The journey to legend status began for Diana Ross in the late 50s. Ross, along with Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin formed a group called the Primettes, a female vocal group put together to perform live with the Primes (who would eventually morph into thee Temptations). One time Diana Ross neighbour, Smokey Robinson, introduced The Primettes to Motown mogul Berry Gordy, but as they were still in high school Gordy felt they should wait. After learning their craft some more by hanging around the Motown studios, Gordy finally deemed them ready for a recording contract in January 1961. Now reduced to the trio of Ross, Ballard and Wilson, they changed their name to the Supremes. Their first nine singles failed to chart earning them the nickname ‘the no-hit Supremes’, but the beginning of an association with the gun song writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland would see their fortunes change dramatically for the better in 1964.
Single number ten was ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, which went directly to #1 on the U.S. Hot 100 (UK#3/OZ#19) in the summer of ‘64, going on to sell 2 million copies for good measure. ‘Baby Love’ learned how to walk at US#1 for four weeks during October of ‘64 (UK#1/OZ#38), and the Supremes rounded out a stellar 1964 with the US#1 ‘Come See About Me’ late in ‘64. The Supremes sensational streak of #1 singles continued into 1965 with ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ (US#1/UK#7), ‘Back In My Arms Again’ (US#1), and ‘I Hear A Symphony’ (US#1) late in the year. By this stage they were rivalling the Beatles as the most dominant artist on the U.S. charts.
During 1969, rumours abounded that Diana Ross was going to split from the Supremes to pursue a solo career. In essence she already had, as several singles that had already been released under the banner of Diana Ross & the Supremes, were recorded by Ross with anonymous backing singles. One of those singles, ‘Someday We’ll Be Together’ (US#1), was the Supremes 12th, and final, chart topper. In November of ‘69, it was formerly announced that Ross had parted ways with the Supremes, and her final live performance with the group took place in January of 1970 in Las Vegas. Jean Terrell replaced Ross, and the trio resumed under the banner The Supremes. But post Ross, Motown boss Berry Gordy pulled back support for the group (likely in favour of Ross’ solo career), but despite this The Supremes notched up several top twenty hits over the next couple of years, the biggest of which was ‘Up The Ladder To The Roof’ (US#10/UK#6) in 1970, and ‘Stoned Love’ (US#7/UK#3) in ‘71. Over the next five years the fortunes of The Supremes continued to steadily decline, with the hits drying up, and the line-up changing a number of times, with Wilson the only consistent member. Their last top forty single was ‘I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking’ (US#40) in 1976, and the trio gave a farewell concert in London during ‘77.))