The group — then a quartet of 15-year-olds from Detroit called The Primettes — was signed to Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown Records in 1961, setting it on a path to superstardom.
January was significant for The Supremes. It was on Jan. 21, 1961, that the group — then a quartet of 15-year-olds from Detroit called The Primettes — was signed to Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown Records, setting it on a path to superstardom.
And it was on Jan. 14, 1970, that the group — by then a trio billed as Diana Ross & the Supremes (minus Florence Ballard, who was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967 after struggling with alcoholism) — performed a final show at the Frontier in Las Vegas.
“We sat outside Motown every day until one of the producers came out and said, ‘You know what, we need some background hand claps,’ ” recalls Supreme Mary Wilson, 76, of the early days. When Gordy saw how “serious” they were, he signed them: “Our parents had to actually sign the contract because we were underage.” He then made them change their name (so he could own the rights to it). They threw a few options in a hat and Ballard pulled out “The Supremes.”
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