Thursday, February 2, 2017

Royal Guardsmen – "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" (1966)

Eighty men died trying to end the spree
Of the bloody Red Baron of Germany

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen – better know as the “Red Baron” – was the greatest fighter ace of World War I.

Richthofen was officially credited with 80 air combat victories, but he may have shot down 100 or more Allied airplanes.

The "Red Baron"
After his first confirmed kill, Richthofen wrote a Berlin jeweler and ordered a silver cup with the date and the type of aircraft flown by his victim to be engraved on a silver cup.  He ordered similar cups after each of his subsequent 59 victories, then stopped.  (By that time, the Germans were too short of silver to allow civilian use of it, and Richthofen refused to have cups made from a base metal.)

The Red Baron – he had the fighter planes he piloted painted red, and his German title was “Freiherr,” which is usually translated as “Baron” – suffered a severe head wound in July 1917, but was able to pull his aircraft out of a spin and successfully land it in a field.  His doctors said he should be grounded, but Richthofen insisted on returning to the cockpit.

On April 21, 1918, he was shot in the chest during a dogfight with British pilots.  The shot probably was fired by an anti-aircraft machine gunner firing from the ground rather than by one of the British fliers.  He managed to land his Fokker triplane behind enemy lines before bleeding out.

Richthofen and his Fokker triplane
Richthofen was a very experienced pilot who never took unnecessary risks.  But some experts have speculated that the brain damage caused by his head wound caused him to make fatal tactical errors on his last flight.

It’s very odd that Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz had a storyline in which his Snoopy character imagined he was a World War I pilot engaged in aerial combat with the Red Baron.

It’s even odder that Phil Gernhard (who wrote the #1 single “Stay”) and Dick Holler (who wrote “Abraham, Martin & John”) decided to write a song about Snoopy and the Red Baron for the Royal Guardsmen, an Ocala, Florida-based band.

Schulz sued the Royal Guardsmen for using his character in the song without his permission, and won.  The band has obviously foreseen this possibility by recording a version of the song titled “Squeaky and the Black Knight.”  (That doesn’t really have quite the same ring, does it?)

The Royal Guardsmen subsequently released several other Snoopy-themed songs with Schulz’s permission before breaking up in 1969.  The group got back together in 2006, releasing a new single titled “Snoopy vs. Osama.”  

No I’m not kidding:

Here’s “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” which sat at the #2 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart on this date in 1967:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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