Mary Wilson shares ‘Reflections’ of The Supremes’ 50th

FOREVER ELEGANT, The Supremes were known being fashion-forward artists. The Story of The Supremes from The Mary Wilson Gown Collection is an exhibit that shares the group’s history via its evolution in fashion and music. Publicity photo.

As if on cue, Mary Wilson entered the room dressed in black workout clothes, vaguely apologizing for keeping us waiting, “I just got out of my yoga class. My life is like a revolving door, I do so much traveling these days, sometimes I don’t know if I’m coming or going.”

I thought to myself, “This yoga thing must work — at age 66, she’s in fantastic shape and looks gorgeous.”

Mary sat with her legs tucked up on the opposite sofa, cuddling her Yorkshire terrier puppy, eating watermelon and chatting animatedly about the Golden Jubilee year of the world’s biggest girl band, The Supremes.

“With Florence, we founded The Primettes, which complemented Detroit’s boy band, the Primes. (Later the Temptations). Then I introduced Diane Ross, my new best friend at school, to join us. That was the beginning. I was the group’s secretary, and in the summer of 1960 arranged our first gig a talent contest in Windsor, Canada. We drove through the tunnel under the Detroit River and in minutes had made our first trip abroad. We won the competition and the prize of $15. On the return journey, as we approached the U.S. Immigrations, we saw a sign, “BLACKS ONLY LANE.”

We really embraced The Beatles when they first came to America in February 1964, and the Brits reciprocated when we toured England in March 1965. What a great experience. There was no segregation. That took a lot of getting used to. We could stay in the same hotels, eat at the same cafés, sit on the same bus or train and go to the same cinema as whites. But the British had a class thing, which to me was another form of segregation.”

Lauren launched into a story. “There was a tornado warning, and I gathered up all my most prized possessions which consisted of my Supremes scrapbook and records. The whole family trooped down to the basement where we listened to a transistor radio waiting for the all clear. I was terrified the house would blow away above our heads, but then the DJ said, ‘Here’s the latest hit from The Supremes, You Can’t Hurry Love’ and a 10-year-old’s fear just vanished. I was so excited to hear your newest song”

Mary didn’t respond, just picked up the conversation where she’d been interrupted.

“That was the first U.K. Tamla-Motown tour. The Supremes were top of the bill with Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Earl Van Dyke Six and Georgie Fame and the Blueflames.”

Tamla Motown handbill

I said, “I covered that tour when it reached my part of England. I remember what a character your tour manager was. He wouldn’t allow any press pictures the night of the show.”

Mary recalled, “Oh, you mean Dick Scott, with his fancy suits and fedoras, a giant of a man at 6 feet 5, he kept us all in order. He had to — there were so many musicians on that tour bus, it was full to bursting and so easy to lose someone”

I recounted, “The morning after your April 2nd concert at The Globe Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees, I went to your hotel, The Billingham Arms, to try and set up a group picture on the steps before the tour bus left for your next stop at Newcastle, City Hall. I was greeted with utter chaos.

Dick Scott was talking to the town’s only policeman, who was busy taking notes, “Well, sir, can yer describe the gentleman who’s gone missing?” “Yeah, he’s black, age 15, 4 feet 11, weighs about 95 pounds, wearing dark glasses, a yellow jacket, black shirt and pants, white shoes and a cap.”

The Bobby standing astride his bicycle said, “Don’t yer worry, nobody else fits that description in this town. I’ll soon find him, sir.”

With that he pedaled off in search of little Stevie Wonder. As the clock ticked to the noon hour of departure, the troupe started boarding the tour bus — all a bit of a melée with everyone shouting, “Where’s Stevie?” Obviously, Dick Scott had no time for the local press, and I never got my group picture. At the stroke of noon, Stevie Wonder arrived on the scene carrying a large brown bag.

Embracing Stevie with delight, Dick Scott squashed the contents of the brown bag, and fruit ran all down the front of Stevie Wonder.

Mary quipped, “Incidentally, we have just done a tour of New Zealand and Australia with the same lineup as the ’65 tour, except for Georgie Fame. This tour had a slightly different title, “50th Anniversary Tour Of Motown.”

As Mary reflected on her life and career, I was amazed to find she has as many roles as hats, which hang on a stand in the corner of the hall.

