The Royal Guardsmen – Remember the “Snoopy Themed” Songs?
Royal Guardsmen, portrait, United States, circa 1966. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
Have you ever turned on the radio and had a blast from the past? Once in a while a song will come on the radio and I know all the words, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell you what group was performing it.
The Royal Guardsmen were one of those groups that released a few very notable songs but didn’t really make a big name for themselves. In their case, while they were moderately successful, their most popular songs definitely outlived their success.
Hailing from Ocala, Florida, the original group consisted of Bill Balough on bass, John Burdett on drums, Chris Nunley on vocals, Tom Richards on Guitar, Billy Taylor on the organ and Barry Winslow on guitar and vocals. Early on, they called themselves the Posmen.
The group emerged around the time of the famous British invasion by the Beatles. They mimicked the style of the fab four in an attempt to gain the same recognition. The group’s first single, Baby Let’s Wait, fell short of the national success they had hoped for although it did climb near the top of the Hit Parade for a bit.
In 1966, The Royal Guardsman released the song, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron, which reached No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100. It also remained on the bestseller list for 12 weeks and was certified as a gold record in 1967; a far cry from their first release. Following that, they released The Return of the Red Baron and Snoopy’s Christmas.
The only problem with the success of Snoopy vs. the Red Baron is that the group never got permission from Charles Schultz, the Peanuts creator, to release the song. Because of this, the song wouldn’t be released in Canada until all the legalities were worked out. In an effort to sidestep this little problem, the group recorded Squeaky vs. the Black Knight. This was a somewhat passive, aggressive way to release the song “in disguise” which turned out to be just as successful. After all the legal issues were ironed out, the original song was finally released in Canada.
Since Snoopy and the Red Baron "brand" sold so many records, they became recurring themes in other songs the group released. The Royal Guardsmen released several singles that made it to the music charts, but the group is best known for the Snoopy theme. Peanuts had always been popular, but Charles Schultz eventually embraced the Red Baron theme which proved profitable for him as well. The Milton Bradley (toy) Company hopped on the bandwagon too and released a kid’s game with the same theme.
Unfortunately, the original group split up in 1969. The band regrouped, members were replaced and they released two more albums. They made somewhat of a comeback in 2006, releasing the song, Snoopy vs. Osama, which became a hit on the off the wall, Dr. Demento Show.
Over the years, the group has evolved and the faces have changed, but the name of the group remains intact.
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