The Supremes were an American female singing group and the premier act of Motown Records during the 1960s. Founded as the Primettes in Detroit, Michigan, in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts and are, to date, America’s most successful vocal group with 12 number one’s on the Billlboard Hot 100. Most of these hits were written and produced by Motown’s main songwriting and production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivaled the Beatles in worldwide popularity, and it is said that their success made it possible for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.
Founding members Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown, all from the Brewster-Douglass public housing project in Detroit, formed the Primettes as the sister act to the Primes (with Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, who went on to form the Temptations). Barbara Martin replaced McGlown in 1960, and the group signed with Motown the following year as the Supremes. Martin left the act in early 1962, and Ross, Ballard, and Wilson carried on as a trio.
During the mid-1960s, the Supremes achieved mainstream success with Ross as lead singer. In 1967, Motown president Berry Gordy renamed the group Diana Ross & the Supremes, and replaced Ballard with Cindy Birdsong. Ross left to pursue a solo career in 1970 and was replaced by Jean Terrell, at which point the group’s name reverted to the Supremes. After 1972, the lineup changed more frequently; Lynda Laurence, Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene all became members of the group during the mid-1970s. The Supremes disbanded in 1977 after 18 years.
In mid-1968, Motown initiated a number of high-profile collaborations for the Supremes with their old colleagues, the Temptations. Besides the fact that both groups had come up together, the pairings made financial sense: the Supremes had a mostly white fanbase, while the Temptations a mostly black fanbase. By 1969, the label began plans for a Diana Ross solo career. A number of candidates—most notably Syreeta Wright—were considered to replace Ross. After seeing 24-year-old Jean Terrell perform with her brother Ernie in Florida, Berry Gordy decided on Ross’ replacement. Terrell was signed to Motown and began recording the first post-Ross Supremes songs with Wilson and Birdsong during the day, while Wilson and Birdsong toured with Ross at night. At the same time, Ross began to make her first solo recordings. In November 1969, Ross’ solo career was publicly announced.
“Someday We’ll Be Together” was recorded with the intent of releasing it as the first solo single for Diana Ross. Desiring a final Supremes number-one record, Gordy instead had the song released as a Diana Ross & the Supremes single, despite the fact that neither Wilson nor Birdsong sang on the record. “Someday We’ll Be Together” hit number one on the American pop charts, becoming not only the Supremes’ 12th and final number-one hit, but also the final number-one hit of the 1960s. Diana Ross & the Supremes gave their final performance on January 14, 1970 at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas.
Songs to Include:
“Where Did Our Love Go”
“Stop In The Name Of Love”
“Come See About Me”
“Long Gone Lover”
“Just Call Me”
“You’re Gonna Come To Me”