A Tribute to the Queen

Many people don't know much about Florence Ballard but that she was just one of the Supremes, but that's not all, hopefully by the time you get done reading this Tribute to her, you will know more then before. Florence Ballard had a winning smile and a winning personality. She was the life of any party she went to. She was fun-loving, always in good spirit, she love to joke and kid around with people, sassy. She was a beautiful woman with a good heart, who loved her fans. For example, before a concert or a show, she would see her fans standing outside in the cold waiting to get tickets for there show, so she would buy mostly all the fans hot chocolate or donuts. Florence was the eighth child of thirteen kids. Florence Glenda Ballard was born June 30, 1943. Her parents name was Jessie and Lurlee Ballard. Before Florence was 10 years old, her parents moved from the south of Rosetta, Mississippi and did what a lot of black families were doing moving to the north. They moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she stayed until her death. Florence's family was very close and loving, her mother didn't want her kids associating with a lot of the kids in the neighborhood, so they stayed home a lot and singed showtunes while Florence's mother played the piano. As Florence got older, she found out she had a voice and that she oculd sing real well. She entered talent shows and while entering she met a guy named Milton Jenkins who wanted to manage her but to manage her she needed a girl group to put together like a "sister group", Florence said yes so she asked Mary Wilson a girl she knew from a talent show from school who like to sing and she said yes. Milton Jenkins wanted to call them The Primettes after the other group he was managing called The Primes which consisted of Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Kell Osborne(Two of them future Temptations). The girl group consisted of Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown called The Primettes, at first Florence didn't want Diana in the group, but Paul had pleaded for her to be in the group so Florence said yes to pay Paul back for all the things he was doing for the group and her. They groomed the girls by buying them pretty party dresses, shoes, and wigs and cheap makeup. Florence was kind of the lead singer of the group. They recorded singles such as "Tears of Sorrow"/"Pretty Baby". The Primettes continued to go to school. At first they didn't know each other well, they would see each other on the streets and say "hi", but since they was in a group they got to know each other and became good friends. Florence was dedicated to her group until a tragedy happened in her life that would change her personality and the way she viewed life and the way she conducted herself, she had got raped by a neighborhood friend she thought she could trust. Florence felt dirty and didn't want to come out the house or see anyone. It took months for her to come back to life and what brought her back to life was her love for music and wanting to be in a group again. So Florence got back together with her group which now had changed to the Supremes (Florence picked that name out for them). Berry loved their voices and combination he saw something in them. But he told them to graduate from high school and come back, but they came back everyday doing background vocals for other big motown artists. The years with the Supremes was wonderful but the bigger they got, there personalities changed and they found out things about each other they didn't like. Florence was in the one of the biggest girl groups of all times. Florence Ballard was famous for her "Mae West" impersonation, on tour and around motown or where ever she went, she would always do that famous "Mae West" line by saying with a wink of an eye "Why Don't You Come Up and See Me Sometimes", the guys would just melt and they would do just that also. Florence was always a strong-willed person, she was hip and cool, fast, she used slang words when she talked, she didn't pull no punches, she let you know how she felt about stuff. She loved fashion, she picked out a lot of dresses and gowns, shoes, and wigs for the group, and also helped them with there makeup. She also did the same with other girl groups. She wanted the group to be the best. All the fans loved Florence the most, especially the guys loved her, Diana didn't like that, because she wanted all the attention, every little thing Florence did got back to Berry by Diana. Fights erupted between Florence and Berry, Berry wanted to control the group especially Florence, but she wouldn't let that happen. Berry tried to find anything wrong with Florence from head to toe. He put her down a lot. Which drove Florence to drinking and she started to gain a lot of weight, which didn't cut it because the other members were petite. Berry felt she wasn't holding her end of the rope. They fought on this issue for months, her weight went up and down. Her drinking got bad, sometimes she would come to rehearsals drunk and to concerts drunk or with hangovers, sometimes she would miss shows. So Berry brought in another singer from another famous girl group, Cindy Songbird, he figured she looked a little like Florence and she could keep up and she had a nice voice, and Berry Gordy wasn't ready to tell the world that he was getting ready to kick Florence out, so he figured Cindy could play as Florence for awhile, until people noticed, he knew the fans wouldn't like Florence to be kicked out of the group, because they loved her adn thought she was great. Berry gave Florence another chance, when Florence wasn't there, Cindy was. Berry couldn't take it anymore, so he kicked her out of the group. She felt so betrayed by the people she thought was her friends and by the group she made. But Berry offered her a contract, she knew he wouldn't promote her much. Florence Ballard signed a recording contract with ABC Records, but she was not yet released from her Motown deal and the resulting legal problems were just the beginning of similar difficulties that would plague her solo career. When finally released from her Motown obligations, part of the deal was the stipulation that she not use the name "Supremes" in connection with the publicity for her solo career, because she was going to name her first album "Without the Supremes", but Berry refuse to let her use the name even though she name the group, because he thought that she would use the name to make herself big or to further her career. As her result, her first official biography from ABC stated, "Florence was a member of a popular singing trio for many years, they didn't say the Supremes they just said a popular trio girl group, she was forbidded to use that name. Which I think was stupid, because she basically discovered the group. After leaving Motown, she signed with ABC Records and released two singles "It Doesn't Matter How I say It" and "Love Ain't Love", they didn't sell well at all, even though she had a beautiful voice. She couldn't finish the record she was working on, ABC decided to release her from the contract because she wasn't doing good with them. They didn't even release some of her albums, some of the pictures on this site was suppose to be on her album covers, but they never release them. By now Florence had 3 daughers named Michelle Denise, Nicola Rena, and Lisa. Nothing was going good for Florence, she was living back in the ghetto and on welfare. She was about to lose her home, so she moved in with her mother in her apartment. This all tore Florence down emotionally because in her neighborhood no one knew her anymore, she lost everything. Regularly, she would drink and take her kids back to the beautiful home she was had on Buena Vista in Detroit and she would go on the porch and sing "Supremes songs" as the lead singer with beer bottle as her microphone. Her marriage with Tommy Chapman was going bad, he cheated on her and was very abusive with her. When the money was gone he was, but when she had some he was back. Florence continued to do concerts and sing in bars, before she died she performed at "Womens Defence and Education Committee in Defence of Joanna Little and Inez Garcia on June 25, 1975. Everything was started to go good for Florence before her death, people started wanting her to perform at shows and she was offered a contract. But before she could do that she died of a cardiac attack in the hospital. She wasn't looking too good by the time of her death, she was aging fast and so looked so tried and out. She died February 22, 1976, her funeral was on February 24. She was 32. A lot of people from Motown was at her funeral such as members from the Vadellas, The Velvelettes, and Diana Ross and Mary Wilson, Rosalyn Ashford(of the Vadellas), Wanda Young(of the Marvelettes), Marv Johnson, Stevie Wonder and The Four Tops who were pallbearers, and many others singers and celebrities. The funeral was conducted by Reverend C. L. Franklin (Aretha Franklin's father) at The New Bethel Baptist Church. Florence is survived by her daughters who are in Detroit till this day and other sisters and brothers.

Florence Ballard is layed to rest in Detroit, MI at Detroit Memorial Park.