We saw the first Motown artist to hit number one just a few songs back with Mary Wells and “My Guy.” Now we come to the first number one by the Motown group who would become one of their biggest sellers over the next ten years, The Supremes.
The girls started out as just four girls from Detroit who loved to sing. They called themselves the Primettes but before they could do anything professionally, one of their members dropped out, making them a trio. The three were Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and the great Diana Ross. Since they lived in Detroit and they knew they could sing, they thought Motown would hire them on. They were right and Motown did take them on and they started recording records, of which the first ten or so, completely bombed. It was so bad that the people who worked at Motown started called them the “no-hit Supremes.”
They first recorded under their original name, the Primettes. Barry Gordy, president of Motown, told them maybe a new name would help. They were given a list of possibilities and they decided that they would have any name that didn’t have “ette” in the name. The only name on the list that met that criteria was the Supremes. A lot of people at Motown didn’t like that name, including the girls themselves, saying it sounded like a group made up of guys. It was not a feminine name. But, the girls went with it, and from then on, they were known as the Supremes.
After several failures, they finally cracked the Top 40 with “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” (#23.) Then the writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland (who have written hundreds of songs for Motown) approached the girls with a new song they just wrote called “Where Did Our Love Go.” The only problem was that the three writers had offered the song to the Marvelettes first and they had turned it down. The three Supremes were a little put off they were getting seconds, but they agreed to record the song. They were not real happy with the way the song turned out and, at first, were sorry they recorded it.
That regret didn’t last long because they got their first number one song. They recorded the song on April 8, 1964, released it in June and were on the road with Dick Clark’s Cavalcade of Stars when they heard that it had gone to number one. The billings on the tour included several recording stars of the day like Gene Pitney and the Shirelles. Then, after all the headliners, the poster’s said: “and others.” That’s where the Supremes fell, in the “others” group. Then they had a number one and suddenly they were promoted to headliner status.
The Supremes would go on to have five number ones in a row, something no female group had ever done. They soon became the darling of the Motown Company and their biggest selling act. We will have a lot more to say about the Supremes as we progress through the Sixties.
“Where Did Our Love Go” entered the Top 40 on the pop charts on July 18, 1964 and spent two weeks at number one.