B-side of The Only Time I’m Happy
(As interviewed by Booker T. Bradshaw)
Another Motown Junkies bonus: a fascinating little snapshot of the Supremes in 1965, as interviewed in New York by
Doctor M’Benga from Star Trek Motown executive and media mogul Booker T. Bradshaw. Even at this relatively early stage of the girls’ superstardom, Diana comes across as the de facto leader, already old beyond her years, correcting the mistakes and off-message impressions given by the other two; worldly, husky-voiced Flo is earthy and breaks the wholesome, sophisticated image Motown is so obviously trying to cultivate here at least twice, to Diana’s obvious disapproval, in a dark harbinger of her future; and amiable, kind-natured Mary is their Ringo, sounding the youngest and most artless of the three.
* * *
BOOKER BRADSHAW: From Hitsville USA, the home of the world-famous Detroit sound, we invite you to meet Motown Records’ golden girls, the undisputed queens of popular music, the Supremes! Diane Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.
Well tell me, Diana, how did it all begin?
DIANA ROSS: Oh! Mmmm. Boy. Long time now!
We started singing when we were about 13. We got together in the neighbourhood, because we all lived in the same neighbourhood, and we went to the same church, and Mary and Florence went to the same school… but a group PUT us together, really, the group now the Temptations, but after we came to Motown we changed our name to a better name, you know, something that meant something.
BRADSHAW: And that was the Supremes?
DIANA: That was the Supremes.
BRADSHAW: Well, how did you pick that name?
DIANA: Well, I didn’t really pick the name, because, uh, Florence did most of the picking of the names. But, uh, I didn’t like the name Supremes at first, and she’ll tell you how she got that name.
BRADSHAW:Florence did? Well, how about it?
FLORENCE BALLARD: I was given, um, a little teeny piece of paper, with ten names on it, and I picked Supremes because it was different, and, um, I liked it, and at that time we needed it because we had a record coming out the next day.
BRADSHAW: (laughing) I see! Well I think everyone’s familiar with the Supremes now. You girls must have travelled, I guess, hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world entertaining fans. Um, Florence, what’s your most unusual experience when on tour?
MARY WILSON: (shouting excitedly) You remember the one in Germany?!
DIANA: She doesn’t have to think long on that, because we know two that were really great…
MARY: You remember the one in Germany?!
FLO: (mock irritated) Yes, I remember the one in Germany, Mary.
FLO: We was singing with a pre-recorded tape, and, uh, we was just dancing and singing, and the tape broke!
MARY: (surprised) Oh!
FLO: (taking a moment to process Mary’s reaction) …Yes. So you can imagine what we went through. But we kept going, and, um… the show went on.
BRADSHAW:Right. Where… What part of Germany was that?
BRADSHAW:: Oh, I see! Well I think we saw some newspaper headings in which they praised you all on the front page for your showmanship as a result…
FLO: Yeah, the next day.
MARY: The next day!
DIANA: The very next day.
FLO: …Early the next morning.
BRADSHAW: Well, what happens in a situation like that, um… how do you get your note, I mean, what do you sing about?
DIANA: Well, we… whenever we’re singing, we just continue to sing and (clicks fingers) pop our fingers and get a feeling, but AT that time, or any time when we’re sitting around to rehearse, we… whatever we’re thinking about, we sing it, y’know? Just like right now…
BRADSHAW: Anything that’s on your mind?
DIANA: …Anything that’s on your mind. Because it’s rehearsing, and…
BRADSHAW:…What’s on your mind right now?
DIANA:…we just try to all harmonise, y’know, and make it… Like, right now?
BRADSHAW: Well, that sounded lovely.
(He’s not wrong – it’s a surprising moment, I don’t think it was done through technical tape trickery, all three girls suddenly locking into absolutely note-perfect harmony.)
DIANA: (mock chanting) More! More! More!
BRADSHAW: When you girls get a rare moment to relax, what are your hobbies?
MARY: Well, uh, we all have different hobbies. Mine is cooking. You wouldn’t really say that’s a hobby, but it’s mine. I love to cook. For boys, and uh…
MARY: And, uh, like, Florence, now, she likes to bowl. I guess she’s energetic, I don’t know, I guess she is. And Diane, she USED to like to design dresses…
DIANA: (jumping in to cut her off) Yeah, I did that in school. Mostly now I think I like to collect a lot of jewellery, and different odd, y’know, little odd shoes and…
BRADSHAW: (laughing) Little old diamonds and things like that!
DIANA: No! No, just…
FLO: (laughing) Diamond rings!
BRADSHAW: Speaking of fashion and jewellery, you girls have a lovely flair for dress both on stage and off. How do you decide what you’re going to wear?
MARY: Well, we go to different towns, and whatever we see, we like… one person might not like it, but the other two like it, we get it! We…
DIANA: (cutting Mary off again – I get the feeling the girls were specifically asked to make this next disclaimer and Diana wasn’t sure if Mary had forgotten) One thing, we constantly shop because we have to, we need a lot of things for a lot of different shows, so we constantly shop.
BRADSHAW: Well I can understand that. Now, here’s a tough question – I know it’s unfair to you, but who are your favourite artists, just a few of them? Mary?
MARY: Well, let’s see now. I love… the Four Tops, and I love… the Temptations, and.. Well, there are so many! Like Nancy Wilson, I really, I, y’know, she’s my idol, so… and some more, but I can’t call their names…
BRADSHAW: Well, I see, I think you’ve done well. How about it, Florence?
FLO: Well I tend to like the male vocalists best..
MARY: Yeah, I BET!
BRADSHAW: (simultaneously) Well, I can understand that!
(Diana gives a wary semi-laugh)
FLO: Like Johnny Mathis…
FLO: And Elvis Presley…
MARY: Oh boy!
FLO: Matter o’fact, all of ’em.
FLO: And, um, I can’t leave out the British groups. I think, um… Well, I don’t have to think, I know! I like the Beatles.
BRADSHAW: Well I think you’ve got a lot of company there. What about you, Diana?
DIANA: Well, not just the Beatles, I love them really, but there’s so many British groups that we met when we were over there that, uh, were really very good groups and also good friends, but as we were in London, we saw the Lena Horne show, and they were very fabulous performers, they had an act laid out that was beautiful, you know? Also, nobody but: (shouts) MAR-VIN GAYE!
(all laugh uproariously)
FLO: We love him! We love him! We love him!
BRADSHAW: Okay! (laughing) Well now that you girls have become, I’d say, America’s and the world’s number one singing group, what are your plans for the future? Diana?
DIANA: Well we’ve got, um, we’ve got great plans. Right now, we’re going into bigger and better club work all over the country, and, uh, we have bookings in London, and here in New York and everything. But, uh, we all want to go into, uh, acting. We’re big hams, you know what I mean? We act on and off stage!
(She pauses as though expecting a laugh. None comes, so Diana rolls with it and starts up talking again without missing another beat. She’s already a pro.)
DIANA: But other than that, we’re going to always continue to make records for our fans, because this we love, and we want to do something that will make them happy and that also makes us happy too.
BRADSHAW: Well I think as long as you continue to sing as well as you do, you’ll make your fans more than happy. We all wish you the best of luck, Supremes.
MARY: Thank you.
FLO: Thank you very much.
DIANA: Thank you.
MARY: (sings) #Thank you and good night…
“The Only Time I’m Happy”
“Since I Lost My Baby”
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
Listen to all past episodes here.