Before Platform shoes clicked across Motown’s polished stages and sequinned gowns glittered under the spotlight, The Supremes and Temptations began as two fledgling groups with a harmonious bond seeded on the streets of Detroit. This enduring connection between Motown’s most glamorous girl group and dashing male vocalists traces back to their origins as the Primettes and Primes – a pair of sister acts with big dreams and raw talent.

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Humble Beginnings: Forming the Primettes and Primes in Detroit

Our story starts in 1959 within Detroit’s bustling downtown music scene, where aspiring singers like Martha Reeves and Mary Wells bred dreams of their big breaks. This was the era before Motown became a hit factory, when raw talent still hung around clubs hoping to be discovered. Here, against a backdrop of clanging automobile assembly lines and urban renewal projects, two quartets – the Primettes and Primes – formed a close-knit friendship while navigating their way to fame.

The Primettes featured the sugary vocals of floppy-haired Florence Ballard, willowy Mary Wilson, doe-eyed Diana Ross and petite Betty McGlown. Enraptured by the Primes’ velvety harmonies and nimble choreography, the Primettes made the polished male quartet their inspiration. Florence Ballard later recalled, “We were just four Detroit girls who loved singing together. When we saw how smooth the Primes were, we knew we had to work hard to reach their level.”

The Primes, including alternating leads Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks, bass vocalist Kell Osborne, and dancing dynamo Melvin Franklin, had honed their slick style through years singing on Detroit street corners and high school functions. On weekends, they snagged gigs at local clubs, including the Twenty Grand, where the Primettes sometimes opened for them. Mary Wilson fondly reflects, “We idolised the Primes. Every vocal trick they executed so slickly, every nimble spin they made in perfect synchronicity, we studied and mirrored back.”

Like two vines nurtured on the same garden trellis, the Primettes and Primes grew together during their early days, leaning on each other for support. As sister acts, their quests for success paralleled and interlinked.


The Temptations are an American vocal group from Detroit, Michigan, who released a series of successful singles and albums with Motown Records during the 1960s to mid 1970s. The group's work with producer Norman Whitfield, beginning with the Top 10 hit single "Cloud Nine" in October 1968, pioneered psychedelic soul, and was significant in the evolution of R&B and soul music.[2] The band members are known for their choreography, distinct harmonies, and dress style. Having sold tens of millions of albums, the Temptations are among the most successful groups in popular music.

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Detroit’s Brewing Music Scene Fuels Motown’s Rise

This was 1960’s Detroit, a bustling motor city brimming with musical talent just before Berry Gordy founded Motown Records. With the jazz scene in full swing, R&B and soul acts playing club circuits, and gospel traditions running deep, Detroit had all the ingredients for an explosive music culture.

On downtown avenues like Woodward and Gratiot, aspiring singers flocked to venues hoping to get their break. Nightclubs like the Flame Show Bar and Twenty Grand attracted crowds eager to discover fresh talent.

Both the Primettes and Primes cut their teeth in this thriving nightlife scene. Initially performing at high school rallies and sock hops, they earned weekend club gigs that helped hone their stage presence and connect with audiences.

Diana Ross later said, “Singing at those clubs, looking out at a sea of people dancing, that’s what made me sure this was my destiny.”

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Hitsville USA – Berry Gordy Founds Motown

In 1959, Berry Gordy founded Motown Records, purchasing a house on Detroit’s West Grand Boulevard nicknamed “Hitsville USA.” Aspiring artists flocked there, eager to audition for the promising new label. With its assembly line approach to songwriting and artist development, Motown quickly carved out its signature sound. Slick productions backed by session band The Funk Brothers fused pop, soul and gospel into chart-topping hits.

As Motown rose to national prominence, the Primettes and Primes both recognised that getting signed would take their careers to the next level. They stepped up their efforts, honing their stage shows and networking with Motown insiders. Mary Wilson said, “We just had this feeling that something amazing was happening at Motown. And we were determined to be part of it.”

