Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bobby Pickett: The Double Edged Sword of Fame

 Robert George Pickett was born on February 11, 1938 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Better known as Bobby Pickett, I would venture to say that most of you have no clue who he is. If I mentioned his one claim to fame, you probably would. 

  "Somerville was an industrial city about 75,000 people. You had two choices as a young man, you could either be a gangster when you grew up or an athlete. So, most people were either jocks or gangsters, and in between of course were the nerds. But there weren't many of these. Somerville was a tough, tough place to live, but it was a place where you could leave your door open and no one would rob you. Everyone knew everyone, even through it was a city three miles long. Jack Derek, the famous beat generation author, once described Somerville, Massachusetts as "three miles long, three miles wide with three family houses, three feet apart." That's pretty much it, but it was a wonderful place to grow up, I thought. I grew up in the 1940s there and it was an innocent time. It was nice."

-Bobby Pickett

 Bobby's father was a theater manager, and as a nine-year-old he watched many horror films. including all of the films of Boris Karloff (who despite his name was an Englishman, born William Henry Pratt).

That would become significant later when he reached adulthood and decided to become a professional singer and recording artist.

 "The first time I went on stage in Everett to do a five minute stand-up comedy spoof of monsters, which I had kind of ripped off from a guy I had seen do it on a boat when I was returning from Korea, in 1958, he did a spoof of monsters. I just watched him and thought that's a great act. He was doing Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi impressions. I said, 'You wrote the act?" He said, "No, I stole it from Jack Carter. I saw it on TV" I said, "Oh, ok. Then you won't mind if I use it." He said "No." So of course I was in the Irish American Club in Everett, Massachusetts in 1959, after I'd gotten out of the army. They were having these talent contests every week where you could win $25, which was a lot of money in those days for an un-employed ex-G.I. So, I did have a couple of drinks. Maybe you've heard about (actor) Charles Laughton, he used to have a bucket in which to vomit before he went on-stage. I don't know if frightened is the word as much as excited and not quite sure if it could be pulled off or whatever. One or two drinks does wonders in releasing inhibitions and relaxing you. I guess I was a little excited about it and the drinks did help give me courage and as time went on, I did get over it. The second and third time I did the act, it wasn't necessary for me to take a drink. These days I can actually do it without taking a drink."

After serving three years in Korea for the war, in 1960, at the age of 22, Pickett made his way to Los Angeles. Originally, he intended on being an actor, not a singer. But fate had other plans.

  "I came to Los Angeles in 1960 to study acting and work in television and films. I got an agent after many, many months and after 2 weeks of being with him he died of a heart attack. So I was in trouble as an actor. I wasn't getting out there. What was going on was that Larry Capizzi and his brother Billy had grown up in Somerville, Masachusetts in the same neighborhood as me, and they had shown up in Hollywood at this time with two other Italian boys Ronnie Deltorto and Lou Toscano.
They were gonna start a singing group called The Cordials and they asked me if I wanted to join. We started singing around Los Angeles, literally for our supper. There was an Italian restaurant called Alvu Turnos and we sang for spaghetti dinners on Friday Nights. This is how 'Monster Mash' came about."

 A 15-track LP, "The Original Monster Mash", full of vampire stories and spooky dances ("Skully Gully", "Transsylvania Twist", "Sinister Stomp"), was rushed out and sold well, peaking at # 19 on the album charts. The follow-up single was "Monster's Holiday", a Christmas novelty from the pen of Charles Underwood, of "Ubangi Stomp" fame. It peaked at # 30 on the Billboard charts and was followed by one other chart entry, "Graduation Day" (# 88) in 1963. This was sung in his normal voice and without the middle name of 'Boris', which Bobby only used in connection with "Monster Mash". But it would remain his only "serious" record. "Blood Bank Blues", the next single (taken from the LP), flopped and was his last 45 on Garpax. Next he recorded unsuccessfully for RCA ("The Monster Swim", "Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette" and others).

In 1967, Pickett and television author Sheldon Allman wrote the musical I'm Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You'll Have to Spend the Night. It has been produced by local theatres around the USA. They followed it up later with another musical, Frankenstein Unbound. In 1995 the co-writers of Disney's Toy Story, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, produced a movie of it, originally entitled Frankenstein Sings, but later released in the US under Monster Mash: The Movie. Pickett starred in it with Candace Cameron, Jimmie Walker, Mink Stole, John Kassir, Sarah Douglas, Anthony Crivello, Adam Shankman and Carrie Ann Inaba. On ABC-TV, he appeared on the guest segment of "The Long Hot Summer," with Roy Thinnes and Nancy Malone, in August 1967.

