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The Primettes

The First Audition

Late in the summer of 1960, the Primettes sat waiting for their audition with Berry Gordy Jr. Soon they were led into a recording studio and asked to sing the songs they had prepared. The girls were very nervous, and they had to sing a cappella since they no longer had Tarplin to accompany them on guitar. After the girls sang four songs for Berry Gordy Jr. and some other Motown producers, Gordy asked them how old they were. They replied that they were seniors in high school.

Gordy thought carefully before giving them his answer. It was clear to him that the girls were talented and ambitious, but it was also clear that they were very young. He politely told the girls to finish high school and then come see him again.

It wasn't the answer the Primettes had hoped for, but they thanked Gordy and left. The rejection didn't stop them. Once school started in the fall, the girls met every day at the Motown offices right after classes. Diane remembered, “We could hardly wait for school to get out so we could ride the bus to that building every day. Everybody at Motown got used to seeing us; we quickly became permanent fixtures there.” Though they were not allowed to record vocals, they got the chance to do background handclaps on some tracks. Watching professionals, the Primettes were able to use what they learned and polish their own act.

The Primettes also began working with Richard Morris, the engineer who had set up the audition with Gordy. Morris got Gordy's permission to work with the Primettes on his own time, without offering them a contract. He also started acting as the group's manager and began booking them at more events in the Detroit area.

Working through their new contacts, the Primettes got better and better gigs. They were able to open for successful entertainers like Wilson Pickett and Johnny Mathis. With each performance, the Primettes felt more professional and ready for their own recording contract. In less than a year, the girls would have the contract they had been dreaming of.

Additional topics

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