Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I was glad to see the back of them. The Supreme's lead singer Mary Wilson, manager/husband, Dominican businessman Pedro Ferrer, her fellow Supreme members Suzaye Greene and Scherrie Payne; are finally returning to the USA and thankfully, out of my life.

I had been touring with this group plus Mary and Pedro’s daughter Turkessa and her nanny for several weeks. The tour took in Montreux, for a TV show at the annual Music Festival, Rome and Paris for TV appearances and finally the UK for concerts and TV. As European Marketing Director for Motown Records, I had been accompanying The Supremes to oversee local promotions and to make sure that our local representatives were looking after the group.

To ensure the group were “happy” I had to be certain that Pedro was “happy”. I found Pedro to be a charming rogue with an eye for the ladies and whilst a lot of fun to be with, he was also an extremely demanding person. Keeping Pedro “happy” was in itself a full time job.

One task that fell to me was playing tennis with Pedro at every opportunity. I’m a very competitive person who likes to win and if I can’t win I have to let the opponent know they didn’t win without a fight. I should have rolled over and let Pedro win the first three set encounter in Montreux, instead of fighting back at 1-1 and winning the third. Of course Pedro had to then make it a five setter, which I stubbornly refused to let him win: thus ensuring a return match in Rome, then another in Paris and finally a marathon encounter in London.

Keeping Pedro smiling also meant having to be his buddy on shopping sprees and trips to the best nightclubs in each city. These “night outs” usually started around midnight and finished around 4am. It seemed to me that Pedro couldn’t wait for Mary and the group to retire for the night so he could “party”.

In between keeping Pedro happy I also had to be with him and the group at their various TV and media appearances and supervising getting their 23 pieces of baggage from hotels to the airplanes and onto the next hotel and so on and so on. Usually the group would go through customs to either the plane or the next hotel and leave me to sort out getting the luggage through and delivered.

In those days airport security was very little when compared with the terrorist driven strict security we face today. However it still took a lot of explaining as to why I had so many bags to check in that were not actually mine. This was made even more difficult in Rome when the group waltzed through check in and security leaving me with the luggage just as a guy checking in on the counter next to me was found to be carrying a gun. I just made the flight.

In Paris we arrived at the luxury George V Hotel and took over a group of suites that even included a servant’s room; of course that’s where I ended up. However it was better than most top hotel rooms and I was very happy with it.

After settling everybody in, Pedro wanted me to go shopping with him. So off we go by limousine with the first stop being Louis Vuitton where Pedro purchased the biggest and most expensive suitcase. Then it was onto a series of beautiful top designer shops where Pedro continued to accumulate expensive articles until the suitcase was full.

That night the EMI Paris representative, Kathryn (An English lady with one of those beautiful rounded English voices), hosted a dinner for us at Maxim’s. We had a fantastic meal and when it was time to go Kathryn, on receiving the bill, asked (in English) for the Maitre d’. When he arrived a very heated conversation in French took place: Kathryn then counted out in French Francs exactly the amount of the account.

After seeing The Supremes to the hotel, Kathryn took Pedro and myself to a very classy nightclub where I had the opportunity to ask her what the scene at Maxim’s was all about. Apparently, presuming no one in our party spoke French; the waiters serving us had been making rude remarks about the group all evening. You can imagine those waiters and the Maitre d’ were very surprised and embarrassed at Kathryn’s fluent French after she had spoken English from the time she made the booking up until receiving the cheque.

Our final tour destination was London (my base) and here the EMI UK staff took over looking after the group (and Pedro). Thankfully I was free from being their companion, luggage man and tennis partner. Or so I thought.

After a couple of days I get a call from Pedro; he has organised a tennis court in Knightsbridge and wanted a last opportunity to give me a beating. Once again we play another long, competitive and exhausting five set match. Over a post game drink Pedro says he is driving to Bournemouth next day to see The Supremes in concert and wants me to come with him. Bugger: I can’t refuse. After getting out of London Pedro drives like a maniac and I’m absolutely terrified: however we arrive alive and well. Mary and the group are in top form and the concert terrific, as was the after concert party. But now I have to face the return journey to London with Pedro driving. In the early hours of the morning the sparsely populated roads are just the incentive Pedro needs to go even faster and again throughout the trip I’m silent with fear. It is with relief I wave Pedro farewell as he “burns” away from my home in Barnes.

Finally The Supremes tour comes to an end and I’m free at long last. That was the good news. The bad news was that two more European tours by major Motown artists are announced and I’m probably going to get to do this all over again.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1974, Mary Wilson married Pedro Ferrer and they subsequently had three children: Turkessa (born 1975), Pedro (born 1977) and Raphael (born 1979). In 1981, Wilson divorced Ferrer, whom she describes in Supreme Faith as being habitually abusive.


If I sound like an unhappy camper in the story above, it is because I was. My position at Motown had increasingly taken me away from creating and promoting music and was far removed from the day-to-day excitement of managing a record company. The end of 1976 would see me back where I wanted to be.

1 comment:

  1. Another great story. John, but I just can't imagine you as bag man on any job.