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  1. #1

    Question The 70's Supremes & Television

    Just pondering something-The Supremes & Temptations were the first Motown acts to headline their own television specials, yet in the 70's they did not headline their own specials unlike Diana Ross, The Temptations, The Jackson 5 or Smokey Robinson. Yet, the 70's Supremes seemed to guest star on more variety shows than the other Motown acts. I wonder why they never had their own special. I wonder what your opinions are. Mine is that although they were great as guest stars, they proved adept enough in comedy skits but not enough for a special maybe. Diana Ross certainly had the charisma to host but honestly Jean was a much better singer but did not have the charisma to be a host or spotlight in a special. Mary Wilson acquired a bubbly personality at the time and she would have been the best suited then to do hosting,etc. but how would that look to have her and even Cindy outshining Jean in a special(except for singing)? I read Mary's books and they wanted to do a weekly series or special but they never did. Jean was serviceable in the variety shows but Mary was the one who stood out more. What do you all think, what are your opinions?

  2. #2
    I think the reason Motown did not produce The Supremes' own television special in the 70s is that Berry Gordy Jr. washed his hands of the group. They were capable of hosting their own special. Later on, they hosted their individual concerts and were wonderful. Motown was letting their records slip, so I hardly think they would turn around and invest in a television special starring the group. I don't recall the Temptations having a television special in the 70s. I definitely remember the one in 1969.

  3. #3
    I also remember Gladys Knight & The Pips having their own summer replacement variety series on television.

  4. #4
    When Berry moved the entire company to LA and moved into the TV special/movie realm, there were certain people and acts on his roster that he was set on keeping aboard and others who got left behind. The 70's Supremes were unfortunately in the boat that would be left behind. Martha wrote about Motown's relocation to LA in her book and says she was still under contract to Motown, but was not informed of the move. She was on a temporary personal leave around that time and when she came back ready to work, she basically showed up at the building in Detroit, only to find out that everyone was gone. Diana Ross was Berry's top priority at that time, followed by the Tempts and the Jackson 5. Smokey also had a close connection to Berry, being VP of Motown, so he and his group also got the promotional push and thus, the benefit of having their own TV special. Others like the 70's Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, etc. ... not so much.

  5. #5
    Berry had arranged for a 3-show deal with one of the networks (was it NBC?). The deal produced TCB, GIT and then one more. i've never been sure if the third was the Temps show or Diana!

    There are basically 6 motown specials - TCB, GIT, Temp show, Diana!, Going back to IN and Smokey. Stevie never had one, Marvin never had one. So i'm not totally shocked that the 70s Sups didn't have their own.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    Berry had arranged for a 3-show deal with one of the networks (was it NBC?). The deal produced TCB, GIT and then one more. i've never been sure if the third was the Temps show or Diana!

    There are basically 6 motown specials - TCB, GIT, Temp show, Diana!, Going back to IN and Smokey. Stevie never had one, Marvin never had one. So i'm not totally shocked that the 70s Sups didn't have their own.
    The Temptations special was syndicated. There were 100s of artists that did not have television specials.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    Berry had arranged for a 3-show deal with one of the networks (was it NBC?). The deal produced TCB, GIT and then one more. i've never been sure if the third was the Temps show or Diana!

    There are basically 6 motown specials - TCB, GIT, Temp show, Diana!, Going back to IN and Smokey. Stevie never had one, Marvin never had one. So i'm not totally shocked that the 70s Sups didn't have their own.
    Only TCB and GIT aired on NBC, and both were co-produced by Motown Productions and Schlatter/Friendly Productions. DIANA!, THE SMOKEY ROBINSON SHOW, and GOIN' BACK TO INDIANA aired on ABC. THE TEMPTATIONS SHOW was syndicated, I believe.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    Stevie never had one, Marvin never had one. So i'm not totally shocked that the 70s Sups didn't have their own.
    Stevie and Marvin weren't/aren't really the Las Vegas tap-dancin' Broadway types. By the late 60's/early 70's, their priority was fighting for their own musical/creative freedoms. The last thing they would have wanted was a TV special like TCB or GIT.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    Stevie and Marvin weren't/aren't really the Las Vegas tap-dancin' Broadway types. By the late 60's/early 70's, their priority was fighting for their own musical/creative freedoms. The last thing they would have wanted was a TV special like TCB or GIT.
    You are totally correct Carlo.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    Stevie and Marvin weren't/aren't really the Las Vegas tap-dancin' Broadway types. By the late 60's/early 70's, their priority was fighting for their own musical/creative freedoms. The last thing they would have wanted was a TV special like TCB or GIT.
    completely agree - i've read that Motown was interested in developing specials but that concepts couldn't be agreed upon. I.E. stevie and marvin had no interest lol

  11. #11
    I read that there was supposed to be a special called "The Marveleous World of Marvin Gaye" (or something like that) and it was to be sponsored by Kodak. The sponsorship seems to suggest the idea must have been given some serious thought.

