Florence Ballard

Florence Ballard

Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 22 Feb 1976 (aged 32)
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Burial Warren, Macomb County, Michigan, USA
Memorial ID 4041 · View Source
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R&B singer and founding member of one of America's successful female vocal groups of all time, the Supremes. Florence Glenda Ballard was the eighth of thirteen children born in Detroit, Michigan. She grew up in the housing projects of Detroit, Michigan. In her teens, Ballard formed the vocal group the Primettes with school friends Mary Wilson and Betty Travis (who later left the group). Diana Ross completed the line-up in 1960. The following year, in Jan. of 1961, the Primettes were signed by Motown Records, who re-named them the Supremes. As the group's acknowledged leader, Ballard was the featured vocalist on their early Motown singles, label boss Berry Gordy insisted that Diana Ross become the lead singer in 1963. Over the next four years, the Supremes became the toast of show business, scoring 10 No. 1 hits, appearing on the "The Ed Sullivan Show" 20 times, headlining top night clubs and starring in their own top-rated TV specials. After Diana Ross was made lead, Ballard was allowed few opportunities to take the limelight, either on record or in contract. Unhappy with her diminishing role in the Supremes, she repeatedly complained to Gordy and his executives, and resulting friction led to her being ousted from the group in 1967. Throughout the drama, Motown maintained that Ballard was retiring because of the strain of constant touring. In 1968 Ballard married Tommy Chapman, a former Motown Chauffeur, and they had three children together. Motown annuled her contract, and she signed with ABC, for whom she made two singles. Ballard was legally barred from capitalizing on her glorious past with the Supremes, and while her former group went on, her solo releases flopped. Her contract with ABC was later terminated and other labels were weary of offending Gordy by signing her. Ballard became an increasingly embittered figure, ignored by the Detroit Music Scene in which she had played such a pivotal role. By the early 1970's, Ballard's finances had declined and she and her children were living in a Detroit housing project. Her reliance on a lethal cocktail of alcohol and diet pills soon weakened her health, and in February, 1976, a day after checking into a Detroit hospital, Ballard's tragic career ended at the young age of 32. Ironically, Florence Ballard's contribution to the success of the Supremes has now been recognized and her fate has been described as a telling verdict on the way in which Motown handled its more uncompromising artists. Though she departed this life before she could revive her career, Florence Ballard continues to live through the wonderful legacy of the Supremes.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 21 Nov 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4041
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Florence Ballard (30 Jun 1943–22 Feb 1976), Find a Grave Memorial no. 4041, citing Detroit Memorial Park East, Warren, Macomb County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .