Monday, December 8, 2014

An Interview With Barry Winslow of The Royal Guardsmen

Our FH Buddy Carl Wiser had the opportunity to interview Barry Winslow, founding member of The Royal Guardsmen, last week ... and he invited us to share it with all of our Forgotten Hits Readers.  (How could we say no?!?!  Especially this time of year with "Snoopy's Christmas" all over the radio again!!!)

The Royal Guardsmen returned to the Snoopy well three more times after their initial #1 Chart Hit "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron", which topped the charts right at the end of 1966 (before The Monkees knocked them out of first place with their monster hit "I'm A Believer", which topped the charts for the next seven weeks.)  Follow-up Snoopy Hits included "The Return Of The Red Baron" (#14, 1967), "Snoopy's Christmas" (#10, 1967) and "Snoopy For President" (#85, 1968) ... and, for the record, no, he didn't win ... but he actually DID receive some write-in votes ... just like Pat Paulsen who, you may recall, made the pre-election statement:  "If nominated, I will not run ... if elected, I will not serve"!!!  (lol)

The Royal Guardsmen also hit The National Top 50 with a couple of NON-Snoopy Songs (which are amongst my favorites by the band) ... "The Airplane Song" (#46, 1967) and "Baby Let's Wait" (a cover of The Rascals' LP track) went to #33 in 1968.  ("Baby Let's Wait" was actually The Royal Guardsmen's first release on Laurie Records ... when it failed to chart, the band went the novelty route and we've been hearing the tale of Snoopy and The Red Baron ever since ... believe it or not, it's coming up on its 50th Anniversary!!!)

We let Forgotten Hits Readers know a couple of years ago that three of the original founding members of The Royal Guardsmen had gotten back together again ... you can check them out at their official website:

Meanwhile, Carl had the chance to talk with Barry in conjunction with his Songfacts website ... .  

They went into far greater depth on two of The Royal Guardsmen's best known hits, "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" and "Snoopy's Christmas" ... but here exclusively for our Forgotten Hits Readers is a bit more of their conversation:  

CARL WISER:  There were six guys in the band, but only five are listed in the Joel Whitburn Billboard books. Who is missing from this list?    

BARRY WINSLOW:  Well, there's me, Barry Winslow (vocals, guitar), Chris Nunley (vocals), Tom Richards (guitar), Bill Balough (bass) and Billy Taylor (organ) and John Burdett, drummer.     

CW:  How did the German part at the beginning of "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" come about, and does it mean anything?   

BW:  It is real. Chris was studying German in college. Something like "we will now sing together the song of a pig headed dog, and our beloved Red Baron."    

CW:  That song was written by Dick Holler and Phil Gernhard. Who were these guys, and what was it like working with them?   

BW:  Phil was our producer, Dick a staff writer ... good guys.      

CW:  How did you guys feel about recording so many Snoopy songs?   

BW:  We were a bit let down since we never really got to do our own songs. In those days, most bands were stuck in the "hit rut."    

CW:  The Monkees kept you out of the #1 spot. Did you despise these musical primates?   

BW:  LOL ... the guys were ok, just actors. Billboard was the only #2 song. Record World, one other major chart at the time, had us #1.     

CW:  Who sang lead on the Snoopy songs?  

BW:  T'was me. Really wanted to split the chores with Chris, but the label said no.    

CW:  "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" was a hit around Christmas, 1966. Did this play into the decision to release "Snoopy's Christmas" for the next Christmas season?     

BW:  Not sure Carl. The popularity of Snoop was incredible (as still to this day). When "Snoop's Christmas" came along, we just did it. The first and the Christmas are my favorites.      

CW:  The Red Baron is shot down the first time you sing about him, but we never see him crash, conveniently leaving room for sequels. Was this done intentionally?   

BW:  I think so, as well as just keeping Snoop and The Baron rivals.     

CW:  You co-wrote "I Say Love," which hit #72 in 1968. At a time when outside writers composed most of the songs for young acts, this was unusual. How did you get the record company to recognize you for your songwriting talents?   

BW:  Billy Taylor co-wrote with me. I think it was the need for material and they let us slide one in.    

CW:  What did you do post-Guardsmen, and what is it like hearing your songs on the radio so many years later?    

BW:  Well a lot of life has happened, but I still missed music. Sooo ... I've written my first Contemporary Christian CD: "Transition" ( it's at CD Baby ) and I truly enjoy it. Yeah, it's still brings back fond memories. I look back on it Carl, and have a hard time remembering I was that young, or had that much hair!  LOL.  

Hope this sheds a bit of light on us. I appreciate the interest my friend.  

You can find Songfact's two Royal Guardsmen entries here ... Barry sheds a lot more info on the songs he talks about with Carl here:

FOR THE RECORD:  I let Joel Whitburn know about the omission of Drummer John Burdett from The Royal Guardsman line-up shown in his Top Pop Singles Book ... and Joel assured me that John's name will be added to all future publication updates.  He also pointed out the fact that, thanks to the new expansion editions of both his Cash Box and Record World chart books, The Royal Guardsmen (and Barry Winslow as a solo artist) can now claim three more charted singles to their credit ... read on!

Hi Kent,  
Thanks for the info on the drummer – don’t know how we left Burdett out, but he’ll be in, in the next edition of Top Pop Singles.  By the way, Barry will be interested to know that “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” re-entered the Record World Charts in 1973, giving their group a total of 10 national chart hits!  Seeing that I’m shading in the entire data column of the overall top hit for artists with 10 or more hits, their biggest hit “Snoopy” (which hit #1 on Record World in 1967) will pop right out in my new “Comparison Book”, due out in late January.  Thanks for the drummer info, Kent!  
P.S.:  Barry Winslow had two “Bubbling” hits: “The Smallest Astronaut (A Race To The Moon With The Red Baron) ... Cash Box #113 in 1969 and “Get To Know Me” ... Record World #126 in 1973.