    I wonder what Marvin's objections might have been? Considering it was his original desire to be a crooner of standards, it seems like he wouldn't have a problem singing those alongside his hits like the Supremes or Tempts did on their specials.

    But in all honesty, I don't see Marvin being a host or carrying a variety special. Maybe a concert special on HBO or something. And to be even more honest, the ones I've seen on him in the 70s like the special MIDNIGHT SPECIAL episode devoted or some of his later foreign concerts, bored me.

  12. #12
    It is a shame that Stevie Wonder didn't have a special due to his genius with concepts, the television special could possibly have been wonderful or at the very least interesting. I agree that Marvin may not have been as good for a special. I still wonder why the Supremes were so abandoned. Yes, Diana Ross and the jackson 5 had the specials and Smokey and the Tempts, but still the Supremes were guest stars more often on variety shows than the other acts. I still contend that Jean just did not have the charisma for hosting, even if Mary(especially) and Cindy were quite adept in their skills. So, yes, Motown left behind those artists but since the Supremes were still the major guest stars on variety shows (excluding Carol Burnett) such as Glen Campbell, Flip Wilson,Ed Sullivan,Tom Jones,Andy Williams, Mike Douglas,Merv Griffin,Tonight Show,Sammy Davis,Bob Hope,Kate Smith,Sonny & Cher that they still were featured more as guests compared to all of the others left behind. When Berry washed his hands of the group he did so as far as company backing since the group seemed to appear more frequently on tv yet their status in the company and for a company backed special waned very quickly.

  13. #13
    Yes, Jim, the 70's Supremes initially guested on a lot of shows, but as you mentioned, they lost the company backing, hence no company-produced special. The amount of work it takes to book an act on a show like Flip Wilson is very different from the work it takes to put together an entire TV special focused on that act. I think Berry always wanted ensure that going forward, Diana Ross would always come out ahead of the new Supremes. Giving them that platform of a TV special could possibly put them ahead and distract the public from his strategic plan, which was to make Diana Ross the leading star. It would have looked bad on her if the very group that she left, would go on to consistently out-sell her. It was unfortunate, but yes, the 70's Supremes received less attention and promotion compared to Ms Ross. It was part of the natural progression of Motown's business strategy, at the end of the day. It wouldn't have been logical for things to have occurred any other way, especially with the intent of going into film-making. You spend your time training one horse, so to speak, and put them into the race. Perhaps someone at one point did suggest to Berry, "Hey, let's do a tv special on the new Supremes" and I can't imagine his response would have been anything different other than a passive one, such as, "Oh we don't have the time." I don't know if he ever wanted the 70's Supremes to fail miserably, but he definitely always wanted to ensure they stayed one step behind Diana, much like Mary and Flo, and later Cindy, when Diana was in the group.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    Yes, Jim, the 70's Supremes initially guested on a lot of shows, but as you mentioned, they lost the company backing, hence no company-produced special. The amount of work it takes to book an act on a show like Flip Wilson is very different from the work it takes to put together an entire TV special focused on that act. I think Berry always wanted ensure that going forward, Diana Ross would always come out ahead of the new Supremes. Giving them that platform of a TV special could possibly put them ahead and distract the public from his strategic plan, which was to make Diana Ross the leading star. It would have looked bad on her if the very group that she left, would go on to consistently out-sell her. It was unfortunate, but yes, the 70's Supremes received less attention and promotion compared to Ms Ross. It was part of the natural progression of Motown's business strategy, at the end of the day. It wouldn't have been logical for things to have occurred any other way, especially with the intent of going into film-making. You spend your time training one horse, so to speak, and put them into the race. Perhaps someone at one point did suggest to Berry, "Hey, let's do a tv special on the new Supremes" and I can't imagine his response would have been anything different other than a passive one, such as, "Oh we don't have the time." I don't know if he ever wanted the 70's Supremes to fail miserably, but he definitely always wanted to ensure they stayed one step behind Diana, much like Mary and Flo, and later Cindy, when Diana was in the group.
    Looking closely at all those TV show appearances, I think Cindy Birdsong would have also made a great actress. Once again Carlo, you did a great explaining "things". Thank you!