Pretty much everything Pickett did after Monster Mash became a huge hit in some way involved or drew on the success that it was.  Some say that it haunted his career, while others could argue that he made that happen himself. He was the one who billed himself as Bobby "Boris" Pickett, thereby labeling himself.

In a 1996 interview with People magazine, Pickett said he never grew tired of it: "When I hear it, I hear a cash register ringing."

In 1964 Los Angeles radio station KRLA hired Bobby to host a "monster" show on Saturday nights, from 9 p.m. to midnight. He played a number of characters in the show including Dracula, Karloff, Igor and Zombie the Surfer.

 His acting career started to take off and during the 1964-72 period he played in many TV series, including Bonanza, The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction and a few feature films.

 In 1975 Pickett recorded a novelty spoof on Star Trek called "Star Drek" with Peter Ferrara, followed in 1976 by another duet with Ferrara, "King Kong (Your Song)", spoofing the King Kong movie remake of that year. "The Monster Rap" from 1985 was a sort of sequel to "Monster Mash". It describes the scientist's frustration at being unable to teach the monster how to talk. The problem is solved when he teaches the creature to rap. A movie musical based on "Monster Mash", starring Pickett in the role of Dr. Frankenstein, was released in 1995.

 "It's certainly the biggest Halloween song of all time," said Demento. The DJ, who interviewed Pickett last year, said he maintained a sense of humor about his singular success: "As he loved to say at oldies shows, `And now I'm going to do a medley of my hit.'"
Bobby Pickett has aspirations of being more than just a singer, or a one hit wonder. Sadly,  he never became more than that.  In many ways, he made that happen himself as he kept leaning on that one big splash he made early in his life.
He died at the age of 69 on April 25, 2007, in Los Angeles, due to complications from leukemia. He now will forever be known for that one big hit, whether he wants to or not.
The old saying goes:

"Better to be a one hit wonder than to be a no hit nobody"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Artist of The Day Recap: Billy Joel

my friend sharon's dad was older and a bit hard of hearing.... he kept asking us to play "operator". turns out this is the song he meant:

      • Eve Shouse I Can see Where He Got OPERATOR
        Yesterday at 10:25am · · 1
      • Lise Milligan lol so could i
        Yesterday at 10:26am ·
      • Dale Garman LOL - love this one!!!
        Yesterday at 10:58am ·
      • Karen Coy Lambert Love it Lise!!
        22 hours ago ·
      • Lisa Dempsey-Callaghan Love this one too!!!
        19 hours ago ·
        I can't help but chuckle whenever I hear this brings me right back to the summer I was 15. With school being out for the summer my good friend Melanie and I spent many countless hours lazing around at one of our neighbourhood beaches. One day in early July while laying around on our beach towels she was hit in the head by a was a good smack to the head I guess as the boy on the throwing end of the ball ended up being "The boy of her dreams" .......and they dated the rest of the summer.

        Well her boytoy Tony announced to us one day that his cousin from Montreal was coming to spend a week with his family and he asked if I would mind being set up on a blind date with him while he was here. I gave my friend "the look" know the one that says I am to kill you. She gave me back the"pleading look" know the one that says PLEASE PLEASE do this for me, I'll be your friend forever!!!

        Well the next week I meet "Jean Claude"..........Tony had failed to mention that his cousin spoke no English and was shorter than a fire hydrant. I'm vertially challenged but come on I was taller than his dude.

        My friend rode shotgun and of course I was stuck in the back seat with Napolean who I had a huge language barrier with :-) This song from Billy Joel comes on and he proceeds to butcher every lyric........not only with his brutal singing voice but he mispronounced every second word........I remember him saying something about "pink sandwiches" at one point lol

        This song was the only good thing to come from that blind date........well except the laughs associated with it whenever Melanie and I bring it up now :-)
        See More
        When my older daughter was very young, she had to have surgeries on both her eyes. When she woke up from the surgery, she was bandaged and couldn't see. Melanie was born a preemie due to a car accident that caused my premature labor. She had delays and didn't really speak at the time, so it was very hard for her to express how she was feeling, and she started to panic. We managed to calm her, but she had to stay overnight in the hospital and was frightened. Hospital policy dictated that only one parent could stay the night, and it was agreed that I would stay. Ed was very upset that he had to leave, but reluctantly went home to get some sleep. I told him on the phone later that she was very restless and kept waking up and it took me a while to get her to go back to sleep each time.

