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Singer Florence Ballard formed The Supremes in 1961 with childhood friends Mary Wilson and Diana Ross. She sang on 16 different Top 40 hits.
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Born in Detroit in 1943, singer Florence Ballard, became famous in the 1960s as a member of The Supremes, a group which she started with childhood friends Mary Wilson and Diana Ross. She sang on 16 different Top 40 hits but left the group in 1967 after a dispute with Motown Records.
Singer. Born in Detroit, Michigan, on June 30, 1943. The ninth in a household of 13 children, Florence Ballard and her large family moved around frequently among different public housing projects before finally settling down in the Brewster-Douglass Projects in 1958. Ballard participated in the church choir from an early age. Lovingly referred to as "Blondie" because of her auburn hair and mixed racial heritage, Ballard would befriend a neighborhood girl named Mary Wilson after competing against her in several local talent shows.
Milton Jenkins of The Primes (a singing group which would later become The Temptations) was recruiting girls to audition for an all-female quartet when he became impressed by Ballard's singing style at a talent show. Having outdone herself at the audition, Ballard was commissioned by Jenkins to find other members to form The Primes' new sister group, The Primettes. Ballard immediately invited her good friend Mary Wilson, who in turn recruited another neighborhood pal, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown soon completed the quartet. (McGlown would leave the group in 1962 and was replaced by Barbara Martin. When Martin also quit the group, Ballard, Wilson, and Ross decided it would remain a trio.)
In the summer of 1960, a 17-year-old Ballard endured a tragic incident that would permanently shape her personality and shift her previously happy outlook on life to a mistrust and fear of strangers. After leaving a sock hop at Detroit's Graystone Ballroom one warm summer night, Ballard was separated from her brother Billy and accepted a ride home from a young man whom she thought she recognized, a local high-school basketball player. Instead of being driven home, Ballard was taken north of Detroit to an empty parking lot where the man raped her at knifepoint. For the next several weeks, Ballard secluded herself from public, even hiding from her bewildered band mates who knew nothing of the horrible event that had transpired. Finally, Ballard told her group mates what happened to her. Although the girls were sympathetic, they remained confused about Ballard's new behavior; she had always been a headstrong, unflappable character, but now there was an apparent change in her persona. Mary Wilson would later attribute Ballard's personality as an adult and subsequent self-destructive behavior to the assault Ballard experienced when she was a teen.
The Primettes never officially designated anyone as the lead vocalist, so often the group would just sing in unison or swap roles among the trio as lead singer. After a couple years performing at sock hops and jubilees, the group signed with Motown Records as The Supremes, a name chosen by Ballard, on January 15, 1961. Ballard sang lead vocals on the hit "Buttered Popcorn" when she was just 17 years old.
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