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  1. #1

    We Can See Heaven Much Better: The Supremes Without Diana

    After Diana Ross left the Supremes in 1970, a move that was inevitable, Mary Wilson, the only original member, and Cindy Birdsong, Florence Ballard's replacement, were left to figure out how to move on.
    In interviews years later, Mary said she'd initially thought of disbanding the group. But obviously she and Motown still saw potential in the Supremes. Diana performed with Mary and Cindy for the last time on January 14, 1970, at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. Her replacement, the underrated Jean Terrell, Mary and Cindy had already started recording their first album sans Diana.
    Right On hit the streets four months after the farewell show in Las Vegas, and it introduced the new Supremes, the adventurous '70s configuration, which never eclipsed or came close to matching the success of the legendary original trio. That's a tall order for any group.
    But despite several personnel changes between 1970 and 1977, the Supremes still managed to make solid recordings, especially in the first two or three years after Diana's exit. They maintained the glittery piquancy that had always anchored the Supremes' sound. But thanks largely to the innovative production of Frank Wilson, the formula was given an appealing urbanity, a funkier edge the Supremes didn't have before. At last, they sounded like grown women, not coy girls.

    And for a brief spell, the Supremes did better on the charts than Diana. "Up the Ladder to the Roof," the group's first hit with Jean on lead, is one of the most buoyant singles in Motown's fabled catalog. Hallmarks of the Motown sound abound: the lush orchestration undergirded by a rock-steady rhythm section, an arrangement that floats comfortably between pop and soul without ever settling in either category.
    Jean's cooing style is similar to Diana's – pretty, seductive and feather-soft. But she sings with more power. Unlike previous Supremes records, the background vocals are more prominent, mixed high above the busy percussion, handclaps and soaring strings. "Up the Ladder to the Roof" sold a million copies, sealing Billboard's pop Top 10 and sailing to No. 5 on the R&B chart.
    The group's next big hit, "Stoned Love," updated the classic "sound of young America," Motown's old slogan. The stomping, propulsive beat, slightly reminiscent of "Come See About Me," powers the feel-good anthem, with Cindy and Mary's vibrant vocals swooping behind Jean's gospel-inspired lead.
    The inherent sunny vibe of the song reflects Motown's then recent move to California. Mary later revealed in an interview that she'd fought to have the album named after "Stoned Love," which crowned the R&B chart and made it to No. 7 on the pop side. The collection was to be a concept of sorts, with all of the songs centering on inspirational love with a "black is beautiful" undercurrent.
    Instead, the album was named New Ways, But Love Stays and shone with generous amounts of pop gloss, and there were no overt political leanings. Mary's idea sounded like a better one, but as it stands the album is the strongest effort the Supremes made after Diana threw up the deuces, a sideward peace sign, and left the girls behind.


    That album also featured "It's Time to Break Down," the funkiest track in the Supremes' catalog with or without Diana. The haunting intro is a favorite among hip-hop producers and has been sampled several times. Accented with fuzz guitar, the slinky groove is driven by assured vocals from Jean, Mary and Cindy.
    "Nathan Jones," the hit from Touch, the group's third and last album with Frank, filters the Motown sound through synthesizers, a first for the Supremes. The vocals swoosh through what sounds like an echo chamber. The effect is like the sonic equivalent of a lava lamp.
    Smokey Robinson, who grew up in the same neighborhood with Diana and Mary, wrote and produced 1972's "Floy Joy," the group's last Top 5 R&B hit. The lead is split between Mary's raspy whisper and Jean's urgent soprano, and it works.
    Soon after the Floy Joy album was done, the personnel changed. Both Cindy and Jean left in 1973 and were replaced by Scherrie Payne and Lynda Lawrence. Another Supremes album didn't come out until 1975. On that self-titled effort, the group went for mostly club-friendly arrangements that sounded dated the day after they were recorded.


    "He's My Man" was a proto-disco hit, topping the dance charts in 1975. Another percolating dance tune, "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking" from 1976's High Energy, repeated the success on the dance chart and sealed the pop Top 40.
    By 1976, Susaye Greene had replaced Lynda, and the Supremes were out of steam. With the emergence of daring acts like Donna Summer and Grace Jones, black women in pop had become more daring and aggressive. The elegance and sparkling glamour of the Supremes seemed a bit too quaint at that point. The group's last album, Mary, Scherrie & Susaye, released in late 1976, came and went. Nine months later, the Supremes were over.
    But for the first three years or so after the group's superstar and focal point left to become the grandest pop diva of them all, the Supremes soldiered on – and made beautiful music.


    https://www.pilotonline.com/entertai...ac432cdef.html

  2. #2
    Talk about a throwback! I remember when this made the forum, Yahoo!, and Facebook groups in late 2013!

  3. #3
    "Soon after the Floy Joy album was done, the personnel changed. Both Cindy and Jean left in 1973 and were replaced by Scherrie Payne and Lynda Lawrence."

  4. #4
    Thanks Marv. Great read. The ladies certainly made great strides creatively!

  5. #5
    So it was a win-win for both acts for Diana to have left: The Supremes and then, for Diana Ross

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    Thanks Marv. Great read. The ladies certainly made great strides creatively!
    You're most welcome Luke! I believe if they had more support from Motown, they would have gone on to even greater heights!

  7. #7
    Why didn’t Frank Wilson go back to producing them...and Nathan Jones was a hit?!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    "Soon after the Floy Joy album was done, the personnel changed. Both Cindy and Jean left in 1973 and were replaced by Scherrie Payne and Lynda Lawrence."
    A blight on an otherwise very well done history of the post Diana Supremes.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    So it was a win-win for both acts for Diana to have left: The Supremes and then, for Diana Ross
    I think so too. Diana had outgrown the group at this point. Mary and Cindy were increasingly nothing more than Vandellas to Martha or Miracles to Smokey, so it's hard to imagine either of them- but especially Mary- continuing on to the point of being completely nameless, voiceless, and potentially faceless Supremes. With Jean there was a return to a group identity, even with another woman singing 99 percent of the leads. Diana was more than the Supremes by the time of her exit. Her artistry had outgrown cooing and ooing and swaying back and forth on stage. Had she been forced to continue as a Supreme, the group would've suffered because the larger than life member would've been weighed down by the others. Without Mary and Cindy, Diana could spread her wings completely independent of the other ladies.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    You're most welcome Luke! I believe if they had more support from Motown, they would have gone on to even greater heights!
    More support and someone with innovative ideas for the Supremes' look and sound. They were forever in the shadow of what Flo, Diana and Mary had accomplished, both in sound, success and image. The Supremes in the 70s were destined to implode without label support and without someone with a forward thinking mind.

