This is a novelty song about the imaginary World War I antics of Charlie Brown's pet beagle in the comic strip Peanuts
. It spawned three sequels: "The Return of the Red Baron," "Snoopy's Christmas
," and "Snoopy for President." Of the three, "The Return of the Red Baron" is the only one that hit the Hot 100 (#15), but "Snoopy's Christmas" became a seasonal favorite. Learn more about Snoopy and the real Red Baron in the Song Images
There really was a Red Baron. His name was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (Baron Von Richthofen), and just like the lyrics state, he had 80 confirmed kills as a fighter pilot in World War I. In the song, he meets his demise when Snoopy shoots him down in a dogfight, but in real life, he died when his plane crashed in France.
The German muttering as the beginning roughly translates to: "We will now sing together the song of a pig-headed dog, and our beloved Red Baron."
The band's singer Chris Nunley came up with this part and did the vocal. He was studying German in college at the time.
Like all of the band's Snoopy songs, this was written by their producer Phil Gernhard and Laurie Records staff songwriter Dick Holler.
Originally known as The Posmen, The Royal Guardsmen formed in Ocala, Florida, where they earned a deal with Laurie Records after developing a live following in the area.
The band was comprised of:
Barry Winslow (vocals, guitar)
Chris Nunley (vocals)
Tom Richards (guitar)
Bill Balough (bass)
Billy Taylor (organ)
John Burdett (drums)
The "Royal Guardsmen" name came from a model of amplifier made by Vox called the Royal Guardsman. They took the name because it sounded British, which gave them the illusion of being part of the British Invasion.
In 1975 Charles Schultz told author David Manning White, "We threatened to put a stop to (the record) until we were included in the success." The band never met Snoopy's creator, though Chris says, "We heard through our label (Laurie) and producer that Charles Schultz liked our songs."
This song went to #2 US the last week of 1966. It was held out of the top spot by The Monkees song "I'm A Believer
The Royal Guardsmen didn't set out to become Snoopy troubadours. Their first single was "Baby Let's Wait" (written by Lori Burton and Pam Sawyer), but it went nowhere. When this song became an unexpected breakout hit, further Snoopy songs followed - made possible in part because while the Red Baron is shot down at the end of this song, we never see the crash.
The band did have some minor hits with non-Snoopy material. "Airplane Song (My Airplane)" (#46) and "Wednesday" (#97) charted in 1967. The following year, "I Say Love," written by band members Bill Taylor Barry Winslow, made #72. "Baby Let's Wait" became their last Hot 100 hit when it was re-released and made #35.
Lead vocals on this and the other Snoopy songs were done by Barry Winslow, who played guitar in the group. This put their singer Chris Nunley in the position of gamely acting out the songs ("look... up in the sky...") during performances. Winslow told us, "I really wanted to split the chores with Chris, but the
label said no."
This was a huge hit in Australia, where it went to #1 for five weeks in 1967. The last two weeks of that year, "Snoopy's Christmas
" was the #1 song in that country.
The Royal Guardsmen reunited in 2005 to play some gigs. The following year, they released "Snoopy vs. Osama," which finds the cartoon beagle hunting down Osama bin Laden.
Barry Winslow became a Contemporary Christian artist, releasing an album called Transition
In case they ran into copyright issues, the group recorded another version of this song called Squeaky vs. the Black Knight
. It was never released, but promotional copies have appeared.