The Uniques

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1963-68)

- Mike Love -- drums, percussion

- Ray Mills -- lead guitar

- Bobby Sims -- rhythm guitar

- Bobby Stampley -- bass

- Joe Stampley -- vocals, keyboards


  line up 2 (1968-71)

- Mike Love -- drums, percussion 

- Ray Mills -- lead guitar

- Bobby Stampley -- bass 

- Joe Stampley -- vocals, keyboards 

NEW - Ronnie Weiss - guitar

NEW - Jim Woodfield -- guitar (replaced Bobby Sims)





- Mouse and the Traps (Ronnie Weiss)

- Rio Grande (Ronnie Weiss)

- Joe Stampley (solo efforts)





Genre: garage

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Uniquely Yours

Company: Paula

Catalog:  LP-2190

Year: 1966

Country/State: Louisiana

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small punch out hole lower right corner; stereo copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5288

Price: $60.00


In this day and age if they're recognized at all, Louisiana's The Uniques can probably trace that recognition to the fact lead singer/keyboardist Joe Stampley's successes as a country artist.  That said, most folks including Stampley fans probably don't realize that he started his musical career as a member of a talented garage/blue-eyed soul quintet.     


Formed in 1963 and fronted by singer/keyboardist Stampley and his bass playing brother Bobby, the rest of the band consisted of drummer Mike Love, lead guitarist Ray Mills and rhythm guitarist Bobby Sims.  Playing a mix of garage, soul and pop material the band apparently became quite popular touring throughout Louisiana, Arkansas, and Eastern Texas, eventually attracting the attention of the Shreveport, Louisiana-based Paula Records. Signed in 1965 by Paula, over the next year they released a string of singles:

- 1965's 'Too Good To Be True' b/w 'Never Been In Love' (Paula catalog number 222)

- 1965's 'Lady's Man' b/w 'Bolivar' (Paula catalog number 227).

- 1965's 'Please Come Home For Christmas (vocal)' b/w 'Please Come Home for Christmas (instrumental)' (Paula catalog number 255)


While none of the singles was a breakout hit, Paula management was happy enough with the results to finance an album.  


Released in 1966, "Uniquely Yours" featured a mixture of garage, blue-eyed soul, and sappy MOR pop.  About half of the selections were band originals credited to Joe.  As lead singer Stampley was also quite good.  His voice wasn't the most distinctive instrument you've ever heard, but it was commercial and quite versatile, allowing him to easily navigate between the band's diverse catalog.  Certainly not a big surprise, the group were at their best on blue-eyed soul numbers and tougher, garage-influenced songs like the harmonica-propelled opener 'You Ain't Tuff', their cover of Roy Head's 'Treat Her Right', 'Fast Way of Living' and 'Strange' (which should've been a big radio hit).  In contrast their more commercial numbers like 'From Heaven To a Heartbreak', 'Not Too Long Ago', and 'Never Been In Love Before' sounded prefabricated and rather lame.  The funny thing about this record was that with the exception of their cover of 'House of the Rising Sun' (which was notable for Stampley's weird clipped vocals and clumsy performance),  nothing here was exceptional.  None of the songs were particularly original and there wasn't a single over-the-top performance to knock you over.  At the same time the album had more than it's share of charm and appeal, leaving you with the impression these guys were probably loads of fun to have seen in a club setting.  Still, the end result was simply too inconsistent to be a classic.  In case anyone cared, Lloyd Thaxton contributed some of the dullest liner notes you'll ever read.


"Uniquely Yours" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) You Ain't Tuff   (K. Henderson - L. Puckett) - 2:19   rating: **** stars

Abequerque's Lindy Blaskey & the Lavells may have recorded it earlier, but to my ears Joe Stampley's growling vocals made The Uniques' version of the garage rocker  'You Ain't Tough' superior.  In fact, The Unique's arrangement  recalled an American version of Van Morrison and Them.  Add in Ray Mills' scorching harmonica work and it was a killer performance.  The quality of the black and white clip is poor, but YouTube has an August 1966 clip of the band lip-synching the song for ABC's Where the Action Is.  Note that Stampley faked the harmonic.  Easy to see why this one was tapped as a single:





- 1966's 'You Ain't Tough' b/w 'Strange' (Paula catalog number TM 1424)








2.) From Heaven To a Heartbreak   (P. Davidson - Dale Hawkins) - 2:02   rating: *** stars

On the heels of the growling opener, the heavily orchestrated ballad 'From Heaven To a Heartbreak' sounded like something Bacharach and David might have churned out.

