Bobby "Boris" Pickett: Talkin' Trash with Mr. Monster Mash
As Told To Terry DuFoe
MASH BASH: Bobby "Boris" Pickett 'scopes out the action at recent Rhino Records Retro Fest.
While it has never earned a Grammy (or even a Mummy), the runaway hit "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett has become a true Frankenstein Monster in the world of classic Halloween novelty tunes. The "Monster Mash" started off quite simply as a good idea by Pickett, Gary Paxton, of "Alley Oop" fame, and Lenny Capeci of The Cordials. I had the chance to chat with Bobby "Boris" Pickett at The Rhino Records Retro Fest in Santa Monica, California, where, dressed in a blood-stained lab coat, he sang a medley of his hit to the cheers of hundreds of monster-mashing maniacs!
TERRY DUFOE What is your real name?
BOBBY PICKETT My real name is Robert George Pickett. When I did the Boris Karloff voice, Gary Paxton, who arranged and produced the record, said, "We're going to call you Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and the Cryptkickers." And I said, "Call me anything you want, just call me!"
TD How did it come about that you decided to be into music as a novelty artist?
BP It came about because Lenny Capeci, who was the leader of a group called The Cordials, which I sang with, he and I were big horror-movie fans and whenever we did a tune called "Little Darlin'" by The Diamonds, I would do a Boris Karloff impression. And one night he said, "You know, we ought to do a novelty record with that voice. Take it to Gary Paxton, who sang 'Alley Oop,' he'll produce it, and, you know, it could be a hit. You never know!" So, a year later we wrote it in an hour and a half, and the rest is history. It was number one in eight weeks.
TD Did Boris Karloff ever hear the song?
BP Yes, he did. He did a version of it on, I think, Hullabaloo or an American Bandstand Special. I'm not quite sure which, but he was very familiar with it, yeah.
TD I heard that you did a cameo in a recent Frankenstein spoof or some horror film?
BP Cameo?!? A cameo!?! I play Dr. Frankenstein. It's called Frankenstein Sings, but in video stores it's called Monster Mash: The Movie.
TD What basically is the plot? Are you creating the monster and the whole thing like in the original Frankenstein?
BP The basic plot is based on a play called I'm Sorry, the Bridge is Out, You'll Have to Spend the Night!, which I wrote with Sheldon Allman, the man who wrote George of the Jungle, and he and I wrote this thing in 1966. Way before Young Frankenstein, way before The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the movie is based on that play. So it's A Chorus Line for monsters! Two teens (Ian Bohen, Candace Cameron) are on their way to a Halloween party dressed as Romeo and Juliet when their car breaks down in front of a sinister mansion. Seeking help, they fall into a party of monsters led by Dr. Frankenstein, who immediately wants to transfer the boy's brain into his monster. Dracula (Anthony Crivella) also wants the girl for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, Elvis (E. Aaron Price) has returned as a mummy, and his new manager (Jimmie Walk-er) wants the boy's body for him. It's 82 minutes and rated PG for double entendre humor.
TD I'm a big fan of one of your recent songs, "It's Alive."
BP "It's Alive"! Yes, my latest.
TD How did that come about, wring that song?
BP Frank Heller, genius musician/engineer and swell guy, approached me with the idea in Brooklyn, New York, and that's where we did it. In his house!
TD So I can imagine Halloween is a real busy season for you!
BP Halloween is when they dig me up, and I perform a medley of my hit! Again and again!
TD Have you ever met Zacherley?
BP Oh yes, John Zacherley, yes.
TD What do you think of him as a guy, or should I say a ghoul?
BP I think he's a great guy!
TD He also did "The Monster Mash," didn't he?
BP He did a bad version in 1962 and it got what it deserved!