After auditioning repeatedly, the Primes got their big break in 1961, signing with Motown under their new moniker – The Temptations. At Hitsville USA, they recorded hits like “Dream Come True” and started polishing their choreography. The Primettes persisted in pursuing their Motown dreams. But not before overcoming adversity. They were originally rejected by Berry Gordy, told to come back once they graduated high school. Diane Ross said, “After that setback, we kept singing everywhere we could. We believed our talent would prevail.” Her determination epitomised the optimism of two young groups chasing big dreams down at Hitsville USA.

Dian Ross Autobiography

The New York Times bestselling biographer provides “the dish on Motown’s most famous songstress” in this newly updated edition (The Dallas Morning News).

Drawn from hundreds of interviews conducted over four decades, Diana Ross paints an unforgettable picture of an extraordinary and often controversial legend—a pop music goddess, acclaimed actress, loving mother, Civil Rights trailblazer, and consummate entertainer. Beautiful and fascinating, she is her own invention—the definition of a superstar.

First-time revelations abound, from the tough decisions she made while having Berry Gordy’s baby and the real reasons behind the break-up of the Supremes to her triumphant recovery after a surprising DUI arrest and her gala appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors.

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Sister Acts – The Early Bond Between the Groups

More than hopefuls vying for the same spot, the Primettes and Primes shared a special bond – they were sister acts. This tight relationship gave them an affinity other groups lacked. As early openers for the Primes’ shows, the Primettes absorbed everything about their mentors’ slick style. When the Primes got fancy new stage outfits, the Primettes admired their sharp look from the audience.

Paul Williams of the Primes said, “We saw those girls as our little sisters. We wanted to set a good example and help them make it.”

After Motown, their sisterly connection continued. Eddie Kendricks of The Temptations reflected: “We were absolutely thrilled when The Supremes finally got signed too. It meant our Detroit family was growing.” No matter how famous the two acts got, their shared roots kept them grounded. Decades later, Supremes and Temptations still fondly call each other “sister” and “brother.”

That enduring bond started on the streets of Detroit, where one group’s success fuelled the other’s dreams. Their intertwined paths were destined to come together. So against a backdrop of bustling clubs and Hitsville USA’s rising star, two polished quartets set the stage for greatness. Little did the Primettes and Primes know then that their harmonising history would make Motown magic for generations to come.

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Trailblazing from Detroit to Hitsville USA

The Primettes’ diligence paid off when Motown founder Berry Gordy eventually signed them in 1961, on the condition they change their name. Shedding their “sister” status, they took on a more mature moniker – The Supremes. Mary Wilson recalled their excitement, “When we walked out of that office as The Supremes, it felt like our destiny was finally beginning.”

Later in 1961, their former cohorts also earned a deal, rechristened as The Temptations. Wilson said, “We were thrilled when the Temptations made it too. Our Detroit brothers giving us hope.” Now crafting their sounds at Hitsville USA alongside Marvin Gaye and The Miracles, the two groups’ trajectories stayed tightly interlocked. Their distinct styles seamlessly fit Motown’s sophisticated vision.

The Supremes originally consisted of Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Diana Ross, after Betty McGlown left the group. Under Berry Gordy’s rigorous coaching, they blossomed from schoolgirl amateurs into polished performers glowing with glamour and grace. Ross’ airy vocals, Ballard’s sassy attitude, and Wilson’s elegance made them Motown’s most feminine ambassadors. Their flowy, feminine choreography exuded a wholesome beauty.

Meanwhile, the Temptations powered through with muscular vocals and athletic dance moves. Paul Williams’ smoky voice, Eddie Kendricks’ nimble falsetto, and David Ruffin’s passionate delivery defined their bold sound. Dapper in suits, they brought Motown sheer masculine charm. Soon, hits rolled out in soulful harmony. The Tempts led with toe-tapping “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “My Girl” before The Supremes enchanted with “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love.” Diana Ross reflected, “Those early hits felt like sweet vindication after so many years trying to get our break.”

Clearly, Motown had struck gold by signing these two perfectly-matched acts whose styles appealed across demographics. Their early Detroit bond bred an effortless chemistry waiting to ignite on the national stage.

