A Debut Supreme: Mary Wilson Recalls The Supremes’ DC Debut at The Howard Theatre

Before The Howard Theatre makes its 21st Century debut on April 9th, NPR sat down with Mary Wilson to talk about The Supremes’ DC debut. In 1962, Berry Gordy routed The Motortown Revue through Washington DC’s Howard Theatre. The Motortown Revue was a chitlin’ circuit tour featuring headlining artists and developing acts signed to Gordy’s Motown label. All of the Revue’s acts stayed across the street from the Howard in row-houses, which still stand today along the 600 block of Florida Avenue. One of the rising acts on this particular tour were the “No-Hit Supremes,” who as their nickname noted were in dire need of a top ten single. Motortown Revue As the legend goes, on October 26th, 1962, The Motortown Revue had its kick-off show at The Howard Theatre and the first act on the stage were The Supremes. According to historian Mark Ribowsky, The Supreme trio of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson “nervously ran through a stillborn rendition of the just released `Let Me Go the Right Way,’ with Diane doing her bug-eyed mugging to almost no reaction before exiting.”
This first performance outside of Detroit was the beginning of many road shows that would hone The Supremes’ supernova stage presence, destined blow audiences and tv hosts away in the not so distant future. Two years later in 1964, the Motown production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland convinced The Supremes to record “Where Did Our Love Go?,” a single that the trio disliked, but became their first number one single. Read on about Mary Wilson’s memories of The Howard Theatre in NPR’s music article, In DC, A Bastion of Black Entertainment Returns:

One Response to “A Debut Supreme: Mary Wilson Recalls The Supremes’ DC Debut at The Howard Theatre”

  1. Darryl Walden

    “Let Me Go The Right Way” featured Mary Wilson as the lead singer of the Supremes. Mary’s voice was full and reflective of the African American female. However, as fate would have it, Barry Gordy wanted the Supremes to bear a crossover sound, and Diana Ross was inserted as the Supremes lead singer. Mary accepted this with grace. I recall meeting Mary at the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta. I marveled at the fact this living legend had maintained her willowed beauty which on stage with the Supremes, always seemed to stabilize the group with quiet class. If there is anyone that can speak with integrity about that era, truly it is Mary Wilson.


Leave a Reply