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by jim aka jtigre99 View Post
    It is a shame that Stevie Wonder didn't have a special due to his genius with concepts, the television special could possibly have been wonderful or at the very least interesting. I agree that Marvin may not have been as good for a special. I still wonder why the Supremes were so abandoned. Yes, Diana Ross and the jackson 5 had the specials and Smokey and the Tempts, but still the Supremes were guest stars more often on variety shows than the other acts. I still contend that Jean just did not have the charisma for hosting, even if Mary(especially) and Cindy were quite adept in their skills. So, yes, Motown left behind those artists but since the Supremes were still the major guest stars on variety shows (excluding Carol Burnett) such as Glen Campbell, Flip Wilson,Ed Sullivan,Tom Jones,Andy Williams, Mike Douglas,Merv Griffin,Tonight Show,Sammy Davis,Bob Hope,Kate Smith,Sonny & Cher that they still were featured more as guests compared to all of the others left behind. When Berry washed his hands of the group he did so as far as company backing since the group seemed to appear more frequently on tv yet their status in the company and for a company backed special waned very quickly.
    Did the Supremes in the 1970s even want a television special?

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    Yes, Jim, the 70's Supremes initially guested on a lot of shows, but as you mentioned, they lost the company backing, hence no company-produced special. The amount of work it takes to book an act on a show like Flip Wilson is very different from the work it takes to put together an entire TV special focused on that act. I think Berry always wanted ensure that going forward, Diana Ross would always come out ahead of the new Supremes. Giving them that platform of a TV special could possibly put them ahead and distract the public from his strategic plan, which was to make Diana Ross the leading star. It would have looked bad on her if the very group that she left, would go on to consistently out-sell her. It was unfortunate, but yes, the 70's Supremes received less attention and promotion compared to Ms Ross. It was part of the natural progression of Motown's business strategy, at the end of the day. It wouldn't have been logical for things to have occurred any other way, especially with the intent of going into film-making. You spend your time training one horse, so to speak, and put them into the race. Perhaps someone at one point did suggest to Berry, "Hey, let's do a tv special on the new Supremes" and I can't imagine his response would have been anything different other than a passive one, such as, "Oh we don't have the time." I don't know if he ever wanted the 70's Supremes to fail miserably, but he definitely always wanted to ensure they stayed one step behind Diana, much like Mary and Flo, and later Cindy, when Diana was in the group.
    given the corny skits and jokes that were common at the time, wouldn't it have been fun if the 70s Sups stopped by on Diana! lolol apparently she recorded a supremes medley which was cut. but imagine if they did some goofy skit and suddenly there's a knock at the door. Diana answers it and in come MJC!! they could trade off the typical nonsense jokes and then sing a medley. Maybe a medley of Someday and Ladder. Then together sing Reach Out and Touch but use both the waltz version of Diana's and the 4/4 version of the Sup/Tops duet.

    pipe dreams

  17. #17
    Love that dreamed-up comedy sequence, sup_fan!

  18. #18
    Wasn't there a MSC special in '74 aired in Japan? I saw a performance featuring Stoned Love, Bad Weather and Touch...and a finale of Love Train. There was the same hits medley of New Hits done with Jean on the Live In Japan LP and an older hits medley, that was still too fast but not as bad as the Susaye lineup speedway version. Cindy got to lead Where Did Our Love Go? and had a nice solo spot in Love Train