  11. #11
    the article is basically a nice one, and calls attention to the heralds of what was released.... the group population mix up is unforgivable in a published article. Facts should be checked.
    The 70's lineups had promotion....lots of variety show TV exposure too...what hurt was the lack of airplay. I never heard a Supremes single on AM top 20 car radio after River Deep....and never heard many of Diana's either.....
    You can take out ads in the trade papers to alert the industry....but the only steady flow of news I got was Right On magazine....seems every 2 months they told us something and had photos.
    The layoff between material was too long. We had a new line up with great energy introducing a new talent in Scherrie and a welcome return of Cindy doing a 3 part lead (that clearly made the point things were going to be different) on a upbeat song on a very popular TV show...ALL I WANT on Sonny & Cher show and there was no product to support this new line up for almost 2 years.

  12. #12
    The Supremes did a great job recovering from Ross but....be mindful Ross didn't have it much easier.....she had several songs that didn't make it here in usa

  13. #13
    AM radio was mostly friendly to the '70s Supremes initially, with Up The Ladder To The Roof (but not Everybody's Got The Right To Love) getting much airplay. The only Four Tops/Supremes' duet that was heard much was River Deep, Mountain High. Stoned Love and Nathan Jones were on often, but Floy Joy wasn't. The final song that was broadcast to a great extent, even though it failed to chart well, was Automatically Sunshine. I was especially surprised and pleased to hear that last one so frequently, as the blend of Mary and Jean was just right to my ear, and the tune, the production and the positive message all seemed great. Then there was silence. I heard Bad Weather on Soul Train but not on the radio, and in the months and years afterward, as music and my life changed, I stopped listening to "pop" radio entirely. (I did buy the remaining Supremes' albums as they were released, but none was a completely satisfying experience, and I rarely listen to them now, or I play just the one or two songs that appeal to me on each of them.) The Diana Ross releases varied in terms of impact, too, but I like all of them, overall, through the end of the RCA years. I disliked Workin' Overtime from the outset and still do, but there were some fine performances still to come. However, most often now I listen to the classic group's issues from Meet The Supremes through Supremes A' Go-Go, plus Reflections, Talk Of The Town and Cream Of The Crop, clicking ahead when the occasional, rare clinker cut comes on.

  14. #14
    I heard EGTRTL and I'm Still Waiting so much on WABC, it wasn't till the internet age I discovered both were not top 10 records....heard Remember Me and Last Time I Saw Him a fair amount and the 2 duets with Marvin as well....
    Don't recall hearing Nathan, any of the Floy Joy singles... same for Surrender, Reach Out I'll Be There, Thought it Took A Little Time, or One Love I My Lifetime. From early '75 on I mostly switched to FM rock stations in the house, but still only had AM in the car for years.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by gman View Post
    The 70's lineups had promotion....lots of variety show TV exposure too...what hurt was the lack of airplay.
    I think lack of airplay in this case was a promotional issue. It's been claimed that some stations weren't receiving copies of some Supremes releases in the 70s. If sending copies of a single to radio stations is the business of the label, and if the claims are true, then this falls at the feet of Motown's promotion dept. Some fans have claimed their local record shops didn't always have the latest Supremes releases either. The Supremes could only perform a current single so many times on TV; the influence of such could never be anywhere near as big as hearing it on the radio several times a day. Factor in the possible scenario of hearing it on TV and hoping to go out and buy it only to be told the shop doesn't have it...the single doesn't stand a chance.

    What Diana sometimes suffered from during the 70s were DRATS type releases (DRATS Type Release: a single, not necessarily a bad song, often a very good song, but one devoid of a single note of hit potential, i.e. "The Composer") such as "Sleepin"; a nonsensical release schedule, such as the Everything Is Everything/Surrender singles and lp releases, as well as the Baby It's Me singles debacle; and a lack of television exposure. Diana had some high charting releases during the 70s and there is a sorely lacking account of most of them having any television exposure. But of course in addition to being a singer, Diana was also a big movie star, and the Queen of Motown, so where she was often mishandled, she also had plenty of support to maintain her position.

    But back to the Supremes...Looking at their chart placements during the Jean years, it's hard for me to argue against where they sit. Only "Touch" and "Bad Weather" leave me scratching my head. It's not hard for me to believe that during any one week there were 15 "better" pop songs than "Nathan Jones" or "Floy Joy", or 54 "better" songs than "You Gotta Have Love In Your Heart" or 37 "better" songs than "Automatically Sunshine", even though, with the exception of "You Gotta Have", I do think the songs were good enough to place at least a little better. Even though I've cooled considerably off of "Touch" and "Bad Weather" over the years, I still find it hard to believe that there were 70 and 86 "better" songs" than those, respectively, during their weeks of release.

  16. #16
    Lest we forget the still almighty 45 RPM jukebox...my neighborhood mixed age bar had Gettin' Ready For Love in the jukebox, and it was played often....years later...Piece's of Ice....which I played 4 times in a row trying to figure out what was going on there.

  17. #17
    I think there were a few problems the 70s Sups faced

    1. keeping up with the times - when MJC first started, the new "peace and love" theme was perfect. But they were, visually, still very "Vegas-y" and needed to evolve more. by 71, they should have been working to move away a bit from the glitter image into something new and fresh

    2. jean didn't have the mega super-star personality. I don't know that it's completely wrong that she didn't. but coming after a huge Diana Ross personality, the change was stark. vocally Jean was amazing. but she didn't have that presence. I always sort of felt the same about Martha Reeves. great vocalist but when i've seen many of her live tv clips, it just doesn't seem like there's as much of spark. Gladys Knight seemed to have a much brighter, warmer personality. Jean didn't. just the differences between the women.

    3. sloppy management of group - the old motown approach of flooding the market was not the best move. they should have been more thoughtful with what was released and when. and they should have focused more on quality lps. New Ways blew it - mostly a very very strong lp lineup. but the cover and title were problems.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I think there were a few problems the 70s Sups faced

    1. keeping up with the times - when MJC first started, the new "peace and love" theme was perfect. But they were, visually, still very "Vegas-y" and needed to evolve more. by 71, they should have been working to move away a bit from the glitter image into something new and fresh

    2. jean didn't have the mega super-star personality. I don't know that it's completely wrong that she didn't. but coming after a huge Diana Ross personality, the change was stark. vocally Jean was amazing. but she didn't have that presence. I always sort of felt the same about Martha Reeves. great vocalist but when i've seen many of her live tv clips, it just doesn't seem like there's as much of spark. Gladys Knight seemed to have a much brighter, warmer personality. Jean didn't. just the differences between the women.

    3. sloppy management of group - the old motown approach of flooding the market was not the best move. they should have been more thoughtful with what was released and when. and they should have focused more on quality lps. New Ways blew it - mostly a very very strong lp lineup. but the cover and title were problems.
    Yet, with all that you mentioned, the Supremes still scored more Top 40 Billboard hits than any other female group in the 70s. That's pretty awesome!

