Vocalist and Founding Member of The Supremes
Ms. Mary Wilson still performs with the same passion as she did singing with the original Supremes, but the world renowned celebrity is now using her fame and flair to promote humanitarian efforts to end hunger, raise AIDS awareness and encourage world peace. While Ms. Wilson is best known as a founding member of the…
Ms. Mary Wilson still performs with the same passion as she did singing with the original Supremes, but the world renowned celebrity is now using her fame and flair to promote humanitarian efforts to end hunger, raise AIDS awareness and encourage world peace.
While Ms. Wilson is best known as a founding member of the world’s most famous female trio – they recorded 12 No.1 hits from 1964 to 1969 – the legendary singer’s career did not stop there, and she continues to soar to untold heights.
Ms. Wilson is a best-selling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, the recipient of an Associate Degree from New York University in 2001, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. In 2007, Ms. Wilson was named international spokeswoman for the Humpty Dumpty Institute, a platform she uses to condemn the death and destruction caused by hidden landmines and unexploded ordnances in less developed countries.
Interest in the Supremes’ legacy was renewed after the release of the award-winning film “Dreamgirls,” in 2006. While the film created a wonderful piece of work using the likeness of the Supremes, as well as their history, Ms. Wilson said it did not depict their true story.
The true story began nearly 50 years ago when Ms. Wilson started singing as a teenager while living in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Projects. Performing at an elementary school talent showcase, she befriended Florence Ballard. They made a pledge to remember each other if they joined a singing group. The opportunity came in 1959 when Milton Jenkins, the manager of a male singing group, the Primes, decided to organize a spin-off girls’ group. A friend of the Primes, Betty McGlown, was the first person asked, and then Florence Ballard, who invited Ms. Wilson. One of the Primes, Paul Williams, recruited Diane Ross, who just happened to be a neighbor of Ms. Wilson’s, to round out the quartet ‘The Primettes’. After doing many rock and roll DJ shows around the Detroit area, performing songs by popular artists, such as Ray Charles and the drifters, at sock hops, social clubs and talent shows, the Primettes decided to audition for the up and coming Motown record company. Unfortunately Mr. Gordy told them to come back and see him after they all graduated from high school.
Determined to leave an impression on Motown President, Berry Gordy, Jr., and join the stable of rising Motown stars, the Primettes frequented his Hitsville, USA recording studio every day after school. Eventually, they convinced Mr. Gordy to sign them to his label. Much to their surprise Paul Williams and another ’Prime’ member Eddie Kendricks, had joined Otis William & the ’Distants’ to become members of the ‘Temptations’.
Although Gordy signed the girls to his label- it was under one condition, that they changed their name of the group. At this time Betty had left the group and was replaced with Barbara Martin. On January 15th 1961 the Primettes officially became The Supremes. On the day of the signing when Gordy asked them for their new name Florence was the only one who had collected a list of names from her family and friends and chose the ‘Supremes’.
In the spring of 1962, after regarding a few songs for their first album, Barbara Martin left the group to start a family. Thus the newly named Supremes continued as a trio; which to this day remains one of their trademark signatures.
The SupremesFrom 1961 to 1963, the Supremes recorded many songs and released eight singles. At Motown the Supremes were jokingly referred to as the “no-hit Supremes.” But their fate changed dramatically in late 1963 when the song “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes,” written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, peaked at number 23 on the Billboard pop chart. The next year, the Supremes released the single “Where Did Our Love Go,” which reached number one on the U.S. pop charts in August 1964 and number three in the United Kingdom. After that hit, the Supremes released four more number one hits, including: “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again,” making them the only group to have five consecutive number one hits.Their success attracted promotional opportunities.
The Supremes were one of the first pop groups of the 1960’s to do commercial endorsements. They endorsed Coca-Cola, Arrid deodorant, and they had their own “Supreme” white bread and brand of wigs.The Temptations and the Supremes regarded two of the first TV Specials by any Pop stars. TCB and GIT were TV trends that are still popular today for pop artist.
The year 1967 was pivotal for the group. Mr. Gordy renamed them “Diana Ross and the Supremes”, Ms. Ballard left the group and was replaced by Cindy Birdsong. January 1970 Diana Ross performed for the last time with the Supremes before pursuing a solo career. Ross’ departure left Ms. Wilson as the only original member of the Supremes. Ms. Wilson continued performing with Cindy Birdsong and Jean Terrell as the “New” Supremes, better known today as the “70’s Supremes.”The “New” Supremes scored a number of hits including “Up the Ladder to the Roof” (US number 10, UK number 6), “Stoned Love” (US number 7, UK number 3) and “Nathan Jones” (US number 16, UK number 5). These three singles were also R&B Top Ten hits, with “Stoned Love” becoming their last number one hit in December of 1970. Songwriting/production team Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson produced another Top 20 hit for the group, a Supremes/Four Tops version of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep – Mountain High.”In 1972, the Supremes had their last Top 20 hit single release, “Floy Joy,” written and produced by Smokey Robinson, followed by the final US Top 40 hit, “Automatically Sunshine” with Ms. Wilson on lead vocals, (US number 37, UK number 10).
