"Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" is a novelty song written by Phil Gernhard and Dick Holler and recorded in 1966 by the Florida-based pop group The Royal Guardsmen. The song was recorded at the Charles Fuller Productions studio in Tampa, Florida, and was released as a single on Laurie Records. The single made number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) chart during the week of December 31, 1966; number 6 on the Record Retailer (UK) chart in February 1967;and number one in Australia for five weeks from February 1967.
The Royal Guardsmen went on to record several other Snoopy-themed songs, including two follow-ups to "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" – "The Return of the Red Baron" and "Snoopy's Christmas" – together with other tunes such as "Snoopy for President". In 2006 they released "Snoopy vs Osama".
"Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" was inspired by the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz, which featured a recurring storyline of Snoopy imagining himself in the role of a World War I airman fighting the Red Baron. The song was released approximately one year after the first comic strip featuring Snoopy fighting the Red Baron appeared on Sunday October 10, 1965. Schulz and United Features Syndicate sued the Royal Guardsmen for using the name Snoopy without permission or an advertising license. (The Guardsmen, meanwhile, hedged their bets by recording an alternative version of the song, called "Squeaky vs. the Black Knight"; some copies of this version were issued by Laurie Records in Canada.) UFS won the suit, the penalty being that all publishing revenues from the song would go to them. Schulz did allow the group to write more Snoopy songs.
The song begins with a background commentary in faux German: "Achtung! Jetzt wir singen zusammen die Geschichte über den Schweinköpfigen Hund und den lieben Red Baron," which is a purposeful mistranslation of the English: "Attention! We will now sing together the story of that pig-headed dog Snoopy and the beloved Red Baron" and features the sound of a German sergeant ("eins, zwei, drei, vier" after the first verse), and an American sergeant (after the second verse) counting off in 4s; a fighter plane; machine guns; and a plane in a tailspin (at the end of the last verse). The song (1.46-1.54) quotes the instrumental chords from The McCoys' version of "Hang On Sloopy". In the original recording of "Snoopy", the lyrics "Hang on Snoopy, Snoopy hang on" were sung at this point. This led to some initial speculation that the Guardsmen were the McCoys under a different name. Prior to release, these lyrics were removed to prevent copyright issues.
A rare promotional record (only 1000 were pressed, labelled "Omnimedia") for the advertising arm of Charles Fuller Productions included the removed lyrics "Hang on Sloopy". It is a two-sided 7" that plays at 33-1/3 RPM.
The song was featured as a cover version on a children's album of the same name in the early 1970s by The Peter Pan Pop Band & Singers.
In the Australian airplay version, the word "bloody" was censored.
In 1967, the Italian singer Giorgio Gaber recorded the Italian version of this song, "Snoopy contro il Barone Rosso". He also recorded a Spanish version, "Snoopy contra el Barón Rojo", with lyrics very similar to his Italian version.
Also in 1967, the Spanish band Los Mustang recorded a different version in Spanish, also titled "Snoopy contra el Barón Rojo", with different lyrics from the Gaber's version.
Also in 1967, Brazilian singer Ronnie Von recorded a version, "Soneca Contra O Barão Vermelho", Snoopy then being known in Brazil as either Xereta ("snoopy" in Portuguese) or Soneca ("snooze") in local editions of the Schulz comic strip.
In 1990 the song was recorded by Playtown Sound Audio Services and performed by Bert Southwood.
Phil Gernhard, the joint composer of "Snoopy", had previously produced the original version of "Stay" by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs, and later became the producer of singer-songwriter Lobo. Dick Holler's other big writing success, a notably marked contrast of styles to "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron", was the tribute song "Abraham, Martin & John", a 1968 hit for Dion.