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    2. jean didn't have the mega super-star personality. I don't know that it's completely wrong that she didn't. but coming after a huge Diana Ross personality, the change was stark. vocally Jean was amazing. but she didn't have that presence. I always sort of felt the same about Martha Reeves. great vocalist but when i've seen many of her live tv clips, it just doesn't seem like there's as much of spark. Gladys Knight seemed to have a much brighter, warmer personality. Jean didn't. just the differences between the women.
    I don't think it was wrong at all. Jean was Jean and she shouldn't have had to be Diana. Diana was one of a kind. There was never going to be any duplicating that. I'm also not convinced that the public during that earlier Jean period were turned off by Jean's lack of Diana-ness. In fact most of the reviews I've read of the group during this time often are extremely complimentary to the change, sometimes more favorable. Judging by the videos I've seen of the group during Jean's time, I don't find her listless, personality-less, annoyed, or any of the adjectives I've seen thrown at her in this forum on occasion. And honestly, if the group was going to get back to a true group style, did they really need another larger than life persona?

    Admittedly, I've often wondered if it was a detriment to the group that Jean wasn't a Diana clone. Personally, if I were casting Diana's replacement at the time, I probably would've tried like hell to get Freda Payne. Freda was uber glamorous, modern sexy, and vocally gifted, and had the ability to transcend genres, the latter of which had to be a prerequisite for the job, I would think. (Of course this would all hinge on Freda's- a veteran soloist- desire to conform to a group, which she may not have wanted to do.) Freda is one of those "Why the HELL Isn't She Bigger" singers. I have most of her 70s albums and it's disappointing that very little of it resulted in her being a household name. But I digress. Freda had an eye catching onstage, on camera, persona that I think might have worked well in the Supremes if Diana's replacement had to fill Diana's shoes almost to the tip. Jean's star quality IMO was much more understated.

    I've seen it written (in the forum) that Jean wasn't glamorous or she looked awkward, but I rarely see that. To me Jean had a very regal bearing that was a cross between being in line with the times of the "I Am Black Woman...Hear Me Roar" and classic Hollywood. She comes across as every bit Supreme in their glam wear, although I do think she looks more homely in street clothes than the Supremes who came before her, who were usually every bit the star in Supreme wear and out of it. But more importantly than anything, Jean's voice was phenomenal, and for the love of music, Jean should never have had to compete with Diana Ross. (By competition, I'm referring to the conversation about Jean as Diana's replacement. Any incarnation of Supremes was going to forever be in the shadow of Diana, Flo and Mary. Even DRATS couldn't measure up.)

    Ultimately, as great as some of those early cuts were, I think the sound of the Supremes' songs during the early 70s lacked that certain thing that jumps out and makes the average person want to run out and buy the single, or wait impatiently for the DJs to spin it over the radio. They needed a "I Love You For All Seasons" or "Walking In the Rain With the One I Love" and instead they were doing "Floy Joy", which is a nice enough song, and of course did hit pretty big, but is mostly forgotten today. I think I may have heard "Floy Joy" on the radio once in the 90s. Maybe.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I always sort of felt the same about Martha Reeves. great vocalist but when i've seen many of her live tv clips, it just doesn't seem like there's as much of spark.
    I'm with you on Martha.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Yet, with all that you mentioned, the Supremes still scored more Top 40 Billboard hits than any other female group in the 70s. That's pretty awesome!
    It's awesome in the sense that despite everything, the Supremes as a whole still reigned supreme during the 70s. But in all those top 40 hits, there is no "Lady Marmalade", "When Will I See You Again", or "Best Of My Love". None of the 70s Supremes hits get the airplay that Labelle, Three Degrees or the Emotions get. I should add that I don't listen to the radio anymore- haven't for years- but back when I used to listen to stations that would play songs from the 70s, the only place I ever heard "Up the Ladder" or "Stoned Love" was on the oldies station, and that was usually during a "Motown Weekend" type of thing, not normal rotation. And I never would hear the 70s Supremes on the stations geared to Black adults, but Labelle, the Emotions, the Fuzz, Honey Cone, Three Degrees, Pointer Sisters, they got plenty of airtime.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Yet, with all that you mentioned, the Supremes still scored more Top 40 Billboard hits than any other female group in the 70s. That's pretty awesome!
    oh i agree. and i love their music. artistically - the group soared in the 70s. some stunning music.

    if only we had that magic time machine to go back and tinker with history lol

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I don't think it was wrong at all. Jean was Jean and she shouldn't have had to be Diana. Diana was one of a kind. There was never going to be any duplicating that. I'm also not convinced that the public during that earlier Jean period were turned off by Jean's lack of Diana-ness. In fact most of the reviews I've read of the group during this time often are extremely complimentary to the change, sometimes more favorable. Judging by the videos I've seen of the group during Jean's time, I don't find her listless, personality-less, annoyed, or any of the adjectives I've seen thrown at her in this forum on occasion. And honestly, if the group was going to get back to a true group style, did they really need another larger than life persona?

    Admittedly, I've often wondered if it was a detriment to the group that Jean wasn't a Diana clone. Personally, if I were casting Diana's replacement at the time, I probably would've tried like hell to get Freda Payne. Freda was uber glamorous, modern sexy, and vocally gifted, and had the ability to transcend genres, the latter of which had to be a prerequisite for the job, I would think. (Of course this would all hinge on Freda's- a veteran soloist- desire to conform to a group, which she may not have wanted to do.) Freda is one of those "Why the HELL Isn't She Bigger" singers. I have most of her 70s albums and it's disappointing that very little of it resulted in her being a household name. But I digress. Freda had an eye catching onstage, on camera, persona that I think might have worked well in the Supremes if Diana's replacement had to fill Diana's shoes almost to the tip. Jean's star quality IMO was much more understated.

    I've seen it written (in the forum) that Jean wasn't glamorous or she looked awkward, but I rarely see that. To me Jean had a very regal bearing that was a cross between being in line with the times of the "I Am Black Woman...Hear Me Roar" and classic Hollywood. She comes across as every bit Supreme in their glam wear, although I do think she looks more homely in street clothes than the Supremes who came before her, who were usually every bit the star in Supreme wear and out of it. But more importantly than anything, Jean's voice was phenomenal, and for the love of music, Jean should never have had to compete with Diana Ross. (By competition, I'm referring to the conversation about Jean as Diana's replacement. Any incarnation of Supremes was going to forever be in the shadow of Diana, Flo and Mary. Even DRATS couldn't measure up.)

    Ultimately, as great as some of those early cuts were, I think the sound of the Supremes' songs during the early 70s lacked that certain thing that jumps out and makes the average person want to run out and buy the single, or wait impatiently for the DJs to spin it over the radio. They needed a "I Love You For All Seasons" or "Walking In the Rain With the One I Love" and instead they were doing "Floy Joy", which is a nice enough song, and of course did hit pretty big, but is mostly forgotten today. I think I may have heard "Floy Joy" on the radio once in the 90s. Maybe.
    i understand it hard to go off of just a handful of video clips. vocally - jean was a sensation. and of course there are lots of times (frankly most of the time) she looks great while singing her songs. But it's once the song is done, how does she come across. is she able to interact with tv hosts and audiences? if she's coming across as awkward or insecure, the vibe is picked up by the audience.

