Dick Jensen was a live musical performer of the Rhythm and Blues, Soul, and Gospel genres; a native Hawaiian athletic song stylist and a prime mover of nightclub shows. For a more detailed biography about him, I suggest that you have a look at this other post available here on Stereo Candies.
Born Richard Hiram Jensen in 1942, he first became interested in music through the numerous luaus his family would attend. When the family was back from the barbecue, his mother would often play the guitar and Dick, along with his five brothers and sisters, would sing, and play along on the ukulele, or a nearby spoon and ladle, or whatever might be handy. His first experience on stage was in the fourth grade when he put together a group for a teacher's show.
Dick continued to sing through his formative years and began to gain a local reputation. While he was at Honolulu's Farrington High School, he entered a local talent contest, winning first place, and adopted the stage name of Lance Curtis at the suggestion of Tom Moffatt and Earl Finch, both active as promoters in the local Hawaii scene; the name was choosen for its illusory Hollywoodian qualities.
The award gained Jensen a spot on one of Hawaii's major television shows and led to his first single recording Bye Bye Baby / Lover's Paradise published by Teen Records in 1959.
Sympathy / Leahi, another single credited to Lance Curtis & The Uniques, was released on the same label the following year; "Leahi" is the first Hawaiian song ever recorded with a rock beat.
In 1960 Jensen graduated from Farrington and forgot his music momentarily, as he began to pursue a career in athletics. After winning Hawaii's "Athlete of the Year" award, he accepted a swimming scholarship to the University of Washington. While at the Seattle campus he began to get together a group during spare time.
In the meantime, The Uniques released two instrumental singles: (Ghost) Riders in the Sky / Taboo on Amber Records - which is the subject of this post - and Renegade / Malaguena on United Southern Artists, Inc. in the U.S.A. and Strand Records in Australia; both of them were released in 1961, it is unclear if they were recorded before Jensen's departure or not...
Side A offers The Uniques' version of the timeless Country classic "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky", a song written by Stan Jones and first recorded by Burl Ives in 1949. The song was covered by Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee and Spike Jones among the others, and got back in the charts in the early '60s with the instrumental versions recorded by The Ramrods and The Ventures, before being covered again at a later date by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. By releasing this song in 1961, it seems like The Uniques tried to cash on the success of the other instrumental versions released the same year; here's a few links to the versions recorded by The Ventures, The Ramrods, The Scorpions and The Spotnicks, with a bonus version featuring Neil LeVang on guitar taken from The Lawrence Welk Show.
On the flip side we find a version of the Exotica anthem "Taboo", written by Cuban singer and songwriter Margarita Lecuona, cousin of famous composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona, who is also remembered for her other classic "Babalù". The first version of "Taboo" was recorded by Cuarteto Machin in 1934; the song was later covered by Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman (....who choose it as the title-track of his best-selling album...), Xavier Cougat, Percy Faith, Ferrante & Teicher, Enoch Light and many more... Here's a few links to the versions recorded by Margarita Lecuona herself, Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman, Ahmad Jamal and... The Cramps!
The Uniques, exact date unknown, probably taken in 1959-1960
Here's the track list for this 7" single:
01. (Ghost) Riders in the Sky (2:12)
02. Taboo (2:36)
Both tracks were remastered from vinyl in August 2013 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files, both formats include scans of the original item in PDF format. Please have a look at the comments for the download links.
The following video offers a preview of the remastered single, enjoy the glorious cavalcade of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky"!
More information about Dick Jensen is available here:
I'm currently compiling a Dick Jensen biography, the first part of this work-in-progress covers the period 1942-1972 and is available here.
I'm also trying to compile a Dick Jensen exhaustive discography, my work-in-progress is available here.
Last but not least, I'm also trying to build a collection of Dick Jensen pictures and memorabilia, my work-in-progress is available here.
All my posts dedicated to Dick Jensen on this blog are available here.
I will post more Dick Jensen stuff in the next months, if you have any other useful information about him and his releases or if you spot any dead links, just get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!