Snoopy's Christmas proves to be an enduring hit in NZ

Snoopy's Christmas song is a perennial hit in New Zealand.
Snoopy's Christmas song is a perennial hit in New Zealand. Photo credit: Supplied

It's December, and Snoopy's Christmas is back.

It's a song that New Zealanders know and love and have done since 1967, when it first entered our homes, and based on current data it's expected to hit the charts this week.

"We say it's got long legs, real long legs," says Barry Wilson, lead singer of the Royal Guardsmen and voice behind the song.

He's now retired and living in his home state of Florida.

He finds New Zealand's love for the song thrilling, but surprising as it hasn't had the same recognition overseas.

The track featured in international charts when it was first released, but it never returned.

Wilson was just 17 when he recorded 'Snoopy's Christmas'.

It came a year after the band featured the cartoon dog in their hit Snoopy vs. the Red Baron, which reached number two on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

"I look back on it and think I could barely put my clothes on straight at seventeen years old," he says.

"But there we were, with this monster record."

'Snoopy's Christmas' was an instant hit - soaring to the top of Billboard's Best Bets for Christmas chart and staying there for five weeks.

Here in New Zealand, it did the same.

Bruce Ward was the singles manager at EMI records at the time. He told RNZ's Music 101 in 2019 that he couldn't believe the response.

"I never knew anything like it. In my 20 years looking after singles, nothing happened like Snoopy," he said.

"Sales went absolutely berserk! It got to the stage where I had to ring up the factory and say, 'put Snoopy on every press and don't stop pressing it until I say stop.’"

The song ended up being one of EMI's biggest selling singles of all time.

Here in New Zealand, the love for the song only grew.

Paul Kennedy from Recorded Music New Zealand which manages Aotearoa's official music charts, says it has great staying power.

"It has been a regular re-appearer every year," he says.

"It came back into the Top 40 in 1987, 1988, 1989, and then since streaming came along it helped push it up every year."

Overseas, it never returned to the charts.

"I think New Zealand is a bit of a unique case. We're a bit of a bastion for Snoopy and the Royal Guardsmen," Kennedy says.

No one knows why - not even Barry Wilson.

"When this thing took off, we were shocked," he says, speaking of the band.

"It's been going for 55, 56 years now. There's a lot of new kids that have come up... and all of the sudden they like it, so it carries down the generations. It's amazing - I never would have dreamed it."

The song is easily recognisable, thanks in part to the bells and planes in the background - and the cracking champagne cork.

Wilson says they had a blast mixing those sound effects in the studio.

"Once we had the basic track down and the song down, then we played," he says.

"Having all the fun with the sound effects... that was fun."

Today, Wilson is thrilled people are still getting enjoyment from the song.

"Talk about being honoured, I am blown away - I wish I could come over and shake everyone's hand personally."