    We all know that Diana is a unique and amazing talent. but she talent is more than just her vocals. on stage she's hypnotic. you truly feel she's thrilled you're there to see her and you feel her passion.

    I personally think Gladys Knight is similar, albeit a very different stage personality. she's more country/down home. but you still felt that warmth and passion from her.

    with jean it seems that she had a bit of a barrier between herself and the audience.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    oh i agree. and i love their music. artistically - the group soared in the 70s. some stunning music.

    if only we had that magic time machine to go back and tinker with history lol
    Along with a psychiatrist to find out what the Hell was wrong with Motown's management during those years!

  25. #25
    After Diana left, I always thought Cindy and Mary should have become a background group for hire, a bit like The Jones Girls or Venetta Fields and Clydie King, but with a more prominent and therefore saleable pedigree. Imagine: the Rolling Stones on tour with background by The Supremes; Barbra Streisand backed by The Supremes in A Star is Born ; Bob Dylan supported by The Supremes, etc etc.

    The moniker ‘Background vocals by The Supremes’ would have had real currency in the ‘70s rock world. Of course, they would have had to have left Motown for this to have been a reality.

    It would have made life easier for Cindy and Mary: no seeking producers, no promoting albums and tours; they would just turn up for whatever they had been hired for, and earring a golden reputation for soaring, classy vocals, keeping them in demand by all the top rock and pop acts of the day.

    This isn’t in any way to diminish the excellent work of the ‘70s Supremes, it’s just a thought I have always had.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by grangertim View Post
    After Diana left, I always thought Cindy and Mary should have become a background group for hire, a bit like The Jones Girls or Venetta Fields and Clydie King, but with a more prominent and therefore saleable pedigree. Imagine: the Rolling Stones on tour with background by The Supremes; Barbra Streisand backed by The Supremes in A Star is Born ; Bob Dylan supported by The Supremes, etc etc.

    The moniker ‘Background vocals by The Supremes’ would have had real currency in the ‘70s rock world. Of course, they would have had to have left Motown for this to have been a reality.

    It would have made life easier for Cindy and Mary: no seeking producers, no promoting albums and tours; they would just turn up for whatever they had been hired for, and earring a golden reputation for soaring, classy vocals, keeping them in demand by all the top rock and pop acts of the day.

    This isn’t in any way to diminish the excellent work of the ‘70s Supremes, it’s just a thought I have always had.
    That's a great idea in theory. Very interesting one. However, a couple things work against it.

    First and foremost, there was more money to be made continuing as a headlining act, both for the group members and for Motown. I believe that was the deciding factor in Motown continuing the Supremes after Diana left. And judging by how often they worked, both on television and stage, it was still a lucrative gig. I can't believe that Mary and Cindy would've ever made more money as hired (and promoted) background singers for any act, rock or not.

    Secondly, Mary and Cindy's sound. They would've still needed to add a third voice. Flo and Mary were background powerhouses when they were on top of their game. There is a clear change in sound when Cindy replaces Flo. Cindy's voice was much softer, dare I say even sweeter, than Florence's, and when paired with Mary's, the background is void of the bombastic and energetic sound that was present when Flo was in the group. When DRATS would do the standards and stuff like that, like on the Fats Waller medley, Cindy and Mary's sweet harmonies were perfect. IMO that sound didn't transition as well to their pop/r&b stuff, and thus it is difficult for me to imagine their sound being compatible with 70s rock. Now had they added a third voice to the group for this concept, it's possible that might have worked. I could definitely hear Mary and Cindy with Scherrie excelling in your scenario. But there's still the issue of which situation held the best financial payoff.

    As a side note, I once suggested in the forum that Mary might have done better after leaving Motown by becoming an in demand session singer. Her abilities as a first rate background singer (not to be scoffed at, even though some folks do) being hired as an in demand backing vocalist might have been more to her advantage than singing Supremes songs as a living. Perhaps by working so closely with top talent during the 80s, she may have been able to parlay that into interest of producing something of quality for her solo work. My idea was dismissed.

  27. #27
    Jean was fine the way she was....she was Jean. She had a nice run the first 2 years. She most likely wasn't happy being a road act.

    I think some folks are missing the point that they didn't want another Hi Wattage Superstar in the group. The change plan included expanding Mary and Cindy's role and making the Supremes a group again...and it was accomplished.

    Many Motown artists that had been very successful in the 60's didn't make the transition into maintaining hi volumes sales in the 70's. Some maintained a strong enough following to continue having releases....but the money was on Diana, Marvin and Stevie....Philly and strong funk southern soul were getting a lot more attention...and a great number from these smaller soul labels managed one superhit, and declined.

    Adding Scherrie and Cindy's return was a great move...unfortunately, the label didn't get behind this trio quick enough...with no product on the radio or on the shelf for 2 years, if I didn't read Right On magazine, I would have never known the group continued

  28. #28
    My goodness this road gets driven frequently ...

  29. #29
    I disagree with most of these opinions.

    1) the new Supremes were not in any shadow. They came roaring out if the gate with a killer record on a killer Ed Sullivan debut that was plugged for a week for the first look at the new group. They succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. Their debut LP, Right On featured a pullout poster and contained 12 great cuts. Anticipation was so strong, it’s debut on Billboard at #37 was remarkable. In 3 weeks, it was #25! The public appeared to embrace the new group from the get-go. It then began to slip - unusual for such a strong start. It continued to slip even with the release of a second single. There were various ways to interpret this chart action, but it appeared that the album found little interest beyond Supremes fans as essential word of mouth seemed not there. The next album would tell us a lot more.

    ‘’EXAMPLE: The 4 Tops’ Still Waters LP - they hadn’t had a hit LP since 1967 and were considered toast until this came out containing the top 20 single Still Waters. No reason to expect this album to do much considering the previous showings - yet word of mouth made it a very good seller.

    support for an act can rarely be judged by single sales as folks generally buy a pop record they dig the sound of regardless of who the artist is. Up The Ladder spent one week in the top ten at #10 - a very good showing, but not a smash to survives it’s time span.

    When new Ways but love stays came out, it’s debut was an unimpressive #168 and eventually, on the strength of Stoned Love, it limped to #68 pop and #12 R&B - FAR below expectations considering the much bigger single it contained (#7 pop #1 R&B) and the direction to a more hip sound.
    Excuses such as LP title and cover are. Basically BS as they would not prevent fans from buying it. Covers are to lure the uninitiated - indicating many folks were unhappy with Right On. They numbers don’t lie and this us simply how the industry reads these numbers. The general public was not buying into the new group and many previous fans had split. The group was not getting concert bookings as they had previously and relied more and more on club dates instead of the lucrative one-nighters.

    Motown quickly responded by getting them on TV more and going with an even more progressive sound with Nathan Jones and a very hip looking LP cover for their third, Touch. It spent a few weeks at the bottom of the top 100 peaking for one week at #85 - dismal - and confirmation that they had not caught on with the public.