The 70’s found Mrs. Wilson getting married and starting a family.In June 1977, Ms. Wilson embarked on her own solo career and toured Europe and Asia while raising three new babies. Ms. Wilson has recorded two solo albums, including her self-titled debut in 1979 with the single “Red Hot,” and her 1990 release “Walk the Line.” She is currently recording another album due for release in 2013 while helping to raise four of her 8 grandchildren.
Ms. Wilson’s “Dare to Dream” lecture, which she gives to young people, emphasizes the need for personal perseverance to achieve their goals, despite obstacles and adversities in their lives. The topic is the foundation of her best-selling autobiography “Dreamgirl – My Life as a Supreme.” Ms. Wilson later authored its sequel, “Supreme Faith – Someday We’ll Be Together.” In 2000, these two books, along with updated chapters, were combined to complete her third book. She is currently working on a fourth book, which will be a coffee table hardcover featuring the gowns, history and legacy of the Supremes.
Moreover, she has spread the Supremes’ legacy from the world stage to international museums with a touring exhibit entitled, “The Story of the Supremes from the Mary Wilson Gown Collection,” featuring their show-stopping gowns and coveted memorabilia. The gowns were on exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and will be touring The United Kingdom before going on to Europe for another two years.
Over the years, Ms. Wilson has been highly recognized as the consummate humanitarian. She continues to devote her time and talent to assisting a diverse group of non-profit organizations, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The Po Leung Kuk schools of Hong Kung, UNICEF, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Figure Skaters of Harlem, a youth organization committed to helping children realize their dreams o compete in the Olympics. She has been active with Child Research, supporting a child around the world for the past 20 years.
In 1988, Mary Wilson accepted the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Supremes when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994, the Supremes received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1998, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
In 2003, the National Foundation for Women Legislators bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award on Ms. Wilson and invited her to a delegation of women legislators who traveled to Bahrain. She participated in a Trade and Civil Life Conference hosted by the Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain and is proud to have played a role in helping pass the Freedom Trade Bill between the U.S. and Bahrain.
At the 37th Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in 2007, she received the Floyd Washington Auto Safety Advocacy Award for her commitment to auto safety.
As a Supreme Wilson endorsed the Vice President Hubert Humphrey, sang at Command Performances for the Royal family in England and Sweden.
Appearing as “Mary Wilson of the Original Supremes,” she is sought after to entertain all over the world. She performed for President Bill Clinton in the East Room of the White House at the Millennium Celebration.
As a mother and a grandmother, Ms. Wilson’s personal desire is to be involved in worthy causes around the world that improve the lives of individuals, families and all humanity. Ms. Wilson’s experience as a Supreme and cultural ambassador broadened her horizons and afforded her the opportunity to be an advocate for social and economic challenges in the United States and abroad.
Ernie was perfect for our Elders Conference at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. We will definitely be using PDA again!
LITTLE RIVER BAND OF OTTAWA INDIANS
Our speaker was great and the crowd enjoyed her! She was very engaging. Thank you again PDA for the great list of suggestions!
Everything went great! and our speaker was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your help PDA! Looking forward to the next one.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
I hope that this message finds you well. We had a phenomenal time with Atsuko this past Thursday. We wanted to just let you know how amazing she was. All those that were in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her and had nothing but amazing things to say about her. Thank you for working with us to make sure this happened!
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
We had a fantastic day with Inge! She was very engaging with all those that attended. Her personal stories about the holocaust were very special and we were moved that she was willing to share them with everyone. Thank you again, PDA for all your hard work and dedication to make this program such a success!
SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Dear PDA Group, Thank you so much for your hard work in scheduling our speaker! From the moment we reached out to you the first time, you worked with us on all details and logistics and kept us up-to-date on the progress. Thank you for all your hard work on making our event such a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your team!
Thank you again, Dr. Kimbrough, for a great presentation, our attendees are still talking about it!
Dr. Henry Lee's presentation was entertaining, insightful and wise. I, and everyone at Pfizer, especially appreciate the remarks you directed about following your passion and preparing yourself to excel. Thank you, everyone, at PDA for helping to make this happen!
The event was successful! I received many messages expressing how awesome, outstanding and inspiring Ms. Webb-Christburg's speech was."
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL BREAKFAST, BOSTON, MLK SPEAKER
Everything went well. Atsuko was very easy to work with and the students enjoyed her performance! Thank you again for your recommendation and I hope to work with you again in the future!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Dr. Novello left this morning after a very successful event on our campus! Thank you PDA Group for your help from the first phone to the last you were with us every step of the way.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Jordan Carlos was very very entertaining! A majority of students who answered the event survey indicated they really enjoyed Jordan and definitely will bring him back!
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
On behalf of myself and my organization Entertainment Unlimited the Campus Programming Board of Ferris State University, we thank you PDA and Dan for a successful event!! Dan was magnificent! Students really enjoyed the presentation. I know I did. Can't wait to bring in more programs with PDA Group.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
It was a great pleasure to work with PDA Group! The communication was always prompt, friendly and helpful. We loved the speakers and events we booked through Mr. Peter Walker (PDA Group).
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Thank you, Peter, for all your help, you'll be happy to know that the event went incredibly well! Aneesa Ferreira was by far one of the best speakers we've ever had!
An Evening With Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson answering question from Andy Skurow, about the Last incarnation of the Supremes.
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