BATTLE OF THE ADS, Part 2: Billboard Magazine (12/26/64)

The December 26, 1964 issue of Billboard (available online via Google Books) features another promotional “battle” of sorts — this time, pitting the first Queen of Motown against the record label’s newest Golden Girls.

Supremes Christmas AdMary Wells Christmas AdMary Wells, of course, began the year as Motown’s biggest star, ascending to new heights when “My Guy” topped the Billboard Hot 100.  In his memoirs To Be Loved, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. wrote of the singer, “Mary was hot.  All the producers wanted to record anything on her — they didn’t give a damn what it was.  Whether it was an A side, B side or just a tune in one of her albums, they knew it would make money” (186).

But in the wake of “My Guy” — the peak of her success — Wells decided to leave Motown.  Losing their top star was a major blow to Gordy and company, who fought to keep the singer from jumping ship.  But as legal wrangling dragged on, the group formerly known as the “no-hit Supremes” finally broke through in a big way: “Where Did Our Love Go” became the first #1 hit for Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard in August, elevating The Supremes to Motown’s top-tier status.  Label focus shifted squarely onto the group, and by October, Wells was officially an artist with 20th Century Fox Records.

Thus, in the last Billboard issue of 1964, the former labelmates squared off in full-page “Seasons Greetings” ads placed by different record companies.  “Use Your Head” (a bouncy tune which bears more than few hallmarks of “The Motown Sound) was a moderate hit for Mary Wells, climbing into the pop top 40, but the singer’s tenure on 20th Century Fox was brief and she ended up bouncing around to a few other labels.  The Supremes, of course, would have a very Happy New Year — 1965 would bring three more #1 hits and a triumphant opening at New York’s top club, the Copacabana.

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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3 Responses to BATTLE OF THE ADS, Part 2: Billboard Magazine (12/26/64)

  1. Rob Gallagher says:

    The “Where Did Our Love Go” album cover always bugged me because Florence looks like she photobombed, stretching over Mary’s head to get her face in the shot.

  2. Antje says:

    This not a reply, simply don’t know in which category this comment might fit, and I hope you do not mind. But I finally decided I do have to tell you guys about my experience attending Miss Ross’ concert at Ravinia Park, row 5! To sum it up: My jaws just dropped and I was in awe. Where does she pull this kind of energy from? Though she sang her usual setlist, she did it with such joy, and – as I had often read about – you got the feeling she is singing just to you.
    Skipped were all slow tempo numbers, that is no LSTB, Endless love, Reach out and touch. I really could do without it, because the uptempo numers where done extensively. Costume changes were scaled down, which I appreciated. The only objection I had was the way she sang “Do you know”, lagging so much behind the beat you expected her to miss it. And with “Love hangover”, I had the impression she tried to mimick her younger self.
    Altogether, it was a high energy performance, DR being in good voice, and the atmosphere was fantastic!
    By the way: Kevin, her long time musical director, was back in the band. And her brother Fred was in the audience.

  3. I’ve always been I interested to know what might have been if Mary Wells had stayed at Motown. I think it’s easy to forget what a big star she was at the time. It would have been an interesting dynamic with The Supremes in assendance and Wells very much the First Lady of Motown. Perhaps she would have been side lined much like other stars once The Supremes hit their stride. I’m just not sure anyone outside of Hitsville knew what to with their artists when they left. The sound was so specific.

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