3.) Midnight Hour   (Steve Cropper - Wilson Pickett) - 2:09   rating: *** stars

The performance gets an extra start given this is a classic soul song and The Uniques version didn't do it any harm.  Of course there was no reason to listen to this one when you could listen to Wilson Pickett's original  

4.) All These Things   (Naomi Neville) - 3:58   rating: *** stars

Their cover of Naomi Neville's 'All These Things' is one of the tracks The Uniques are remember for.   It's a classic '60s ballad straddling the doo-wop/rock boundary.   Ironically the late Art Neville's 1962 original crushes the cover.  Appearing as the "B" side to the "Tell Me What To Do" 45, the single version was edited down by dropping Ray Mills' guitar solo.

5.) Not Too Long Ago   (Joe Stampley - Merle Kilgore) - 2:21  rating: **** stars

In commercial terms the original 'Not Too Long Ago' was their biggest hit, peaking at # 66 on the Billboard charts.  Musically it was a lightweight slice of mid-'60s pop.  Cloying, gimmicky and clearly written for radio exposure, it was also highly effective.  Kind of like one of those toothpaste commercials that you find yourself involuntarily humming.  YouTube has another lip-synch performance of the song from 1 Mary 1977 appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand: Joe Stampley & The Uniques Not Too Long Ago Stereo - YouTube





- 1966's 'Not Too Long Ago' b/w 'All These Things' (Paula catalog number 254).






6.) Fast Way of Living   (R.C. Stampley - Jack Rhodes) - 2:30  rating: **** stars

Kicked along by Bobby Stampley's thundering bass and Joe Stampley's percolating organ washes, 'Fast Way of Living' sounded like an early Marvin Gaye dance number.  One of the album's standout performances.


(side 2)
1.) Treat Her Right   (Roy Head) - 2:48
   rating: *** stars

Always been a big fan of the Roy Head original, but kudos for their energetic, if rote cover of this overlooked classic.

2.) Georgia (On My Mind)   (Hoagie Carmichael - S. Gorrel) - 3:04   rating: ** stars

Given their Southeastern roots, I guess they felt obliged to cover this classic.  To my ears it wasn't much more than a filler.  Interestingly the band saw it released as the title track of a four song Brazilian EP (Continental catalog number LD-33.795)


(side 1)

1.) Georgia On My Mind   (Hoagie Carmichael - S. Gorrel) - 3:04

2.) Too Good To Be True


(side 2)

1.) Not Too Long Again   (Joe Stampley - Merle Kilgore) - 2:21

2.) And I Love Her





3.) Strange   (Joe Stampley - R.C. Stampley) - 2:09  rating: **** stars

Imagine Eric Burdon having been born and raised in Louisiana and you'll get a feel for the bluesy-rocker 'Strange.'   This is the track I would have pegged as a single.  Always loved Ray Mills' guitar fills.

4.) Never Been In Love Before   (Joe Stampley) - 1:50   rating: ** stars

Way too fey for the band, the ballad 'Never Been In Love Before' has always reminded me of a weird mash-up of Bobby "Monster Mash" Pickett, Freddie and the Dreamers and the Four Seasons.  Cloying, but mercifully short ...

5.) Don't Be a Fool   (J. Carr - Joe Stampley) - 1:54  rating: *** stars

Asides from Ray Mills' martial acoustic guitar, Don't Be a Fool' was mildly interesting if only for the fact Stampley seemed to be trotting out his best Elvis moves.  Again, the song was very short.

6.) House of the Rising Sun   (traditional - arranged by Joe Stampley - S. Lewis) - 3:07   rating: ** stars

Clearly The Uniques had been listening to plenty of Eric Burdon and the Animals.  Their cover pretty much aped Burdon and company.  Nice, but again why would you bother listening to this one when you could listen to The Animals' version?






