Diana Ross & The Supremes I'm Gonna Make You Love Me

Diana Ross & The Supremes Someday We'll Be Together

Diana Ross & The Supremes Nothing But Heartaches

The Supremes He's All I Got

The Supremes-Reflections

Diana Ross & The Supremes The Happening

Welcome To Northernsoultrain


The Supremes were an American singing trio. They were the most successful American vocal group during the sixties; second only to The Beatles in charts and sales and the most successful female singing group of all time. Active from 1959 until 1977, the Supremes performed, at various times, doo-wop, pop, soul, Broadway show tunes, and disco. The most successful of the Motown Records' signature acts,supremes The Supremes charted twelve American number-one hits between 1964 and 1969. Many of these singles were written and produced by Motown's main songwriting and production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland. The crossover success of the Supremes during the mid-1960s paved the way for future black soul and R&B acts to gain mainstream audiences in the United States and overseas. Founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1959, The Supremes began as a quartet called The Primettes. Founding members Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Betty McGlown, all from the Brewster-Douglass public housing project in Detroit, were the sister act to The Primes (with Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, who would go on to form The Temptations. In 1960, Barbara Martin replaced McGlown, and the group signed with Motown in 1961 as The Supremes. Martin left in early 1962, and Ross, Ballard and Wilson carried on as a trio. Achieving success in the mid-1960s with Ross as lead singer, Motown president Berry Gordy renamed the group Diana Ross & the Supremes in 1967 and replaced Ballard with Cindy Birdsong. Ross left the group for a successful solo career in 1970 and was replaced by Jean Terrell. After 1972, the lineup of the Supremes changed frequently, with Lynda Laurence, Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene all becoming members before the group ended its eighteen-year existence in 1977.

Personnel problems within the group and within Motown Records' stable of performers led to tension among the members of The Supremes. Many of the other Motown performers, particularly Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas, felt that Berry Gordy was lavishing too much attention upon the group—and upon Ross, in particular. As Ross became the focal point of The Supremes, Ballard felt pushed aside in the group. Depression ensued, and Ballard began to drink excessively, gaining weight until she could no longer comfortably wear many of her stage outfits. The friendship, and later the working relationship, between Ross and Ballard became strained. During this turbulent period, Ballard relied heavily upon the advice of group mate Mary Wilson, with whom she had maintained a close friendship. Wilson, while outwardly demure and neutral in hopes of keeping the group stable, privately advised Ballard that Ross and Gordy were eager to oust Ballard. Although The Supremes scored two number-one hits during the first quarter of 1967, "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" and "The Happening", the group as a unit began to disintegrate.

Rumors began to circulate in late 1966 that Motown intended to rename the group "Diana Ross & the Supremes", a change officially announced in early 1967, after a concert where they were billed as "The Supremes with Diana Ross". The Miracles had become "Smokey Robinson & the Miracles" two years prior. The fall of 1967 saw Martha & the Vandellas become "Martha Reeves & the Vandellas".Having learned that Ross would receive top billing, David Ruffin lobbied—unsuccessfully—to have the Temptations renamed as "David Ruffin & the Temptations". Although Gordy maintained that the name changes were done so that Motown could demand more money for live bookings (because they would be providing two acts—a lead singer and a group—instead of just one), The Supremes' name change sparked rumors of a possible solo career for Ross, and contributed to the professional and personal dismantling of the group. According to Mark Ribowsky's 2009 book The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal, Gordy intended to replace Ross with Barbara Randolph as early as 1966 during a run of live gigs in the autumn of that year, but changed his mind and instead kept Ross in the group for several more years.

By 1967, Ballard would sometimes fail to show up for recording dates, or would arrive at shows too inebriated to perform. For some early 1967 shows, she was replaced by Marlene Barrow of Motown's in-house backing group, The Andantes. Gordy contacted Cindy Birdsong in April 1967; she was a member of Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles and superficially resembled Ballard. Gordy began plans to bring her in as Ballard's replacement. Birdsong appeared at a benefit concert at the Hollywood Bowlhollywood on April 29, 1967, but returned to The Bluebelles soon afterward due to prior commitments. In May, Ballard returned for what she believed was a probationary period. Summer 1967 marked the group's first appearance as Diana Ross & the Supremes at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. After only three days of performances, Ballard was permanently dismissed from The Supremes, and Birdsong officially assumed her place during the second July 1 show.

The Supremes in the 1970s

Diana Ross & the Supremes gave their final performance on January 14, 1970 at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. At the final performance, the replacement for Diana Ross, Jean Terrell, was introduced. According to Mary Wilson, after this performance, Berry Gordy wanted to replace Terrell with Syreeta Wright. Wilson refused, leading to Gordy stating that he was washing his hands of the group thereafter. This claim is also made by Mark Ribowsky. After the Frontier Hotel performance, Ross officially began her career as a solo performer. Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong continued working with Jean Terrell on the first post-Ross Supremes album, Right On.

In 1972, The Supremes had their last Top 20 hit single release, "Floy Joy", written and produced by Smokey Robinson, followed by the final US Top 40 hit for the Jean Terrell-led version of the group, "Automatically Sunshine" (US number 37, UK number 10). "Automatically Sunshine" later became the group's final top 10 single in the UK. On both "Floy Joy" and "Sunshine" Terrell shared lead with Mary Wilson. Motown, by then moving from Detroit to Los Angeles to break into motion pictures, put only limited effort into promoting The Supremes' new material, and their popularity and sales began to wane. Cindy Birdsong left the group in April 1972, after recording the Floy Joy album, to start a family; her replacement was Lynda Laurence, a former member of Stevie Wonder's backup group, Third Generation a predecessor to Wonderlove. Jimmy Webb was hired to produce the group's next LP, The Supremes Produced and Arranged by Jimmy Webb, but the album and its only single "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" failed to make an impact on the Billboard pop chart, with the single charting at number 85.


    The Supremes (aka The Primettes and Diana Ross & the Supremes)
    Florence Ballard (1959–1967)
    Betty McGlown (1959–1960)
    Mary Wilson (1959–1977)
    Diana Ross (1959–1970)
    Barbara Martin (1960–1962)
    Cindy Birdsong (1967–1972, 1973–1976)
    Jean Terrell (1970–1973)
    Lynda Laurence (1972–1973)
    Scherrie Payne (1973–1977)
    Susaye Greene (1976–1977)

Back to the ARTISTS page

Diana Ross & The Supremes Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart

Diana Ross & The Supremes My World Is Empty Without You

SUPREMES Up The Ladder To The Roof

Supremes My Guy

Supremes Shake

Diana Ross & The Supremes You Keep Me Hangin' On

Jump aboard the train for a trip back to the home page