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Interessante The Beat Goes On-Doku über die weltberühmte Motown-Soul-Pop-Girlgroup The Supremes,
bei der Diana Ross ihre Weltkarriere startete:


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Detroit, Michigan, USA 1958

15-year old Florence Ballard and 15-year old Mary Wilson become friends at a talent show. Both love to sing. Some time later, Ballard meets Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, two members of a local doo wop singing group known as the Primes, which eventually became a group more familiar to you perhaps as The Temptations. Williams had a girlfriend, Betty McGlown, who also sang.

Well Milton Jenkins, who was the Primes manager, had an idea. He wanted to create a “sister group” to the Primes and call it the Primettes and have them open for the Primes for live performances. He asked Ballard to join with McGlown, and Ballard recruited Wilson to join, who then recruited her classmate Diana Ross to join, although apparently Williams also recruited Ross to join. So it was official. The Primettes were Ballard, Wilson, Ross, and McGlown, and Jenkins quickly set them up with gigs at social clubs, talent shows, and sock hops, which were basically informal sponsored dances for teenagers where they had to take their shoes off to not scuff up the floors. They performed hit songs by artists like Ray Charles and The Drifters, and gained a local following. They sang live, unlike many other of the Detroit doo wop acts that often lip-synched. To help with performances, Jenkins got guitarist Marvin Tarplin to join the Primettes.

In early 1960, after winning a local talent competition, Diana Ross was determined to get the group to make a record, and she knew that her friend and former neighbor and songwriter William “Smokey” Robinson had connections to Motown Records, which at the time was still a relatively new record label. So, she asked him if he could hook them up with an audition. Robinson said “sure,” as long as you let your wonderful guitarist, Marvin Tarplin, join my band The Miracles when we go on tour. Tarplin, by the way, went on to become a guitarist for the Miracles for the next 30 years. Anyway, Ross agreed and Robinson got the Primettes an audition with the dude who started Motown Records, Berry Gordy. They performed a cappella, and Gordy was impressed. However, he thought they were a bit too young and inexperienced to be recording artists, and told them to contact him after they graduated from high school.

The Primettes were disappointed, but decided to record a single anyway, for another label called Lu Pine Records, which a dude named Robert West started kind of just for them. They recorded the song “Tears of Sorrow.” The single never found much of an audience, though. Soon after, McGlown left the group, and they quickly recruited Barbara Martin to take her place. However, Martin’s parents often didn’t let her rehearse and perform much since they wanted her to focus on improving her grades at school. Because Ballard’s parents felt the same, often it was just Wilson and Ross rehearsing and performing as a duo throughout 1960, often just hanging out at Motown Records. Apparently one time they sang some backup vocals for Mabel John, and even did some handclaps on some of Marvin Gaye’s early records. Smokey Robinson, who was by that time Vice President of Motown, did let the girls record some of his songs in Motown’s studio as well.

In January 1961, Berry Gordy finally agreed to sign the Primettes to Motown Records. However, he made them change the name. He gave them a list of possible new names, and Ballard chose the name Supremes, but Wilson and Ross didn’t like the name. However, Gordy really did, and since he was funding their music, that would be it. On January 15, 1961, the day they signed with Motown, they were now officially The Supremes.


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