Wonders: Bobby Pickett

It’s hard to imagine a 60’s hit starting out with “I was working in my lab, late one night…”. Let alone a song that sounded like it was made for a Halloween party. But then again, when Michael Jackson’s Thriller came out, I don’t think many people could imagine themselves dancing to it. All that would come to your mind was the music video and Vincent Price’s laughter at the end. Nevertheless, just like Thriller, Bobby Pickett’s Monster Mash had what it took to make kids of all ages dance to it.

The year was 1962. Bobby Pickett, who wanted to be an actor, ended up in a vocal group called The Cordials. They would sing hits like Little Darlin’, with Bobby exercising his acting abilities by emulating Boris Karloff’s voice (a famous horror movie actor) during the monologue in the middle of the song. At the time, The Twist and the Mashed Potato Time were hot tunes on the radio, and they wanted something that would fit right in. One day, with fellow group member Leonard Capizzi at the piano, they started talking about how audiences loved Bobby’s rendition of Karloff. It was Leonard who suggested, “maybe the Frankenstein monster should start a dance craze”.

You’d think it would be all downhill from there, but they had some trouble releasing it. No record label wanted it. It was not until they showed it to Gary Paxton, who changed the group name to Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, that it really started getting noticed. Paxton produced the song and distributed about 1,000 singles to radio stations. Monster Mash (name inspired by Dee Dee Sharp’s hit) got on the fast track to becoming a #1 Billboard hit.
Bobby Pickett and The Beach Boys
Some people say that Monster Mash ruined Bobby’s life, since everything he did after that was somehow related to the song. But what if they had never written Monster Mash? Would The Cordials launch themselves to stardom in another way? Or would their biggest achievement have been being heard in a small town radio station? Having a song that’s still a hit 50 years later, even though it was called by Elvis himself the dumbest thing he ever heard, is not something anyone can imagine having on their life’s resumé. I’m glad Bobby and Leonard came up with that song. It’s something that amuses me ever since I was a kid. I think it just might have enough gas to go on for another 50 years.

Just for fun, I found the video below on YouTube, of a family that puts on a light show every Halloween. I’d like to see it as an extremely well done tribute to Bobby.

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