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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Supremes return for tour
Scherrie Payne, Diana Ross and Lynda Laurence
On tour: Scherrie Payne, Diana Ross and Lynda Laurence
Diana Ross is reforming The Supremes - but fans of the group's 1960s heyday might find the new line-up a little unfamiliar.

The 56-year-old superstar has announced plans for a US tour featuring the group's Motown hits, but the other two performers joining Ross - Lynda Laurence and Sherrie Payne have never performed on stage with her before.

The two are filling in for Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong, who turned down offers to join the tour.

"This was never called a reunion tour, I never considered it a reunion tour," Ross told a New York press conference.

Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson in 1970
Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson: Turned down offers to join
Laurence joined the Supremes in 1971, a year after Ross left to start a solo career, replacing Cindy Birdsong. Payne joined in 1973, filling in for Ross' replacement Jean Terrell.

Ross said the singers "have been a part of the Supremes for 30 years".

"They really are the ones who've kept the legend alive," she added.

Describing the tour as a "once in a lifetime chance", she emphasised that "chance has been a part of the Supremes since the beginning", when the group started out as a four-piece called The Primettes in 1959.

Diana Ross in 1970
Diana Ross' relationship with Berry Gordy caused friction
Ross said: "The tour is not about me, it's not about individuals. It's about the music and what we represented."

But she said of Mary Wilson, who was in the original line-up until the group finally disbanded in 1977: "I wish she was here. I don't think anyone was willing to go as far as Mary wanted."

Wilson herself said she was told promoters were offering up to $20m (12.5m) to stage the tour, of which she was offered $2m (1.25m), then $3m (1.9m). Cindy Birdsong was offered less than $1m (625,000), with Ross receiving the remainder.

'Recreate history'

The promoters, who dispute Wilson's figures - are billing the tour as "Diana Ross and the Supremes' Return To Love" - but she is sceptical of the reception it will receive.

"I do not think you can recreate history in people's hearts. People know what the real story is," Wilson said.

The group first shot to fame as a three-piece - Ross, Wilson, and Florence Ballard - in 1963. Hits including Stop! In The Name Of Love and Baby Love followed, but friction within the group followed, as a result of Ross' relationship with Motown boss Berry Gordy.

Diana Ross
Diana Ross insists fans will come to see the music, not the personalities
Ballard was fired in 1967, to be replaced by Cindy Birdsong as the group became Diana Ross and the Supremes. Ballard died aged 32 in 1976.

Ross left to go solo in 1970, and although the group had some success without her at first - including the songs Nathan Jones and Stoned Love - they rarely made the charts after 1972, and split in 1977.

Ross, Wilson and Birdsong did reunite for a tense performance at a Motown 25th anniversary TV special in 1983, when Ross pushed Wilson's microphone away from her face.

Carl Feuerbacher, director of the Chicago-based Mary Wilson Fan Club, said: "The greatest thing that could ever happen for a true Motown Supremes fan is to see a reunion of Diana, Mary and Cindy."

See also:

13 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Diana Ross back in Britain
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