As a diplomat, Mary was appointed Ambassador for Culture Connect by Colin Powell. As an activist, Mary continues Diana Princess Of Wales’ campaign against land mines with the Humpty Dumpty Institute. She works tirelessly for F.A.M.E (Friends Against Musical Exploitation.) She has an associate’s degree from NYU in Literary Arts and an honorary doctorate from Paine College. Mary has authored two best selling autobiographies, “Dreamgirl” and “Supreme Faith.” As a historian, Mary is curator of a traveling collection of Supremes gowns, Mary says.

“The older I get, the more I seem to be able to do,” she said. “I have just finished a two-month engagement in ‘Let The Good Times Roll!’ at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs. You have to be over 65 to appear in the chorus line. Some of the cast are in their late 80s. It’s an institution — sold out every night. I do these things to keep The Supremes’ music alive. I will continue to try and right a wrong in the history of pop music and put The Supremes back on top, where they belong. When Diane left the group, it was as if Motown and Berry Gordy just wanted the group to die, but I won’t let it.” (Mary always refers to Diana Ross by her given name, Diane)

“Do you know I don’t listen to music on the car radio anymore? I believe our hits were so good and so timeless, I sing them to myself while I’m driving. Even our star on Hollywood Boulevard was paid for by me and contributions from fans. Motown didn’t give one cent.”

The Supremes were the female equivalent of The Beatles, I reminded Mary.

With some heat she responded, “If we are The Beatles’ equivalent, why is their material still being repackaged commercially and ours is not? Paul and Ringo are still active and are invited to the Grammys to perform. The Supremes get nothing.”

About Patrick Prince

Patrick Prince is the Editor of Goldmine

25 thoughts on “Mary Wilson shares ‘Reflections’ of The Supremes’ 50th

  1. The article is great, but having spent time with Mary over a 30-year period, I have not found her to be self-centered or humorless.

  2. She is a legend in her own mind. I appreciate that the author was not deterred or overrun or distracted by her obvious self-promotion and continuous reinvention of past years. There is no shame to her game.

  3. I have been to many of Ms Wilson concerts and backstage with her. And she has always been real and down to earth, not this person you have painted.She has not forgotten her roots and where she comes from.This woman was told, she could not sing.Well singing all her life has paid off,she has become a real soul singing sister. Keep up the good work Ms Wilson and get your new CD OUT THE WORLD IS READY…Peace

  4. enjoyed the story then the real Mary wilson as to have a gripe at D ana ross its the same OLD SONG she needs to get over it

  5. Keep telling the same 50 year old stories about “Diane” and trust me, you’ll never get that reunion with her that you claim you want so bad. Why should she reunite with you??? You get the press you love so much rehashing 40 – 50 year old tales. Every time I read an interview with her, she’s dreamed up some new versions of the old stories. This time, she’s the one that introduced “Diane” into the group? Excuse me honey, every other party involved has said that Paul Williams, of the Primes then the Tempations, brought Diana Ross into the group. You need to go check those journals you kept. Such a wealth of material, she’s even admitted she had to under go hypnotism before writing her 1st book in order to remember things. That should tell us everything we need to know.

  6. Mary Wilson always seems to be stuck in the past. Look at her songs. Can she do anything without it relating to Diana Ross? Its time to move on. The sixties are done. Get over it.

  7. Doesn’t this woman have a life beyond what happened over 40 years ago? It must be hard for her to accept that she has no other claim to fame then her association with Diana Ross. Like Dana wrote, even her songs are about her. Obsessed much. MOVE ON!

  8. I really hope that Mary Wilson is not that bitter woman that this article depicts. I am 58 and grew up on The Supremes’ music and ideally, I would love to see Diana, Mary and Cindy reunite. But given what I’ve seen and heard, I would advise against it.
    All I keep thinking about is that in 1970, Mary Wilson became responsible for The Supremes. You can’t blame Diana Ross for the stupid mistakes that were made or the eventual demise of the group which, by the mid 70’s was really starting to sound good again.

  9. This woman is a total waste of time & space, she is about to go bankrupt again for the second time, trying to be Diana Ross can be costly, especially when you have NO TALENT.

    Give it up Mary, you have milked it dry, You were a background singer FOR A DIVA, never one yourself!

  10. The article portrays Mary as a very negative, almost mean-spirited woman, and according to the author, “a diva of the first order.” She is none of those things. She is quite the opposite in fact – not a diva at all, but a very kind, down-to-earth person who is a very old soul with a big heart. And I hope she gets to write at least one more of the three books Eddie Holland says is still in her. She’s an outstanding woman who cultivated her talent. I don’t call that being a diva, I call that being remarkable.

