Mary Wilson, original member of “The Supremes,” dies at 76

By: Leah Alsept


Mary Wilson, original and longest-reigning member of The Supremes, has died at aged 76.

The group was originally titled “The Primettes” and was slated to be the sister group to the “The Primes”. The four original members were Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown, all from the same neighborhood in Detroit, according to the Detroit Historical Society.

The girls had a shaky lineup with McGlown being replaced by Barbara Martin in 1960. Martin left the group shortly after. That didn’t hold back the remaining three, though, because they auditioned for Motown and were quickly signed by Barry Gordy (although being made to wait until they graduated high school).

The trio’s debut album “Meet The Supremes” didn’t garner them any success in 1962, but just two years later, the girls released “Where Did Our Love Go” which rocketed them to stardom.

The group’s recognizable beehive hairdos and oft matching outfits onstage made them darlings to the nation. Their music skyrocketed them to fame, notably being returning guests on the “The Ed Sullivan Show,” appearing 16 times.

The Supremes lost another founding member, Diana Ross, to a solo career in 1970, and the lineup continued to change until their disbandment in 1977.

Mary Wilson continued her career by releasing a self-titled album in 1979. She also performed in musical theater productions throughout the 80s. In 1986, she released her autobiography, “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme” and continued to pen books about her life in the nation’s most recognizable girl group. Her most recent book, “Supreme Glamour,” was published in 2019 and showcases the dresses the girls wore onstage for performances.

Mary Wilson also visited the University of Findlay in 2019 to perform her hit songs. The event was funded by many local Findlay-area companies, like Marathon Petroleum Corporation, the Hancock Hotel, and WFIN Radio. All proceeds for the event went to UFTV, the university’s television station that produces shows like UFTV News and the Arts and Culture Show.

Photos courtesy of UFTV Studio Manager Andrew du Fresne.

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