    Motown, clearly in a supportive move, dumped Frank Nelson and commissioned Smokey to try to get them on track and he successfully at least reversed the trend peaking at #56 with a top 20 and a top 40 releases. By this time, however, the fate of the new group was sealed as the live appearance bookings had slid considerably and the 3 year deal they struck at The Frontier in Vegas was not renewed. I’ve been told that they only got the gig if Diana signed also, I don’t know that to be true, but, they were dropped at the same time she moved to Caesars Palace.

    Blah Blah Blah Jimmy Webb, Bad Weather, no Jean, no Lynda. I don’t know what went on after that as far as promotion goes, but they did gave a giant blip in sales with High Energy that followed with the disaster Mary, Scherrie & Susaye.

    My point is that there is zero evidence Motown wanted the group to fail or did not promote them. It’s total BS that they didn’t send records to stations. Go to any used record store anywhere or eBay and you’ll see promo labels on their albums and singles with station markings and determinations. I personally have the second Stoned Love promo single on red vinyl with the longer version on the a side and radio edit on the b side. That occurred because stations were playing the album version. That means they got the album and Motown went to the expense and trouble to re-issue the single with both versions to DJ’s.

    folks like to quote Mary calling the Dj and being told he didn’t have Jimmy Webb. However, a few minutes later he played it. He didn’t “have” Jimmy Webb in the booth as it was not getting played, but it was in the library at the station in purgatory to see if it would eventually be needed or, if It would get tossed at irs pull date. I believe Motown serviced every station with every release - there are just way too many used promos out there.

    ‘it’s quite possible they did give up on the group somewhat after Jean left. I don’t know. But they were behind it until then - there’s proof. It just didn’t pan out - like 99% of all new groups don’t.

  30. #30
    There were always ads for the Supremes in all 3 trade papers

    The Supremes got the first release, not Diana.

    Things were okay until Jean left and then Mary and Pedro screwed the group up: they had no Ability like Otis Willams to hold a group together

    I recall one of HDH saying they knew there’d be trouble with Mary sooner or later and she’s never been satisfied since

  31. #31
    Cindy was definitely not a powerhouse....the best description of her voice I've ever heard is "Honey toned" ...she blended well, and her stage presence and look matched her sounded...she had a softness and gentleness that was uniquely hers....she is my favorite group soprano.

  32. #32
    When I think of how weak Motown grew in the 70s, the only consistent hits. Are from Stevie and Marvin - those who do their own stuff. Diana, Supremes, J5, Tempts, Tops, Gladys were all hit n miss. It’s so annoying for Mary to insinuate things were working against her when they could even get Ross’ debut to hit big. I wish A&S and Harvey had stayed - I think they could have helped JMC and Ross and the J5.

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMotownManiac View Post
    I disagree with most of these opinions.

    1) the new Supremes were not in any shadow. They came roaring out if the gate with a killer record on a killer Ed Sullivan debut that was plugged for a week for the first look at the new group. They succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. Their debut LP, Right On featured a pullout poster and contained 12 great cuts. Anticipation was so strong, it’s debut on Billboard at #37 was remarkable. In 3 weeks, it was #25! The public appeared to embrace the new group from the get-go. It then began to slip - unusual for such a strong start. It continued to slip even with the release of a second single. There were various ways to interpret this chart action, but it appeared that the album found little interest beyond Supremes fans as essential word of mouth seemed not there. The next album would tell us a lot more.

    ‘’EXAMPLE: The 4 Tops’ Still Waters LP - they hadn’t had a hit LP since 1967 and were considered toast until this came out containing the top 20 single Still Waters. No reason to expect this album to do much considering the previous showings - yet word of mouth made it a very good seller.

    support for an act can rarely be judged by single sales as folks generally buy a pop record they dig the sound of regardless of who the artist is. Up The Ladder spent one week in the top ten at #10 - a very good showing, but not a smash to survives it’s time span.

    When new Ways but love stays came out, it’s debut was an unimpressive #168 and eventually, on the strength of Stoned Love, it limped to #68 pop and #12 R&B - FAR below expectations considering the much bigger single it contained (#7 pop #1 R&B) and the direction to a more hip sound.
    Excuses such as LP title and cover are. Basically BS as they would not prevent fans from buying it. Covers are to lure the uninitiated - indicating many folks were unhappy with Right On. They numbers don’t lie and this us simply how the industry reads these numbers. The general public was not buying into the new group and many previous fans had split. The group was not getting concert bookings as they had previously and relied more and more on club dates instead of the lucrative one-nighters.

    Motown quickly responded by getting them on TV more and going with an even more progressive sound with Nathan Jones and a very hip looking LP cover for their third, Touch. It spent a few weeks at the bottom of the top 100 peaking for one week at #85 - dismal - and confirmation that they had not caught on with the public.

    Motown, clearly in a supportive move, dumped Frank Nelson and commissioned Smokey to try to get them on track and he successfully at least reversed the trend peaking at #56 with a top 20 and a top 40 releases. By this time, however, the fate of the new group was sealed as the live appearance bookings had slid considerably and the 3 year deal they struck at The Frontier in Vegas was not renewed. I’ve been told that they only got the gig if Diana signed also, I don’t know that to be true, but, they were dropped at the same time she moved to Caesars Palace.

    Blah Blah Blah Jimmy Webb, Bad Weather, no Jean, no Lynda. I don’t know what went on after that as far as promotion goes, but they did gave a giant blip in sales with High Energy that followed with the disaster Mary, Scherrie & Susaye.

    My point is that there is zero evidence Motown wanted the group to fail or did not promote them. It’s total BS that they didn’t send records to stations. Go to any used record store anywhere or eBay and you’ll see promo labels on their albums and singles with station markings and determinations. I personally have the second Stoned Love promo single on red vinyl with the longer version on the a side and radio edit on the b side. That occurred because stations were playing the album version. That means they got the album and Motown went to the expense and trouble to re-issue the single with both versions to DJ’s.

    folks like to quote Mary calling the Dj and being told he didn’t have Jimmy Webb. However, a few minutes later he played it. He didn’t “have” Jimmy Webb in the booth as it was not getting played, but it was in the library at the station in purgatory to see if it would eventually be needed or, if It would get tossed at irs pull date. I believe Motown serviced every station with every release - there are just way too many used promos out there.

    ‘it’s quite possible they did give up on the group somewhat after Jean left. I don’t know. But they were behind it until then - there’s proof. It just didn’t pan out - like 99% of all new groups don’t.
    A great encapsulation of the facts regarding an exhausted (and exhausting ...) subject. The 'New Supremes' were all over TV and radio for those first 2 years and Motown recorded an abundance of quality music (and great producers) with the group. Occam's Razor: Apres Jean, the public moved on.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by gman View Post

    I think some folks are missing the point that they didn't want another Hi Wattage Superstar in the group. The change plan included expanding Mary and Cindy's role and making the Supremes a group again...and it was accomplished.
    Yeah, I don't think Gordy was going for that when he hired Jean for the spot. But he had to have seen some magic in Jean on stage in order to have been interested in hiring her in the first place, especially at this point in the game when he was invested in things like stage presence. I can't imagine anyone at Motown expected another Ross.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMotownManiac View Post
    I disagree with most of these opinions.

