Florence Ballard

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Album cover showing Florence Ballard (left), with "The Supremes" - Mary Wilson and Diana Ross

Florence "Flo" Ballard (June 30 1943 - February 22 1976) was an African American singer, born in Rosetta, Mississippi and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Ballard, nicknamed "Blondie" because of her auburn hair and light complexion, was the founder and original lead singer of The Primettes, an all-girl singing group spin-off of The Primes (later known as The Temptations). The Primettes would sign to the Motown label in 1961 and go on to make music history as The Supremes.



The Supremes

Main article: The Supremes

Ballard had a voice resembling that of Billie Holliday; however, it was Ross's voice that stormed The Supremes into the charts, and the group ended up achieving ten number one hits from 1964 to 1967. In the early days of The Supremes, all three girls took turns singing lead vocals, with Ballard singing lead on songs such as "Buttered Popcorn" and "Heavenly Father." Diana Ross was made the permanent lead singer in 1964 because Motown chief Berry Gordy believed that her voice, with its higher register, would attract white audiences to the group. Diana Ross' vocals certainly appealed to a white audience, but there is speculation as to whether her voice was "accepted" by the black community at the time.

Ross, Ballard, and Mary Wilson recorded ten #1 US pop hits between 1964 and 1967, all of which featured Ross on lead vocals. Resentful and depressed for being pushed out of the spotlight, Ballard became a heavy drinker and gained weight until she no longer fit many of her costumes and gowns. In July 1967, she was fired from The Supremes and from Motown; Cindy Birdsong took her place in the group, which was renamed Diana Ross & The Supremes shortly before Ballard's departure.

Solo career

Ballard married Thomas Chapman, a former chauffeur for Motown, in 1968, and signed with ABC Records in 1968, two weeks after negotiating her release from Motown on February 22, 1968. Ballard receiving a one-time payment of $139,804.94 in royalties and earnings for her six-year tenure with the label. [1] (http://www.freep.com/motownat40/archives/102971mo.htm)

Billed as Florence "Flo" Ballard and with her husband as her manager, Ballard released the singles "It Doesn't Matter How I Say It" and "Love Ain't Love" on ABC, but the album she recorded was shelved. After that, Ballard's musical career went into extreme decline, and the $139 thousand was depleted by Chapman and Ballard's management agency. In 1971, Ballard sued Motown for royalty payments she felt were due her. The judges ruled in favor of Motown.

Decline and passing

Eventually separating from Chapman, Ballard's house was foreclosed upon. She had three daughters to feed. Deeply depressed, she continued to drink, allowing her health to deteriorate. In 1975, she received a settlement from a slip-and-fall incident in which she had broken her leg after slipping on a patch of ice. Ballard took the money, got herself cleaned up and back in shape, and began making steps towards a comeback. She also reconciled with Chapman.

However, on February 21 1976, Ballard entered Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital, complaining of numbness in her extremities. The next day, she died of coronary thrombosis, a blood clot in one of her coronary arteries. She was 32 years old.

In 2002, The Supreme Florence "Flo" Ballard, which included all the tracks from the album she recorded on ABC Records in 1968, was released by a London-based company on compact disc.



  • 1968: Florence "Flo" Ballard (shelved, issued in 2002)



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