Let’s Cook: Styles, Sequins and The Supremes
Every day, all over the world, people savor an endless variety of music. On February 8, 2021, with the passing of Mary Wilson, I was reminded of one of the world’s most popular female groups, The Supremes. Wilson along with Florence Ballard and Diana Ross were the first three ladies that I came to know and appreciate as The Supremes.
My oldest brother, Tom, was continually into music and had an increasing record collection. Included in his collection was a record by The Supremes “A’ Go-Go” with their hit song “You Can’t Hurry Love” and several of their other hits. I can still recall the record cover with the cool pictures, and lettering. When it came time to scrub the kitchen floor, dust and polish the furniture, vacuum and completely tidy up the house, this album was playing on his stereo.
Tom was not only into listening to music, but also singing and dancing. What a pleasure it was to take a break from the mop and move to the middle of the floor and show our moves. I was a mere eight years old and loved his approach to spicing up the task of housekeeping. We never got around to having matching outfits, however – darn!
The Supremes were a premier act of Motown Records during the 1960’s. They were founded as The Primettes in Detroit, Michigan. These teenage girls from the Brewster-Douglas Public Housing Project had no idea of the world fame they would gain. They started performing in 1959 but it was not until 1964 that they became known worldwide with their number one hit “Where Did Our Love Go” which was followed by the four consecutive U.S. number one hits: “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop, in the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again.”
Time magazine called the Supremes “the pride of Detroit.” Their success was greatly shaped by several people at Motown, but it was Maxine Powell, who was Motown’s director of artist development, that taught these young ladies how to present themselves in public. Powell told the group to “be prepared to perform before kings and queens.” The Supreme trio mastered her style and appeared onstage in detailed make-up, high-fashioned matching gowns and shoes, and wigs. They performed graceful choreography created by Motown choreographer Cholly Atkins. (I can assure you that our kitchen choreography was nothing like theirs, but we certainly had fun trying!)
All three of these women embellished their femininity. They had real talent and didn’t have to come out in their underwear or have a wardrobe malfunction to catch the attention of the audience. Their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show included artistic backgrounds that were designed around their elegant gowns. They truly ushered in a new era of appreciation for vibrant, beautiful and graceful black women.
Wilson had long been noted as the historian of the group. She has saved and collected gowns from performances. She had stated in interviews that their first training in style and grace came from their mothers. She also noted that the well-dressed women at First Baptist Church gave them inspiration, too. These role models had been influenced by the black stars of the late 40s and 50s including Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Dinah Washington.
The astounding harmonies that easily could be heard in their songs impressed fans. They may have heard a symphony but the audiences were treated to a symphony of style with their attention to dress, backgrounds, use of color and pure grace. In the beginning, they sewed or purchased their costumes. In time they caught the eye of designer, Lavetta, of Beverly Hills and Michael Travis who designed some of their first gowns. In time, chandelier earrings and sequined, beaded gowns became very popular with the trio. These elegant gowns were designed by Bob Mackie, Pat Campano and Geoffrey Holder. Looking at some of the earlier recordings from the Ed Sullivan Show, it is easy to see the soft and sheer flowing chiffons gowns too. They made numerous grand entrances in gowns like these that had them often floating like wings on a butterfly.
The Supremes certainly had a great sense of cross pollination as they moved easily in music genres such as Rhythm and Blues, doo-wop, soul, pop and even disco which explains their many awards and followers. The Ross-Wilson and Ballard lineup were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. They received a star on the Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1994 to mention a couple. They rivaled the Beatles in worldwide popularity.
Over the years there were several ladies who sang with the group. It was, however, the Ross-Wilson-Ballard trio that I first came to know. There were also several name changes over the year. They were known as The Primettes (1959-1960), The Supremes (1960-1967), Diana Ross and The Supremes (1967-1970), and The Supremes (1970-1977). Florence Ballard passed away on February 22, 1976. Diana Ross continues to sing and delight audiences.
Thanks for coming along and listening to my quick insight on the Supremes. They are an interesting group to listen to and read about. I know this–The Supremes made the task of dusting and cleaning our Underwood home much more enjoyable. When it came to the last tasks of cleaning and we were dragging, on went the song “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” That gave us the energy to finish the floor waxing and running pipe cleaners around all faucets!
I was thinking of a supreme recipe that I could feature and here it is. For sometime now, Jan and Lydia have been making what they call Our Supreme Pizza. It is easy, delicious and can be fashioned to your taste buds.
Repnow Supreme Pizza
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Gently grease a 16-inch pizza pan — we prefer the vented crisper style pan.
2 – 6.5 oz. packages of Betty Crocker Pizza Crust mix.
As directed on the package, mix with 1 cup hot water (not boiling)
Cover and let rest in bowl for 5 minutes.
Gently press dough on pizza pan; brush dough lightly with vegetable oil, then bake for 5-7 minutes in a 400-degree oven.
Remove from oven and layer in order: 1 1/2 cup of pizza sauce, 1 cup cheese, sliced pepperoni, sliced Canadian bacon, chopped onion, chopped green pepper, sliced mushrooms, and sliced black olives. Sprinkle additional shredded cheese.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown to your liking!
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