    1) the new Supremes were not in any shadow.
    The new Supremes were never going to be able to do what Diana, Flo and Mary had done. I don't care how well received they were or could have ever been. They were not going to rack up 10 number one hits or have the cultural impact that the original trio had. I don't care if they hired Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight to replace Supremes, that group would always stand in the shadow cast by the most famous incarnation. It's like expecting replacement Beatles (and Ringo) to not sit in the shadow of the original four. There's no argument against Jean's Supremes being well received initially, but at their peak with Jean, their popularity couldn't touch their peak with Flo. And after everything the original trio did together, every grouping afterwards would be compared to and stand in the shadow of the original trio. Admittedly I'm a bit shocked to see an opinion arguing against this, and I'm shocked by little at what I read around here.

    As for promos, I don't believe fans are waking up in the morning and deciding to spread lies about not always being able to find the latest singles at their record store. Of all the things to lie about...

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by gman View Post
    Cindy was definitely not a powerhouse....the best description of her voice I've ever heard is "Honey toned" ...she blended well, and her stage presence and look matched her sounded...she had a softness and gentleness that was uniquely hers....she is my favorite group soprano.
    Cindy had a really nice ability to blend with Mary. She also blended well with Scherrie. She wasn't a lead singer IMO, but she received her training as a Bluebelle so she had to have some skills in the harmonizing department. There are some harmonious notes she hit during the DRATS period that were absolutely gorgeous.

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    First and foremost, there was more money to be made continuing as a headlining act, both for the group members and for Motown. I believe that was the deciding factor in Motown continuing the Supremes after Diana left.
    let's be honest. the real reason for keeping the Sups going was the potential negative backlash had M and C "retired" to allow Diana to go solo. the public perception would have killed Diana's possibilities for a career by herself. That's the #1 reason. sure continuing to reap money from the group's sales and tickets was a close second but it and all others are secondary at best

  38. #38
    Maniac - all excellent points. i don't think motown simply abandoned the group, although i do think the management of the group by motown was far from perfect. The girls did not handle the production of their lps, their release choices and schedules. these are all aspects of motown management that failed the group (and frankly most of motown's groups). their policy of filled lps with random tracks, overloading lps with cover tunes and playing it "safe" were out of step and out of date by the 70s.

    By the 70s Berry was very removed from the day to day operations of the music side of motown. he was totally focused on Diana and movies so he delegated these responsibilities to others. that's where things began to slip. Motown itself didn't transition properly to the new ways and, as a result, the group suffered

    Also the Supremes image was very dated by late 70 and into 71. they'd successfully evolved their sound with jean and made some baby steps to updating their image. but they were still glamour girls and pushing a cabaret-style act.

    In the Billboard magazines i'm researching now as i work on all of the chart history for the Sups (i'm currently at Feb 69) there's a marked difference between the DMF era and later. frankly the DRATS image was totally out of step with the younger generation. Sure Love Child was wildly successful but that was such a token gesture (although an amazing song and record). There are annual issues by Billboard focusing on the college scene and by the DRATS era, they were really not relevant with this segment of the buyers. Their lps were nothing like the others being released at the time. With Jean coming on board, they should have worked to regain this audience.

  39. #39
    The Supremes after Diana Ross were absolutely terrific and maintained quality even with changes in personnel. It was harder to find their music after the first year or so. The second single went to #21 because it was a sing a long much like Ross' first single Reach Out, which fared about the same going to #20. Jean's voice stood out and it was distinctive, sounding like a cross between Ross and Dionne Warwick. Had Motown pushed them like they did when Diana Ross was there, it would have been a happier outcome with longevity. DRATS also had some sporadic chart action that was saved by Love Child,I'm Gonna make You Love Me and Someday. Ross had sporadic chart action, as well. But the difference is both ended up with #1 singles in between which kept the momentum going. Gordy reportedly didn't like Stoned Love and it had an unfounded drug connotation in its misprinted title.Had Stoned Love really been pushed to #1, the new Supremes would have had momentum. Jean was great on record, but her stage presence on television did not come over as well. She seemed nervous or uncomfortable. Both Mary and Cindy (especially Mary) seemed to kick up their stage presence by being more vivacious then they had prior. Jean seemed more relaxed during the Lynda years but by then the group had another replacement and each chart action was falling progressively lower. Motown was focused on making movies. The Supremes had been the #1 female group in the country and even if Ross was the priority, they mishandled the group by not engineering their presence as they did when Ross was on board. Sure, they were on television, but to what means? They were no longer presented as the top group but as a new one just promoting their latest song, which had minimal airplay(I almost screamed as a teen when I heard Automatically Sunshine on the radio ONCE and the next song I heard was I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking). Once Jean left, it was obvious Motown wanted the group to retire and if it weren't for Mary it would have been gone. Mary brought back Cindy, so recognizable as a Supreme and found a new and exciting voice in Scherrie Payne. They had the looks and the sound with Scherrie and Mary providing great leads. They had the glamour faction, which was perfect for the oncoming disco era and yet Motown didn't see how they had the group, its name, its glamour and one that could actually go into this new era and be a top force-although, Motown was late to the game with disco. Granted, visually the group looked terrific, vocally they were fresh and dynamic but I agree the dance routines during the last 2 eras were a bit much and they needed better direction to incorporate it. Payne, like Wilson and Birdsong , had stage presence and star quality. Once Birdsong left again to be replaced by Susaye Greene-they had 3 lead singers that sounded amazing on record. By this time, even with a top 40 hit(which should have gone top 10-how could Motown not have pushed it big time?) the group was far from a priority at Motown. I think Motown decided once Ross left that the group would just trade on its name and they would just make their money from that and did not look at the group as continuing as a viable current presence-just one that would be marketed to capitalize on its past. Motown could have pushed Stoned Love to #1 and I'm Gonna Let My Heart to the top 10 easily. Motown's attention was elsewhere. I do not blame Jean for lacking Ross' presence, Mary for trying to get Motown to push the group, Ross for leaving as her career was spotty at times-it was Motown no longer understanding the possibilities of what the new Supremes were. It is to the credit of Mary, Jean, Cindy, Lynda, Scherrie and Susaye that their shear talent and will achieved the success that they did.

  40. #40
    Motown undervalued the Supremes in the 70s, just as it did the entire company. How else can you explain Motown being sold in 1988 for $61 million, only to have it re-sold three years later in 1991 for $330 million, five times a much?!