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by gman View Post
    Wasn't there a MSC special in '74 aired in Japan? I saw a performance featuring Stoned Love, Bad Weather and Touch...and a finale of Love Train. There was the same hits medley of New Hits done with Jean on the Live In Japan LP and an older hits medley, that was still too fast but not as bad as the Susaye lineup speedway version. Cindy got to lead Where Did Our Love Go? and had a nice solo spot in Love Train
    Yes and it was supposed to air here in America as a part of the "Wide World of Entertainment", but the tapes got destroyed or something.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by gman View Post
    Wasn't there a MSC special in '74 aired in Japan? I saw a performance featuring Stoned Love, Bad Weather and Touch...and a finale of Love Train. There was the same hits medley of New Hits done with Jean on the Live In Japan LP and an older hits medley, that was still too fast but not as bad as the Susaye lineup speedway version. Cindy got to lead Where Did Our Love Go? and had a nice solo spot in Love Train
    yes - they did a Japanese tv special. According to Mary's book, there was some talk about broadcasting it here in the states. but not sure how true that is. Most of the clips have been/maybe still are on youtube. It was also floating around fan bootlegs for quite a while. it's a pretty good show actually. Touch is an interesting one as they take the first part very slow and sultry. then at the bridge it really picks up.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    yes - they did a Japanese tv special. According to Mary's book, there was some talk about broadcasting it here in the states. but not sure how true that is. Most of the clips have been/maybe still are on youtube. It was also floating around fan bootlegs for quite a while. it's a pretty good show actually. Touch is an interesting one as they take the first part very slow and sultry. then at the bridge it really picks up.
    That show was more of a filmed concert than a variety special, here is that clip of "Touch"

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by jim aka jtigre99 View Post
    That show was more of a filmed concert than a variety special, here is that clip of "Touch"
    Thanks for posting. A beautiful arrangement of a classic song. Both Mary and Scherrie sound in great vocal form. I really enjoyed it.

  23. #23
    I think that Mary had wanted to do less touring at the time because she felt they were getting older, marrying and having children that not being on the road would give them more stability. Both Mary and Cindy were quite adept at acting, performing skits and hosting. Jean seemed a little reserved but loosened up a bit when Lynda joined. Scherrie also was quite capable of projecting what would be needed. During that time, Sonny & Cher and Tony Orlando & Dawn had weekly TV shows along with Glen Campbell and Jim Nabors. Even a syndicated special would have been nice but, yes, the plan was to show how unique and indespensable Miss Ross was and the Supremes may have been put on as guests but that was as far as the Motown machinery was going to go. Didn't Berry Gordy tell Mary that he & Diana were going to make it and Mary said I am, too, and he responded that they were going to fly and she would have to go door to door. Truly, Motown was never going to promote them anywhere near what they had before because Berry was truly focused on Diana. A shame for the Supremes and many of the other acts.

  24. #24
    Just a lovely performance. Love Touch!

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by jim aka jtigre99 View Post
    I think that Mary had wanted to do less touring at the time because she felt they were getting older, marrying and having children that not being on the road would give them more stability. Both Mary and Cindy were quite adept at acting, performing skits and hosting. Jean seemed a little reserved but loosened up a bit when Lynda joined. Scherrie also was quite capable of projecting what would be needed. During that time, Sonny & Cher and Tony Orlando & Dawn had weekly TV shows along with Glen Campbell and Jim Nabors. Even a syndicated special would have been nice but, yes, the plan was to show how unique and indespensable Miss Ross was and the Supremes may have been put on as guests but that was as far as the Motown machinery was going to go. Didn't Berry Gordy tell Mary that he & Diana were going to make it and Mary said I am, too, and he responded that they were going to fly and she would have to go door to door. Truly, Motown was never going to promote them anywhere near what they had before because Berry was truly focused on Diana. A shame for the Supremes and many of the other acts.
    I totally agree. Being signed to the same record company who’s boss is the boyfriend of your former lead singer would always put the group at some disadvantage.
    Berry of course was determined to make Diana a global superstar. There is no way in hell he would have allowed her former singing partners to eclipse her popularity in giving them their own tv special.
    Diana for her part had the talent, discipline and dedication to bring his/her plan to fruition.
    Had the group been allowed to keep the name Supremes and moved to another company, things might have proved very different.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by jim aka jtigre99 View Post
    So, yes, Motown left behind those artists but since the Supremes were still the major guest stars on variety shows (excluding Carol Burnett) such as Glen Campbell, Flip Wilson,Ed Sullivan,Tom Jones,Andy Williams, Mike Douglas,Merv Griffin,Tonight Show,Sammy Davis,Bob Hope,Kate Smith,Sonny & Cher that they still were featured more as guests compared to all of the others left behind.
    Jim, I don't think i realized until you wrote this that none of the Motown acts ever appeared on The Carol Burnett Show. I wonder why that was....

  27. #27
    From the Carol Burnette Show

  28. #28

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