The Ed Sullivan Show captured the last TV performance from Diana Ross and The Supremes
Image: The Everett Collection
Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Betty McGlown were founding members of the girl group The Primettes.
The Primettes eventually became The Supremes, which eventually became arguably the quintessential girl group of the Sixties. The group, who later replaced Betty McGlown with Barbara Martin, amounted to worldwide recognition and seemingly endless amounts of success.
The Supremes didn't achieve success overnight, but once they got a taste of it, it didn't take long. In 1961, a couple years after the group was founded, The Supremes signed with Motown. Not long after that, Barbara Martin left the group, which continued as a trio.
Once the trio was established, the hits started coming. According to Motown Museum, "The Supremes got on track to fame in 1963 with the release of 'When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes.'" A "powerhouse" trio of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland produced several hits for the glamorous group.
A smash single by 1964, a time in which The Supremes had certainly made a name for themselves, was "Come See About Me." In the mid Sixties, when a group, band, comedian or another type of entertainment act had success, there was a good chance they'd land on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Supremes were no exception.
Their first appearance with the distinguished entertainment host came on Dec. 27, 1964, when they performed "Come See About Me." With a growing audience and rising sense of glamour, The Supremes continued to rise through the charts.
Just two years later, the group reached the top of the charts three times with "I Hear a Symphony," "You Keep Me Hanging On" and "You Can't Hurry Love." The group formed a strong bond with Ed Sullivan during the course of their rise to stardom, and when they performed "You Can't Hurry Love," on Sullivan in 1966, they were at the top of their game.
Their 1966 album The Supremes A' Go-Go "was the first album released by an all-female group to chart at #1 on Billboard's 200 list," per Motown Museum.
Sullivan knew what audiences wanted, and through his good relationship with the group, he welcomed them on the show several times. Per Ed Sullivan's website, Mary Wilson said of Sullivan, "At first, being young, there was a little distance, but he became very close to us when he found we were kind of, you know, nice girls. He really liked that."
Perhaps the group's most memorable performance on Sullivan was in 1967 when The Supremes collaborated with The Temptations, two of the biggest Motown groups of the time. Each group performed the other group's songs, which earned them a pair of primetime specials.
Lead singer Diana Ross was thrust even more into the limelight when the group was renamed to Diana Ross and the Supremes in 1967. Ross had and achieved aspirations of a solo career, but not before one more performance, the last one as a group, on The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was then when Sullivan himself acknowledged the eventual departure of Ross.
"As you know, Diana Ross is continuing her career as a single star," Sullivan said on Dec. 21, 1969, according to The Rolling Stone. "And now in their last television appearance together, here is Diana and The Supremes singing their current Number One record."
That hit was "Someday We'll Be Together."
The Supremes were around for some time after, as founding member Mary Wilson released new music with a "rotating crew of singers," but nothing compared to the success the group had with Ross at the helm.
According to Sullivan's website, The Supremes had 12 "#1 singles, setting the record for the most consecutive #1 hits for an American group."
Through their performances on Sullivan, including their last, The Supremes rose to an incredible level of fame, and their legacy is still felt today.
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