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Yeah, I don't think Gordy was going for that when he hired Jean for the spot. But he had to have seen some magic in Jean on stage in order to have been interested in hiring her in the first place, especially at this point in the game when he was invested in things like stage presence. I can't imagine anyone at Motown expected another Ross.
    I totally agree he saw Jean’s great talent and hoped it would suffice. Berry had seen it all and knew that the public likes what it likes period. You do your best and it’s out if your hands. I’m sure he hoped to keep the cash coming in with the new grouping. The Supremes were an institution and it seemed they always would be, but it didn’t happen.
    ‘I’m sure he didn’t expect another Ross - just a different goose to lay golden eggs.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by jim aka jtigre99 View Post
    The Supremes after Diana Ross were absolutely terrific and maintained quality even with changes in personnel. It was harder to find their music after the first year or so. The second single went to #21 because it was a sing a long much like Ross' first single Reach Out, which fared about the same going to #20. Jean's voice stood out and it was distinctive, sounding like a cross between Ross and Dionne Warwick. Had Motown pushed them like they did when Diana Ross was there, it would have been a happier outcome with longevity. DRATS also had some sporadic chart action that was saved by Love Child,I'm Gonna make You Love Me and Someday. Ross had sporadic chart action, as well. But the difference is both ended up with #1 singles in between which kept the momentum going. Gordy reportedly didn't like Stoned Love and it had an unfounded drug connotation in its misprinted title.Had Stoned Love really been pushed to #1, the new Supremes would have had momentum. Jean was great on record, but her stage presence on television did not come over as well. She seemed nervous or uncomfortable. Both Mary and Cindy (especially Mary) seemed to kick up their stage presence by being more vivacious then they had prior. Jean seemed more relaxed during the Lynda years but by then the group had another replacement and each chart action was falling progressively lower. Motown was focused on making movies. The Supremes had been the #1 female group in the country and even if Ross was the priority, they mishandled the group by not engineering their presence as they did when Ross was on board. Sure, they were on television, but to what means? They were no longer presented as the top group but as a new one just promoting their latest song, which had minimal airplay(I almost screamed as a teen when I heard Automatically Sunshine on the radio ONCE and the next song I heard was I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking). Once Jean left, it was obvious Motown wanted the group to retire and if it weren't for Mary it would have been gone. Mary brought back Cindy, so recognizable as a Supreme and found a new and exciting voice in Scherrie Payne. They had the looks and the sound with Scherrie and Mary providing great leads. They had the glamour faction, which was perfect for the oncoming disco era and yet Motown didn't see how they had the group, its name, its glamour and one that could actually go into this new era and be a top force-although, Motown was late to the game with disco. Granted, visually the group looked terrific, vocally they were fresh and dynamic but I agree the dance routines during the last 2 eras were a bit much and they needed better direction to incorporate it. Payne, like Wilson and Birdsong , had stage presence and star quality. Once Birdsong left again to be replaced by Susaye Greene-they had 3 lead singers that sounded amazing on record. By this time, even with a top 40 hit(which should have gone top 10-how could Motown not have pushed it big time?) the group was far from a priority at Motown. I think Motown decided once Ross left that the group would just trade on its name and they would just make their money from that and did not look at the group as continuing as a viable current presence-just one that would be marketed to capitalize on its past. Motown could have pushed Stoned Love to #1 and I'm Gonna Let My Heart to the top 10 easily. Motown's attention was elsewhere. I do not blame Jean for lacking Ross' presence, Mary for trying to get Motown to push the group, Ross for leaving as her career was spotty at times-it was Motown no longer understanding the possibilities of what the new Supremes were. It is to the credit of Mary, Jean, Cindy, Lynda, Scherrie and Susaye that their shear talent and will achieved the success that they did.
    you don’t “push” records to number one or all records would be number one. If all a record needed was “push” Ross’ debut would have been #1 for a year. Promotion can only get a record played - it cannot make folks go out and buy it.

  43. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMotownManiac View Post
    you don’t “push” records to number one or all records would be number one. If all a record needed was “push” Ross’ debut would have been #1 for a year. Promotion can only get a record played - it cannot make folks go out and buy it.
    And AMEN to that!! To whit: Pia Zadora, Jobriath, and too many others to mention. 'It wasn't promoted properly' is the FAKE NEWS!!! of low-selling recording artists.

  44. #44
    The goal post was moved. It’s not that they weren’t pushed/promoted. That has been debunked. It’s said that the records weren’t available to purchase at record stores.

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by khansperac View Post
    The goal post was moved. It’s not that they weren’t pushed/promoted. That has been debunked. It’s said that the records weren’t available to purchase at record stores.
    That should be debunked too. Motown was independently distributed at the time, and in the NY Metro area, Motown was distributed by Alpha Distributors. At least in this area, there was never a problem getting any Motown product, including the Seventies Supremes. If a record store did not have the latest record by the Supremes, it was not Motown's fault or Alpha's fault. It was a store decision made by the store manager, or store buyer not to carry the product. In my opinion, not a very wise decision. The Supremes may have not been selling millions of records anymore, but a new release by them was still bringing customers into local stores. If a local store did not have it, they lost a sale, and probably a customer.

    There never was a problem of not being able to find a new Supreme release in our local stores. Motown is not to blame.

  46. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by khansperac View Post
    The goal post was moved. It’s not that they weren’t pushed/promoted. That has been debunked. It’s said that the records weren’t available to purchase at record stores.
    record store buyers decide what they stock. In order to get iffy product into stores, They received incentives from record companies to be able to return a percentage of singles, and, to a lesser extent, albums.
    No record company had the power to put product into stores and there are laws pertaining to same much like the movie industry lost the ability to exhibit their own films. If a record was not in stores, it’s because the stores didn’t want the record. If they didn’t want the record, it’s cos they feared getting stuck with it. That’s just how it was.
    ‘I had to drive a hundred miles into ST. Louis to buy I Should Be Proud - it’s the only Motown record I ever wanted that I had to go to St Louis for.

  47. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    That's a great idea in theory. Very interesting one. However, a couple things work against it.

    First and foremost, there was more money to be made continuing as a headlining act, both for the group members and for Motown. I believe that was the deciding factor in Motown continuing the Supremes after Diana left. And judging by how often they worked, both on television and stage, it was still a lucrative gig. I can't believe that Mary and Cindy would've ever made more money as hired (and promoted) background singers for any act, rock or not.

    Secondly, Mary and Cindy's sound. They would've still needed to add a third voice. Flo and Mary were background powerhouses when they were on top of their game. There is a clear change in sound when Cindy replaces Flo. Cindy's voice was much softer, dare I say even sweeter, than Florence's, and when paired with Mary's, the background is void of the bombastic and energetic sound that was present when Flo was in the group. When DRATS would do the standards and stuff like that, like on the Fats Waller medley, Cindy and Mary's sweet harmonies were perfect. IMO that sound didn't transition as well to their pop/r&b stuff, and thus it is difficult for me to imagine their sound being compatible with 70s rock. Now had they added a third voice to the group for this concept, it's possible that might have worked. I could definitely hear Mary and Cindy with Scherrie excelling in your scenario. But there's still the issue of which situation held the best financial payoff.