  11. Thank you George you spoke the truth about Ms Wilson, This article is not Ms Wilson at all. If you really Read this article it seems the writer started off with a negative story, when they rang Ms Wilson door bell, than enterd her home and just were not kind to her at all. It sadden me to read all this hate fron fans. These Wilson haters must learn to RESPECT both of these talented women, both women are in there 60’s,and both are doing well today. Mary Wilson is here to stay, she is singing today with Great power,emotion and range, and singing all over the world, she got this work on her own, and with no help from Ms Ross, Ms Wilson has done this on her own. So I say MS Wilson ,MS Ross keep up the good work. Some fans love you both with out the hate…..Peace

  12. Well, Mary Wilson speaks again. I’m amazed still how she continues to rehash the past about “Diane”. And really who can blame her? Her only true success had been as a backup singer to a group led by Diana Ross and/or writing about her good “friend”.

    Really Mary, why would anybody be interested in hearing your CD unless it had any reference to Diana Ross, a true Diva, be the way.



  15. Please tell Lauren I have the best picture of Mary Wilson Ever ! I cut it down to save copywrite but I’m sure this one should be placed in the vaults !! Hope you like it,view best at Bustin Mindsweeper on face book..or my channel; SOULXCHANGE onY-Tube or FB.

  16. It’s the same old fight between Mary’s fans and the ‘Rossers’
    Does mary have talent-Definitely Yes
    Can she sing- Definitely. Maybe not for the old Supremes’ songs
    her forte is blues jazz and slow R&B
    Do people get sick of The Supremes rehashing,etc-Yes, Mary you have so much to offer outside of the Supremes but it is also her legacy as co-founder with Flo
    Mary thank you, you arealways loved by me.

  17. Not that simple Rich.

    I have as many top 10 singles as Miss Mary, & I’ve never seen a recording studio, I guess I’m more talented than I’ll ever know.

    This is about 15 minutes of Fame, that ended 14 minutes ago.

    It’s about a woman that feels “ENTITLED” to a status aquired by another. Something Miss Wilson hasn’t earned.

    She is both Manipulative & Duplicitous, She stabs a woman in the back, that offered her 4 MILLION Dollars to sing Oooh Baby Baby @ 30 shows!

    Also Diana Ross made sure that niether of the Girls would be expected to cover ANY of the tour costs, (She & The Promter would cover those).

    I can not think of any other Obscure Background singer that has recieved as much press as Miss Mary.

    Her Secret?, Just keep stabbing Diana Ross in the back, Works every time.

    Let us not forget, it was Diana Ross that lent her the Money to buy a house in ther early 80″s, (To keep her Homeless ass off the street).

    She repayed her with a nasty Back Stabbing Book. She made a Million Dollars & snorted most of it up her nose.

    She lives of the crumbs dropped from Diana’s Table & resents the hell out of her @ the same time.

    But when someone does the same to her, she goes POSTAL!, I am refferring to Kaaren Raglands “Sounds of The Supremes” Tribute .

    Miss Mary had Kaarens ass in court faster than a New York Minute.

    Bitterness, Regrets & Memories is all Mary Wilson Has

  18. Mary Wilson is the Supreme Supreme! Ross was the lead singer and yes she is multi-talented but lets remember the Supremes were a unit!
    Mary is a press hound but she is not mean and bitter I dont blame her for getting all of the news she can on herself Miss Ross did it as well. I say GO Mary!

  19. I guess because she wouldn’t sleep with Berry Gordy that makes her to be someone without talent. I saw her in concert. She was great!

  20. as a lifelong fan of The Supremes, i appreciate whatever Miss Wilson has to offer in the way of Supreme history – now and forever!!!

  21. THE SUPREMES are International Celebrities and fascinating to all. I am so influenced by the Supremest that I write about them with my I WAS THERE”,EXPERIENCE. I am still awed by the on going life story of the girls. Don’t forget your copy of:THE SUPREMES AT THE COPA-the Expanded Edition, realeased in May 2012. Look my GOOGLE PAGE UP for equally insightful reviews of the original catalog albums and CDs/ collectables its time to give the fans a piece of rare Supremes

  22. I think anyone who disrespects MARY WILSON doesnt like the Supremes, and the great legacy that is living even now. Mary Wilson is a SUPREME spokesman for the ongoing Motown and its rise with the SUPREMES at the front . If you dont like her remember if she wasnt part of the very different persons which with Florence, and Diane, MOTOWN , The Supremes ,music as it is could never exist W/o MARY WILSON, and her sometimes funny, naratives. Dont hate, students.ASK ANY GIRL….