Supremes Gold

Includes FREE MP3 version of this album. AutoRip is available only for eligible CDs and vinyl sold by Amazon EU Sarl (but does not apply to gift orders or PrimeNow orders). See Terms and Conditions for full details, including costs which may apply for the MP3 version in case of order returns or cancellations. Complete your purchase to add the MP3 version to your Amazon music library. Provided by Amazon EU S.à r.l.

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A Motown Dream Realised on the National Stage

As Motown became a commercial force in the mid-1960s, The Supremes and Temptations rapidly rose to superstardom. They toured the country relentlessly The Tempts dodging shrieking female fans while The Supremes charmed audiences with their style and grace.

Mary Wilson said, “It was everything we had visualised back when we were nobodies singing in Detroit clubs and high schools.”

They reached new heights together in 1964, lighting up The Ed Sullivan Show with glowing energy that left America buzzing. Sullivan, impressed, had them return regularly, giving them invaluable mainstream exposure.

But Motown genius Berry Gordy saw even greater potential in pairing his two hottest acts. Soon, he would mastermind collaborations that showcased their special chemistry to the world. However, behind the scenes, pressures mounted for both groups now under Motown’s microscope. Florence Ballard struggled with alcoholism, while David Ruffin clashed with Tempts bandmates. Yet on stage, their talent transcended troubles.

With The Supremes matching sophistication with chart success, and the Temps bridging pop and soul, the two former Detroit teens had amazingly transcended their local roots. Their ascendance into Motown superstardom was complete. But Gordy was just getting started in unleashing their combined star power. So at Hitsville USA, where it all began, Berry Gordy eagerly engineered the next phase in their intertwined careers – merging their Detroit bond into Motown magic.

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Taking the Motown Sound on Tour

The first Supremes and Temptations team-up came in 1964, when both acts lit up The Ed Sullivan Show with electric performances that left the nation buzzing. A year later, they took their show on the road together with the Motortown Revue concert tour.

Crisscrossing the country by bus, they brought their Motown magic to enthralled crowds from Harlem’s Apollo Theatre to Hollywood Bowl. Fans delighted in the playful interplay between the Supremes’ graceful glamour and the Tempts’ athletic dance energy.

Florence Ballard fondly said, “We just had this spark together onstage, call and response, shaking, shimmying. It was like mixing two different flavours to create something magical.” Mary Wilson added, “We were sisters and brothers in music. Our early days singing together in Detroit centres us, no matter how big we get.”

That enduring chemistry seamlessly flowed from sold-out stages into the recording studio. In 1967, songwriters Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson proposed that Motown’s top male and female groups collaborate on a duet together. The idea of pairing The Supremes and Temptations was eagerly approved. The result was “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – an explosively popular hit that remains a timeless testament to their synergy. The soulful ballad featured the soaring vocals of Diana Ross and Temptations members Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards.

Upon its release in April 1967, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” raced up both the pop and R&B charts, reaching #1 on the R&B Singles chart. It garnered major mainstream success, peaking at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and further expanding Motown’s crossover audience. Though not the first top 20 pop hit from Motown’s Hitsville USA studios, it was a career-defining song for both groups.

In 2001, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” rightfully earned the prestigious Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which recognises timeless recordings of lasting qualitative significance. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #191 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The duet has since been covered by many artists, but the 1967 original remains the definitive version – a timeless testament to the unmatched musical chemistry between Motown’s most famous “sister” and “brother” acts.

Berry Gordy

A personal account of Motown Records details its incredible recording artists--Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, among others--as well as the gossip, rumors, and myths surrounding it and the life and loves of the man who brought it all together.

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Crossover Success with Joint Albums

Eager to capitalise on The Supremes and Temptations’ undeniable dynamism together, Motown founder Berry Gordy quickly put his two biggest acts back in the studio for more collaboration. Their 1968 joint album “Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations” became a massive crossover success, selling over 2 million copies worldwide. It earned the groups their first ever Grammy nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance. At the time, Diana Ross proclaimed, “This album feels like a celebration of everything we’ve achieved together at Motown.”