    As a side note, I once suggested in the forum that Mary might have done better after leaving Motown by becoming an in demand session singer. Her abilities as a first rate background singer (not to be scoffed at, even though some folks do) being hired as an in demand backing vocalist might have been more to her advantage than singing Supremes songs as a living. Perhaps by working so closely with top talent during the 80s, she may have been able to parlay that into interest of producing something of quality for her solo work. My idea was dismissed.
    Was there more money to be made, though? In the short term, maybe, but in the long term I think not. The problem was at Berry was never going to let the 70s Supremes overshadow Diana. I keep thinking about Tony Turner’s rather trashy but at times insightful book: he remarked how after Diana left, the staging got smaller, the costumes got cheaper, the entourage got smaller, the limousines disappeared, etc.

    The problem was the 70s Supremes were always going to have to compete with both being relegated to Diana’s shadow, and of course their 60s legacy chasing them. Equalling or beating their 60s success was never going to be achievable.

    if I had been Mary, I would have realised this in 1969 and given up, and carved out a niche for myself as a background singer. Hence our mutual idea. Royalties from singing background on the Stones’ Sticky Fingers? Yes, please!
    Last edited by grangertim; 01-23-2020 at 07:05 AM.

  48. #48
    while it's true that record companies can't "put" records into stores, they can certainly provide the promotional material to draw attention to releases and artists. The missing info none of us have is the annual promotional and marketing budgets allocated to the supremes as recording artists, year by year.

    trade magazine ads
    pre-recorded radio spots
    touring and visits to top market dj and radio programmers for on-air interviews
    in-store display stands
    posters, stickers, other instore materials
    press conferences
    promotional appearances at industry trade shows/conventions
    outdoor media space
    etc

    like any corporation, motown had an annual budget that was divided between departments, one being promotion and marketing. then this dept would take that and divide it among groups and/or by month. as releases were being prepared, these teams would do their work at preparing campaigns to support releases. if an artist wasn't forecast to generate a huge amount of sales, then rightfully their promotional budget wouldn't be as much.

    since we don't have this info, we have to simply go on what we can gather. in 70 and some of 71, it appears that the volume being spent on the girls was similar to DRATS years or, at the least, DFM years. as public perception cooled, money appears to have been decreased, i'm guessing.

  49. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by grangertim View Post
    Was there more money to be made, though? In the short term, maybe, but in the long term I think not. The problem was at Berry was never going to let the 70s Supremes overshadow Diana. I keep thinking about Tony Turner’s rather trashy but at times insightful book: he remarked how after Diana left, the staging got smaller, the costumes got cheaper, the entourage got smaller, the limousines disappeared, etc.

    The problem was the 70s Supremes were always going to have to compete with both being relegated to Diana’s shadow, and of course their 60s legacy chasing them. Equalling or beating their 60s success was never going to be achievable.

    if I had been Mary, I would have realised this in 1969 and given up, and carved out a niche for myself as a background singer. Hence our mutual idea. Royalties from singing background on the Stones’ Sticky Fingers? Yes, please!
    very valid. and i agree, while overall Tony's book is a (funny) piece of hot mess, there are some generalities that are probably true

    the 70s supremes were definitely in their former shadow and, while they did a bit a first, they didn't push enough to redefine themselves. they were sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. their die-hard fans wanted them as bubbly glamour girls while the general public had tired of that. they needed to evolve from the sequins, MOR songs and kitsch.

    as for the gowns, it appears that things began tapering off during the Lynda era. during the ~2 years with MJC, they had 18 or so new outfits. that's pretty much in line with the DRATS era which had about 10 or so new outfits a year.

    with Lynda, it appears they were trying to change their image a bit - there's the wild red floral gown worn with the Temps in LA, the chiffon gowns from kate smith and the deep burgundy gowns on flip wilson Lean On Me. whether or not these were successful looks is certainly open to debate but it seems they were working on a look that was a little less plastic.

  50. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by grangertim View Post
    Was there more money to be made, though? In the short term, maybe, but in the long term I think not. The problem was at Berry was never going to let the 70s Supremes overshadow Diana. I keep thinking about Tony Turner’s rather trashy but at times insightful book: he remarked how after Diana left, the staging got smaller, the costumes got cheaper, the entourage got smaller, the limousines disappeared, etc.

    The problem was the 70s Supremes were always going to have to compete with both being relegated to Diana’s shadow, and of course their 60s legacy chasing them. Equalling or beating their 60s success was never going to be achievable.

    if I had been Mary, I would have realised this in 1969 and given up, and carved out a niche for myself as a background singer. Hence our mutual idea. Royalties from singing background on the Stones’ Sticky Fingers? Yes, please!
    Yeah, I think there was more money to be made. Keep in mind that there was every expectation that the Supremes with Jean could succeed, and succeed long term. The first handful of singles were legit hits, two majorly so. What happened next had to come as a surprise to everyone. My personal opinion is that the song choice and not going far enough with a new image were the group's biggest obstacles. With the best of the best songs and with a new, yet still Supreme image, that group could've carried on as a household name on the merits of what was accomplished with Jean, as opposed to being a household name because of what was accomplished with Diana and Flo. So with that in mind, ending the group because of Diana's exit and renting them out as backing vocalists would not have made much sense upon Diana's exit, interesting scenario that it is. Now, perhaps this idea would've been more plausible after Jean and Lynda left and were replaced by Cindy and Scherrie. The new grouping was together more than a year without a contract, so maybe had Mary had the vision you have, she might have done well to consider the idea.

    When it comes to Gordy, I also have to disagree. I don't think Gordy cared one way or the other about the Supremes once Diana left. I don't believe he wished them to fail, and once Diana did become a success with "Aint No Mountain High Enough", I don't believe for one moment that he feared the Supremes without her would be bigger than she is as a solo. Do I believe that he held some fear that the group would be bigger than Diana between "Ladder" and "Mountain"? Sure. I think he's said as much. Or maybe someone in a book or something said he said it. Either way, I get that fear. Gordy placed all his bets on Diana as a Supreme, believing it would pay off with her solo career. Had it not been rewarded, all that time and energy would've been for naught. But Gordy's focus was indeed Diana. If Mary's story is accurate, he washed his hands of the group. Even if that story is exaggerated or straight up false, by every account Gordy barely thought about the Supremes after Diana left. He barely thought about any act, except for Diana, the J5, and maybe to some lesser extents, Stevie and Marvin. Everyone else at Motown was delegated to the command of someone else. But never do I ever think Gordy wished failure or orchestrated failure for the Supremes. Nor do I believe he mandated any type of edict that barred the Supremes from receiving the royal treatment. If the group wasn't getting the royal treatment as before, I suspect that was someone else's doing, which wasn't necessarily personal, but maybe a business move for whatever reason.

    Btw, I was so tempted to block you for inserting the name of Tall Tales Turner in what was an otherwise intelligent conversation. (Joking)

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