The rise of "Motown" was unprecedented in the 1960's, and no group of that era was bigger than the Supremes, that wonderful trio of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.
Obviously Diana would go on to bigger and better things when she persued a solo career, however for Florence the remainder of her life would be filled with tradgedy and heart break.
The trio that made up the Supremes would grow up in Detroit's Brewster public housing precinct, then in 1959 they began singng togther as the Primettes. Their big break came when Motown's then president Berry Gordy discovered them, and by this time they had changed their name to the Supremes.
Where Did Our Love Go
Their first real hit under the direction of Gordy was the 1964 classic "Where Did Our Love Go", which topped the charts in 1964. No less than 12 number one hits would follow, Diana proving to be the ultimate leading lady, while Florence was always a crowd pleaser, she quickly getting a reputation for her wonderful sence of humour, particularly when ad libbing.
In 1967 Diana's leadership could no longer be ignored, by her or the promoters, and so the groups name was changed to "Diana Ross and the Supremes". A bit of a party girl, Florence became fond of a tipple and started to stack on the kilo's. Gordy pleaded with her to mend her ways, but the damage was done, and so late in 1967 he finally decided to fire her from the group.
Florenence then tried her hand at a solo career, however being banned from using the Supremes name in any way, shape or form prevented her from getting any recognised billing. When Diana Ross finally departed entirely from the group in 1969 to follow her solo career, Florence was to contact Mary Wilson in a half hearted attempt to re-launchh the Supremes.
Near destitute, she would lose her house in Detroit in 1974, and was then forced onto welfare while she cared for her three daughters. Mary flew Florence out to Los Angeles later that year, where she was introduced at a Supremes concert to a standing ovation. Then $50,000 magically appeared in her bank account (most believe Diana was the benefactress). Florence purchased a new house, Cadillac and some expensive Christmas gifts for her daughters.
The fun was short lived however, Florence succumbing to a cardiac arrest on February 22, 1976 at the age of 32. Her mother Lurlee would later claim her daughter had died of a broken heart.