Genre: garage

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Happening Now!

Company: Paula

Catalog:  LP-2190

Year: 1967

Country/State: Louisiana

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small punch out hole lower right corner; stereo copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5288

Price: $50.00


Led by singer/keyboardist Joe Stampley, there's no doubt The Uniques were a talented band.  Unfortunately, precious little of that talent was on display on 1967's "Happening Now"!.   As was the case for many mid-'60s labels, the Shreveport, Louisiana based Paula label seemed determined to frame The Uniques as a middle of the road pop ensemble, rather than allowing the band to display themselves as a more cutting edge blue-eyed soul enterprise. Probably not a big surprise, but the band were at their best when allowed to record their own material.  In this case the highlights came in the form of the opener 'Every Now and Then' and the previously released 1966 single 'Run and Hide'.  That wasn't meant to throw shade at the album's ten covers.  As with their originals, exemplified by tracks like their covers of Question Mark and the Mysterians '96 Tears' and The Outsiders' 'Time Won't Let Me', the band were at their best on more up-tempo, garage-oriented tunes.   Far less enjoyable were pop-oriented tracks like 'And I Love Her', 'Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying', and 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.  All told, the end result was a missed opportunity.  


"Happening Now!" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Every Now and Then   (Joe Stampley) - 2:27   rating: **** stars

To my ears 'Every Now and Then ' was more pop than garage oriented, but kicked along by a pounding Bobby Stampley bass line, the results were still quite enjoyable.  Easy to see why the track was tapped as a single:

- 1967's 'Every Now And Then (I Cry)' b/w 'Love Is A Precious Thing' (Paula catalog number #275)

2.) Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)    (Cyril Vetter)  - 3:09    rating: *** stars

Competent cover, but it wasn't going to make you forget The Swinging Medallions original.

3.) And I Love Her   John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 2:19   rating: ** stars

You had to wonder if there was some clause in mid-'60s recording contracts that required every band to include at least one Beatles, or Dylan cover.  Stampley and company managed to turn this classic Beatles ballad into a sleep inducing bore.

4.) Sugar Bee   (Shuler) - 1:41   rating: **** stars

This one as worth a spin just to hear the way Stampley pronounces the title "suga b" and Ray Mills' killed fuzz guitar.  Shame this one was so short.

5.) Oh Pretty Woman  (Roy Orbison - Dees)- 2:53    rating: *** stars

Another rote cover that served to ape the original rather than adding anything of value.  Why would you bother with this cover when you could hear the Orbison original?

6.) 96 Tears   (The Mysterians) - 2:18    rating: *** stars

Another decent cover of a true garage classic.   This one didn't stray too far from the Question Mark and the Mysterians original.  Of course, that made you question why they bothered.


(side 2)
1.) Run and Hide
   (Joe Stampley  Freeman - Wade) - 2:16   rating: **** stars

Another previously released single, the bluesy-rocker  'Run and Hide' was one of the album highlights.  The track has always reminded me of a good Animals song.

- 1966's 'Run And Hide' b/w 'Good Bye, So Long' ( Paula catalog number #245)

2.) Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying   (Marsden) - 2:57   rating: ** stars

Another so what cover ...  Find the Gerry and the Pacemakers original.

3.) Time Won't Let Me   (King - Kelley) - 2:24    rating: *** stars

Give them an extra star for picking a classic garage tune and not totally butchering it.

4.) Look At Me   (Jefferson) - 2:39    rating: *** stars

I'm a sucker for Farfisa organ and spacey keyboard effects.  Not sure what Joe Stampley was playing on this one (a Clavioline?), but his solo saved this ballad from the also rad column.

5.) Don't Bring Me Down    (Gerry Goffin - Carol King) - 3:10    rating: *** stars

Another Animals-flavored tune.

6.) You'll Never Walk Alone   (Rogers - Hammerstein) - 3:18    rating: *** stars

One of those pop chestnuts that's been recorded by dozens of groups ...  this one wasn't all that bad.