  23. mary wilson you had more right to live your life as miss ross.she got rich off flos back and yours I do not care who slept with who.I am speaking talent here.You are a true legacy.I am 61 yrs old I was there ,a little blk girl in front of an old blk and white tv the very night all three of you came on tv the ED Sullivin show. Oh how proud we blk. folks were.I will take it to my grave.What love we felt for you flo and diana.If I knew what I know now;that history would play out like this Lord have mercy I would be writing a book to.THE SECOND THING I will never forget at around age 16.Miss florence Ballad is on WELFARE.Yes fans I was alive and well I too am a part of History.Not famous thank God.Why?Well very few Motown people are alive.Most didnot die a descent death.Most died either from drugs or self inflicted wounds.I call it the motown curse myself.So instead of hating on Mary and Diana.Be happy they are even alive stop the hate.These women took much abuse to be where they are today.Mary can sing in a key set for her.Anyone born in my time period know what I am talking about.Stop acting like the white man taught us in the day. Hate on us.But love the maser.No one in HISTORY has been more hated than the blk man and no group in History hate each other like the Supremes.I love all races but look at the beatles,most looked out for each other.We surely eat our own.Stop the sorry slave act.I saw the abuse of the south.Give them respect.We all pay in the in.Be happy that Mary even survied.She almost didn’t if it had not been for her Strong Determination.Surely her life would have been as tragic as Miss Flo. So give the girl a Hand.Berry is the one you could blame because he meant to kill her dreams as he did Flo.I get so sad and angry how that man did the funk brothers and many others.So guys you can not come close to understanding the panaroma the BIG PICTURE.We now know more of what happened do to books about motown.Now that I look bacK;I see what happened so many gaps have been filled since I was around I understand better now.I know aboutMiss Ross her three girls in life magazine.So her daughter by Berry all fits.So books written just confirms what facts some of us know.Plus I have family in LA who know where some the skeltons are hidden.So if you hate Mary for her book.Older ones are happy because all the little pieces now fit together.UNDERSTAND?Miss Ross drama is not all lies trust me I know plenty now.Yes I am thankful.Some people throw a rock and hide their hands.I appreciate the exposure.Mary is kind and loving she loves her fans and her family.Good or bad.Hate as you please but Miss Wilson rose above the odds shes alive and not broke like some ended up in Berrys kitchen or better known in Hitsvilles”~=sSnake pit”Buy Standing in the shadows of motown”.Then tell me who you blame for Motown’s demise.Miss Wilson or Berry.

  24. Thank God Mary Wilson is alive and well unlike Flo who was railed roaded out of her royaltys and singing career.Good or bad she is a living witness to so many things thanks to the comment by dimaflo68.I agree with you 100%.We can all make an informed decision.I was there when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show.We were so proud of them.Mary is a suvialist.She rose above ALL odds heres to you Mary.You have had your fianal wows to bare most have. They say you rode on Dianas skirt tail.I say you road together.Many forget there were Three supremes not one.They Rose together.But when Greed reigns King Like king Cotton in the south.That opens up a new bag of worms.The pain and stress of motowm mess could kill anyone. You had to be very very strong to surive plus a little luck wouldn’t hurt few did surive. Motowns body count is to large to bare.The sign Berry Gorgy left on Hitsvilles door should have read:BEWARE MOTOXiN MOTOWN can be DANGERS to your health.DID ANYONE DIE a DESENT Natural death besides Teena Marie. and its questionable in my book.She called her daughter said something and boom dead.One guy posted: Is motown a living curse?You only have the bodies to answer .Trust me there are far too many to count.Mary and Diana are good to be alive espically Mary.Over half of Mo is dead. How we envy that is beyoung me.T-Boy Ross Diana Ross bro. murdered.and Chico.?Yes where is Chico?L
    last I read he was druging.Diana most beloved bro. in the day.He stated its sad to be famous for only being famous of someone famous.He to is a lost soul.Her Brothers were number one failures so thats why I say Mary is good to have kicked her demons are she surely would have ended up like Diana’s bros.and Flo.and the rest.mary I say Hats to you baby.At least you are alive to tell us some of what went on at opened the door for many to get up the nerve to face DXB.

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