Buoyed by their palpable on-record chemistry, the album spawned two hit singles that lit up both the pop and R&B charts – “I Second That Emotion” and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” “I Second That Emotion” marked the first Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit single for The Temptations. Fans worldwide couldn’t get enough of the groups’ soulful harmonising and playful back-and-forth lyrics. The album cemented their reputation as Motown’s ultimate double act.

Through the years, whether headlining the prestigious Copacabana club in New York or rocking nationwide television specials like TCB and Diana!, their special artistic bond sang out for all to see. In 1970, the groups paired up again for another duets album called The Magnificent 7, generating more chart-topping magic with songs like “The Bells” and “Up the Ladder to the Roof.”

As longtime label-mates and friends at Motown, the two acts’ paths crisscrossed seamlessly on the road to superstardom. But it was their Detroit roots that centred them amidst the pressures of fame. Paul Williams of The Temptations reflected, “No matter how big we got, we stayed loyal to those early days bonding backstage at the Flame Show Bar.” That enduring affinity flourished into Motown magic. And Berry Gordy skilfully cultivated it into crossover success that catapulted both groups into rarified air.

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Two Acts United by the Motown Sound

At the core of The Supremes and Temptations’ affinity was a shared reverence for the Motown motto. Both groups embraced Berry Gordy’s rigorous artist development, attending etiquette lessons, media training, and dance rehearsals. “We may have had different flavours, but it was all about uplifting with class, polish, and sophistication,” remarked Mary Wilson.

With spirituals and gospel in their blood, the two acts sung with a passion that transcended record sales. Their music cut through the divides of a turbulent era with messages of hope and togetherness. As Temptation David Ruffin remarked, “We didn’t think of ourselves as ‘The Temptations.’ We thought of ourselves as ‘young America.’” This universal perspective, echoed by The Supremes, turned Motown magic into a cultural phenomenon.

Though their sounds showcased differing flavours, their spirits aligned. When their voices joined in harmony, whether backstage at the Apollo Theatre or centre stage at the Copacabana, that kindred Detroit history sang out. Even as their fame grew, they stayed loyal to their shared musical roots. Stardom never sequestered them – it merely amplified their message.

Motown Artists Book

In 1959 Berry Gordy Jr., a high school dropout, former boxer and record store owner, founded the Motown record label in Detroit. The company name, which played on the city's proud tradition of car manufacture, was to become synonymous with great music as Gordy took the sound of black America to the world. Starting with Barrett Strong's Money (That's What I Want), Motown racked up hit after hit, becoming familiar to UK audiences under the name of Tamla Motown and launching the careers of megastars like Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and the Jackson 5. The 'Motown Sound' was instantly recognisable and unavoidably infectious.

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The Legacy of Motown’s Dynamic Duo

Today, memories of The Supremes’ glittering gowns and The Temptations’ velvety harmonies fade into sepia tones. But their era-defining music remains immortal, carrying a legacy of friendship forged in song. Five decades later, The Supremes and Temptations are cemented as legends. Their music lives on through induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Yet they started as two determined Detroit groups with little more than raw talent, slick footwork, and sky-high dreams.

That enduring bond, born on the streets of Motown, lives on eternally in the annals of music history. The Primettes and Primes, through dedication and chemistry, transcended their local roots to become global voices of a generation. Their interwoven story reminds us that sometimes musical fate sings a duet too magical to be denied. The Supremes and Temptations created auditory alchemy together that remains timeless. Diana Ross says, “Whenever we sang together, our shared history resonated through every note.” Decades later, their music still evokes nostalgia and inspiration.

As contemporary pop continues recycling trends, The Supremes’ and Temptations’ originality stands out. During a tumultuous era, their songs promoted brotherhood and optimism. While music today often divides, they reminded us of our shared humanity. And so their pioneering spirit lives on. For when true artistry unites, as it did so beautifully in their harmonies, it transcends eras, demographics and divides. Their legacy commands one proper response – to crank up the vinyl and let those magic melodies move you.

In blending their singular talents, The Supremes and Temptations didn’t just make Motown history – they made musical lightning in a bottle. Half a century later, that electricity still crackles through the airwaves.

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