Music-versary: The Supremes released ‘Meet The Supremes’ on Dec. 9, 1962


Release date: December 9, 1962

Credits: Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Barbara Martin: vocals; Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson: production

Backstory: The Supremes would become the most popular girl group of the 1960s, and Diana Ross, the group’s controversial breakout member, would be a defining presence in the next two decades of popular music.

However, their first album, Meet the Supremes, was a stumble on the way to their success. The group formed while still in eighth grade, when the Primes (later the Temptations) wanted an all-girl act to accompany their band. Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and (then) Diane Ross, who knew each other from the Brewster housing project in Detroit, came together as the Primettes.

They weren’t content to just be a local act, though. Smokey Robinson, an old neighbor of Ross, got them an audition with Motown chief Berry Gordy Jr.  He rejected them — still in high school, they were just too young to be signed stars — so the girls kept playing sock hops, even recording a single for another local label. But they never took their sights off Motown.

No contract didn’t mean no help, however. The girls would hang out around the Hitsville building so they could be seen, contributing background hand claps or tambourine fills whenever they were asked. With Smokey Robinson’s help, the group began recording more demos for potential singles, now under the Supremes name — cuts written both by him and such luminary writing teams as Holland Dozier Holland.

In 1962, those songs were bottled up to introduce the girls to the world. While the world didn’t take notice until When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes in late 1963, Meet the Supremes offers a first look at the trio before Diane became Diana and the world of music changed forever.

The Lost Supreme: When the Primettes got their start, girl groups, like the Shirelles and the Marvelettes, had four members, so the trio had to reach out to other local high schoolers to round out their lineup. First they recruited Betty McGlown, who left to get married. Barbara Martin was next, and she too left to start a family — but not before cutting tracks like Who’s Lovin’ You, which ended up on Meet the Supremes.

Powerful Second: What’s most notable about this album is Diana Ross not singing lead vocals on every track. Flo, who brought the band together, was the initial lead singer, but it was Diana’s spunk (among other things) that Gordy admired, and he eventually pushed her to the front. But on this record, you can still hear them as a “girl group” switching out lead on tracks like the upbeat Buttered Popcorn, where Flo’s voice shines.

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