Editorial: Supremes part of early music education

Published 9:44 am Friday, February 19, 2021

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There weren’t a lot of frills to the house my family grew up in off Oak Grove Church Road near Mocksville.

It was an old farmhouse, with a detached smokehouse with a lean-to for the washing machine and dad’s tools and another one for a vehicle. The was a barn, too, but we didn’t have farm animals so the loft was used for indoor basketball. The screen doors were held in place by a spring, and I don’t think any of the doors could have been locked.

The youngest of four children, I was the lucky one.

For one, I never had to use the outhouse. It was there, but an indoor toilet had been added as I came along. An early memory is the N.C. Department of Transportation road scraper taking a side tour while working on our road to push down the outhouse and push our pile of garbage next to the woods somewhat underground.

Yes, it was a different time.

Although we didn’t have much as far as material things go, I always remember a record player or two in the house. While my mother liked the Tennessee Ernie Ford and Eddie Arnold albums, my siblings preferred a more modern sound.

One of my first memories of music on the record player was an album by The Supremes. At age 6 or 7 in the early ‘60s, I played the record as often as I could (Or as often as I could get it from my brother or sister; for some reason, they thought I might damage the vinyl.) The three black women wore fancy clothes and jewelry, and their make-up was spot on. Their singing was superb, the songs catchy, their harmonies spot on. They sounded and looked fabulous. It was quite a sight and sound for a country boy from rural Davie County.

Fast forward some 50 years and I was on the telephone, talking to Mary Wilson, an original Supreme. She graciously answered all of my sometimes silly questions, and treated me with respect and kindness.

I’ll never forget that, either.

Why was I talking to Mary Wilson? She had an upcoming concert in Mocksville, and I thought folks needed to know that an original Supreme – the one who stayed with the group the longest – was coming to town.

How did I get her phone number?

Thanks goes to Tony Daniels and Wayne Harp. They were Mary Wilson’s friend. She had even visited them at their home near Mocksville, and gone out for a pimento cheeseburger at Miller’s Restaurant. They had a lot to do with getting her to play a concert in Mocksville, as well.

“I have known them for years, for a long, long time,” she said in 2013. “They have been wonderful supporters of mine and The Supremes.”

It turns out that a piece of Mary Wilson remained in Mocksville.

She had a cat, and a close family member had become allergic to the felines. Mary Wilson had to find a new home for her beloved pet, and Tony and Wayne offered to take it in.

“Knowing them well, I gave the cat to them,” she said. And she had to know the cat was doing well, so she came to visit. The cat – it was doing so well that it barely wanted anything to do with Wilson when she visited.

“That connected us,” she said.

Wilson also saw their collection of Supremes memorabilia, including dolls with outfits. They had one she didn’t have, and gave it to her to add to her collection.

Mary Wilson died last week at the age of 76.

And while my musical tastes quickly went from the song-heavy harmonizing of The Supremes to a different kind of heavy rock, my memories remain of the days when I could sneak that album from my sister and play it for no one else but me. I’ve always had a good imagination, so it was like a private concert.

“Where Did Our Love Go?”

It’s right here, Mary Wilson. It’s in our hearts. It’s in our minds.

Thank you for the memories.

– Mike Barnhardt