It may have been a bit of a novelty record, but this spooky song was a graveyard smash that caught on in a flash and more than once. The song was brought to life regularly after its first release 64 years ago on 25 August 1962. Somewhat early in the year perhaps for a song with such an obvious Halloween theme to it. The timing, perhaps partly by accident, worked perfectly though.
It came about as singer Bobby Pickett was fooling around on stage in his band The Cordials. He decided to cover “Little Darlin” by The Diamonds but as a monologue in the style of Hollywood horror film star Boris Karloff. That went down a storm with the audience. Along with fellow Cordials band member Lenny Capizzi, Pickett decided there was more they could do using his Karloff impression.
And so the idea behind ”Monster Mash” was stitched together based on a monster created by a mad scientist rising from his slumber to perform a new dance. Which in turn leads up to a monster party in a castle including Dracula, Wolfman, Igor and more, all doing the monster mash dance.
Making a hit of the spooky Monster Mash song
It’s one thing though having a fun idea and some crazy lyrics that you match with a tune and add some madcap sound effects too. But it's a big step to make that into a hit. After it had been recorded in May 1962, producer Gary Paxton took it around a number of record labels but none of the majors wanted to take the song on.
Paxton decided it was worth pursuing further so pressed 500 copies on his own record label Garpax and drove around California handing it out to DJs. His phone rang out loud afterward as the song got plenty of airplay. The reaction to it persuaded London Records to change their mind.
That was a great decision as the released “Monster Mash” crept up the charts reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the week leading up to Halloween. The song has emerged from its crypt a few times over the years, notably reaching number three in the UK charts in 1973 and number ten on the Billboard Hot 100. It was back up to number 37 in that Hot 100 again in 2021, almost 60 years later. It’s a regular feature each year on Halloween playlists.