Musician Biographies » The Supremes

The Primettes - No Stopping, Canadian Contest, The Primettes Meet Motown, Motown, The First Audition

girls mary diane jenkins

The Primettes first appeared at a local union meeting. They rotated lead vocals so that each girl was featured on at least one song. The audience responded with a lot of applause for the girls' performance. Milton Jenkins was pleased and started booking the Primettes at other events.

In the beginning, the girls sang covers of hit songs they knew from listening to the radio. Local DJs would play recorded instrumental tracks with which the girls sang along. Soon, the group met Marvin Tarplin, an acoustic guitarist who knew many of the songs they performed and could read music as well. The Primettes could now perform with a live musician in addition to prerecorded music.

It wasn't easy, though. Flo, Diane, and Mary had only just graduated from the eighth grade when they became members of the Primettes. Along with singing, they were dealing with new high schools. Diane had started her studies at Cass Tech, and Mary was attending Northeastern High with Flo. Betty lived in a different part of town and went to a different high school. All four of the girls were planning to go to college, so they knew that studying was as important to their lives as singing. They all worked hard to strike a balance between the performing that they loved and the studying that they had to do.

As the group got more gigs, Diane and Mary decided that the Primettes needed a more sophisticated look. They wanted to try designing their own stage dresses. The first gowns that they made for the Primettes were orange floral balloon dresses that puffed out at the waist and tapered at the knee. It began a long tradition of the girls appearing in cutting-edge fashions.

Fun Fact!

Before their first public appearance, Milton Jenkins's girlfriend took the Primettes shopping for outfits. The girls agreed that their look should be clean and classy. They chose to wear letter sweaters and pleated skirts with bobby socks and sneakers.

From Primettes to Supremes - A Terrible Event, Trying Again, First Releases, And Then There Were Three, The Motortown Revue [next] [back] Three Kids from Detroit - The Brewster Projects, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Diane Ross, Getting It Together

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