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Remembering Snoopy, the Red Baron and the Royal Guardsmen

Bill DeYoung



There was a moment, in the final month of 1966, when it looked as if the written in St. Pete, recorded in Tampa record “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” would reach No. 1 on the national pop charts. The Royal Guardsmen, a teen band from Ocala, might become the next Beatles – or, at the very least, the next Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Instead, “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees went to the top, leaving “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” to lodge at a still-pretty-great No. 2, where it would remain for an incredible four weeks.

All across America (and in Australia, where the Royal Guardsmen record topped the chart for more than a month), kids were marching around the schoolyard singing “Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more!”

The band’s Chris Nunley and Billy Taylor were Friday’s guests on The Catalyst Sessions, remembering, with more than five decades past, that heady time when they came within a guitar string of pop music immortality.

“It sold a million copies in that week before Thanksgiving, is what we were told at the time,” Taylor said. “And everything just went into high gear. The kids in the area were hearing it on the radio, so they knew that it was a big deal.

“But we didn’t know that it would be such a big thing nationally … we just kept on being local kids making good music.”

The band went on TV to promote “Snoopy” and its followup “Return of the Red Baron,” and in the summer of ’67 – when the youngest members were out of high school – toured the country as part of a package show with Tommy James & the Shondells, Sam the Sham and others.

“Snoopy’s Christmas” became another million-seller.

“We were touring quite a bit,” explained Nunley, “and the only thing that kind of got us cheesed off was the fact that all Laurie (Records) wanted was ‘more Snoopy, more Snoopy.’ They half-heartedly let us cut some original stuff, and it’s pretty good. It’s on more than one CD.

“But they didn’t push it.”

In the end, the momentum ran out, and the Royal Guardsmen went their separate ways in 1969.

Read the full story of the Royal Guardsmen in the book Phil Gernhard Record Man (University Press of Florida, 2018).

April 29, 2018: The Royal Guardsmen reunion concert in the Palladium Side Door, St. Petersburg:

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