        ...hile I was sleeping on the bed beside her, I woke up about 3:30 am to the sound of soft singing. Somehow, Ed talked the night nurse into letting him come back in. He was holding her, rocking back and forth and singing this song to her. I could see the tears on his cheeks, heard his voice cracking with emotion, and I could tell she was awake by the way her arms were wrapped around him. She said "da" and went back to sleep. He continued to rock her and sing, and she slept the rest of the night peacefully. Listening to the words he was singing to her, I layed there with this huge lump in my throat, knowing I was the luckiest woman in the world, and that she was the luckiest little girl in the world, just having him in our lives. Always a singer, but not the biggest Billy Joel fan in the world, he'd been singing "You're My Home" to me since I met him, but was still surprised to hear another one of Billy's tunes being sung by him. I knew this song as well, thought it was beautiful, but hearing it sung by a father to his child gave it a whole new meaning.

        "There is nothing that I wouldn't do...go to the ends of the earth for make you feel my love"

        See More
        · · · · Yesterday at 7:30am

      • Lisa Dempsey-Callaghan and the one he still sings to me sometimes at night, 20 years later...,
        Song from the Album "Piano Man" released in 1973.
        Yesterday at 7:32am · · 2 ·
      • Lise Milligan well, once again you've made me cry, lisa... beautiful story.
        Yesterday at 7:34am ·
      • Brian Arsenault hey Lisa Dempsey-Callaghan I count on you to crack me up not make me a blubbering idiot! What an amazing are truly blessed with the one guy on earth sappier than me :)
        Yesterday at 12:35pm ·
      • Karen Coy Lambert Oh, Lisa!! What a touching story!! I love Ed!! Even if he doesn't like us singing the sound of music!! Love you doll!! ♥
        23 hours ago ·
      • Dale Garman Very nice story, Lisa Dempsey-Callaghan :)
        23 hours ago ·
      • Michelle McDonald Hunt Brought tears to my eyes... very nice.
        21 hours ago ·
        The others were memories for me..this is my fave song by him.
        have no Joel story but always liked this track.
        After I lost my mother, I had few female role models, not to mention a soft breast to lay my head on if I needed a hug, or to shed a tear. My adopted grandmother was my champion!! We did not see each other near enough, but when I would wake up in a panic in the middle of the night and I realized I was at her house, I would grab my raggedy ann doll and go to her bed. She always hugged me and we would go have a cup of tea! No matter how late it was!! On the days she would pick me up from school I would wait with a smile on my face!! I knew that I would be safe and happy!! If even just for a few days!! We used to watch Julia Childs and then the Carol Burnett show!! I became a chef, and have always had a wicked sense of humor!! I miss her and love her!! This song always reminds me of her!! Thank you my dear Mimi!! I hope you knew how much you meant to me!! You had a smile that healed me!! ♥
        This is a music video of this innolvidable singer Billy Joel.
        · · · · 23 hours ago

      • Brian Arsenault so glad you had a place to run to in a storm karen :) great memory :)
        23 hours ago · · 2
      • Karen Coy Lambert Love you Bri!!
        23 hours ago · · 1
      • Lisa Dempsey-Callaghan how lucky you were to have her!! Nothing like a Grandma (which you know now since becoming one!!!) ♥
        19 hours ago ·
      • Lise Milligan sounds like she was a remarkable lady.... nice tribute :)
        Since nobody has picked it, I am going to post a second one. Back around 2003, I was in New York City for a week. We decided to stay at a hotel near JFK and would venture into the city everyday to do various things. On the second last night we decided we would go to a nicer restaurant. I have been all over NYC to many areas and that includes Long Island, which I have lived very briefly in the 80s with my father. On this night, we decided to go to a nicer restaurant, way out of the way in Long Island. It was a Seafood and Steakhouse place. Very high end. Probably the most we spent on the whole trip was that night at that restaurant. I remember how much of a quaint feeling it had. Very much like the homey feeling that Billy Joel describes in this song.