From Asbury Park West Side Vocal Groups:
The roots of the Uniques go back to a group started in Neptune High School by Ron Coleman in 1956. Ronald Coleman was born in Neptune, NJ, in 1940. Influenced by Lenny Welch and Bobby Thomas of the Vibes, Ron assembled his first vocal quartet in school, consisting of himself, Raymond Nolan, Michael Carnegie and Alan Thompson. The group didn’t really have a name.
“Like any other person in high school, we all got together and formed a little group,” recalled Ronnie Coleman. “Whoever could sing. We’d go into the bathroom where we’d have that echo off the wall. We’d sing and it sounded so pretty.” After high school, the group was joined by Leon Trent, a lead singer from Asbury Park. At that point, the group called themselves the Trennels and from there they became the Zircons (no relation to the Bronx a cappella group). Ron Coleman and Leon Trent had known each other since they were kids, playing basketball at the Boys Club in Asbury Park. Even then they used to harmonize to Don & Juan songs going down Springwood Avenue on Friday nights.
The Zircons sound changed for the better with the addition of Billy Brown. Billy Brown was born in Atlanta, the son of a minister. His early singing experience was in his father’s church choir. When Billy Brown was 7, his family moved to New Jersey – first to Freehold and then to Farmingdale. In Farmingdale, Billy Brown started a group with his friends Dougie Hill and Walter Alexander in Ardena Middle School. They entered their first talent show and won, singing the Dubs’ “Could This Be Magic”. From there, Billy Brown joined the Dardanelles (the same group that Nicky Addeo first sang with), along with Ray and Gene LaMonica and Benny Garcia from New York. The Dardanelles played various hotels in Lakewood, NJ. Billy Brown was 15 at the time.
Billy Brown was still living in Farmingdale but spent time visiting his girlfriend in the Asbury Park/ Neptune area. Coincidently, Billy’s girlfriend lived in the house right behind Mike Carnegie’s home where the Zircons would rehearse. At that time the group consisted of Ron Coleman and Mike Carnegie along with Ray Morris and Joe Major (formerly of the Mar-Keys). Leon Trent was in the service at the time. “One night while we were rehearsing,” said Ron Coleman, “I heard this song being sung and I thought it was Clyde McPhatter! So we went back there and it was Billy Brown singing. We asked Billy if he’d like to join our group.”
“We started singing and rehearsing and then Leon Trent got out of the service,” said Billy Brown. At that point, the group became the Uniques and started to really get serious about singing. They started singing in the West Side clubs on Springwood Avenue, like the Turf Club and Big Bill’s. By 1964, Norman Seldin, had taken an interest in the Uniques. Billy Brown was temporarily away from the group and the Uniques got Nicky Addeo to fill in as lead. Other members of the Uniques at the time were Ron Coleman, Leon Trent and Ray Morris.
“Norman Seldin was a young guy into black music,” said Ron. “We’d go over his house and rehearse songs and then he decided he wanted to record us. He used to promote shows and we’d do his shows around the area.” To make the Uniques’ sound fuller on record, Norman Seldin suggested they add a bass singer.
Nicky Addeo suggested they add Sam Siciliano from the Darchaes, which they did.