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Payyyyne Sissssssssteers

Gina: So Scherrie, you were with The Supremes. You were with the Former Ladies of The Supremes. You were also a songwriter and you wrote stuff for the stage. Did you write a whole musical?

Scherrie: I was a stage play writer. I've done it all. I was with the Supremes from 1973 until the end of the group which was 1977. I sang with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong and then subsequently, Cindy left in '76 and Susaye Green came in, who was the last Supreme. And she was with us until the group was retired actually in '78 by Motown. And then Susaye and I did an album together called Partners and then a few years after that, during the disco era, we formed the Former Ladies of The Supremes in 1986. And that was with Jean Terrell, whose place I had taken in The Supremes. Jean had replaced Diana Ross and Lynda Laurence replaced Cindy Birdsong. And so we were the Former Ladies of The Supremes. And Cindy only stayed a little while and Lynda took her place again in the Former Ladies. Actually, in 2000 Lynda and I sang with Diana Ross and she did her Return to Love Tour. Which was again, wonderful.

Gina: When you've done something that's so epic as being a singer, like singing in The Supremes, what do you do after that?

Scherrie: Yeah that's what I said, too. What am I going to do after this? The disco era came along and I did a couple of singles. “I'm Not in Love,” which was a huge hit for the group 10cc and Dee Dee Sharp. And then I did my disco version of it and then I did “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls. And so I played some clubs around the country doing those songs. And then I sort of laid low for a while and then I started writing screenplays, which I love to do. I have 20 screenplays and I have two stage plays and I put on a musical this past summer in June at the Secret Rose in North Hollywood called The Dream Seekers with a cast of 30 people. And we just had a great time. And so it's something I've always loved doing. Of course music runs in our family with my big sister Freda.

Gina: Yes. One song that Freda did, she premiered the song “Band of Gold” which Rolling Stone Magazine called One of the Greatest 500 Songs of All Time. Her version. Did you know that?

Scherrie: I didn't even know. That is so cool.

Gina: Many people have done the song “Band of Gold” but Freda's version is the one.

Freda: Yeah. It was actually recorded in 1969 and released in 1970. I know people have done a remake, have covered it. Sylvester did a fabulous rendition back in the 70s. You know  the late disco singer Sylvester. And also Bonnie Tyler did it. She did a remake of “Band of Gold”. The girl who had a big hit called “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”. A British singer. Actually, I sang with her. Belinda Carlisle. She did it and we recorded it together and we did “Solid Gold” together. And then we were included on a special- a Cinemax special- called Legendary Ladies of Rock. And that was, I guess that was in the 80s. That was in the 80s. And that was like Grace Slick and Martha Reeves and Mary Wells. Myself, Belinda Carlisle. We did it together. And it was several other ladies included in that.

Gina: Freda, you were involved in a lot of performance on stage. Like Broadway.

Freda: Yeah. Oh yeah. My history goes back to 1967 when I understudied Leslie Uggams on Broadway in a hit show called Hallelujah Baby. That was in ‘67 and I went on in the lead role five times on Broadway.  And then after that I did eight companies of Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies. Both here in the United States and in Europe. And then I did about seven companies of another musical that was off-Broadway. It was called The Blues in the Night, which was a show conceived by Sheldon Epps, who was recently the artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse for several years. And I did Blues in the Night for several companies including a company in Japan. And then I did the first and the only national company Jelly's Last Jam. It played Broadway and then they put it on the road. The national company. And that starred Maurice Hines. Hines is the brother of Gregory Hines, who did it on Broadway.  And it was Gregory Hines and Savion Glover and myself- we all got star billing in Jelly's Last Jam. And that was around 1995. And then I just done a lot of other- I did Ain't Misbehavin. I did just one company that was with Della Reese and the late Linda Hopkins, Chad Ross and Lonnie McNeill. And I've done some plays. I already mentioned Sophisticated Ladies. I've done some plays by Donald Welch. A play called The Divorce. It was strictly a play. Not a musical.And then another play that he directed and wrote called A Change is Gonna Come. And I've done film. I've got film credits. Nutty Professor, The Klumps. I did The Book of Numbers, Disorderly Orderly, Private Sessions, Cordially Invited. I've done a few movie credits and some TV credits. And of course back in the 60s and the 70s and the 80s, I did the Johnny Carson show multiple times. I did Merv Griffin multiple times. Dick Cavett, David Frost. I got to perform on those shows. I was booked with Bob Hope. I got to be on the same bill at a benefit with Frank Sinatra. I was the opening act and I did several performances with Sammy Davis Jr. And my first professional job out of Detroit, right out of high school, was with Pearl Bailey for her touring company and that was like 1960. I've done a lot of work. I worked with Quincy Jones. I worked with him back in the 60s when we had a big band and we did some touring. I was offered a 10 year contract by Duke Ellington himself. I got to sing with his band a couple of times as a guest artist. I also toured and I worked a few times with Lionel Hampton and his band. And so I've worked with Quincy to Ellington, Lionel Hampton. I got to sing with Count Basie's band once. And Jimmy Wilkins, he was a local band in Detroit. We were very proud of Jimmy Wilkins. He used to hire me to sing as a guest artist with him when I was 15 and 16 years old back in Detroit. I worked with Don Rickles and George Burns. I worked with Jay Leno. I remember Jay Leno when he was my opening act. I just have a long, long history.

Gina: What I notice is that you and your sister haven't performed a lot together over your lives.

Freda: No we haven't. Very little. Very little. We just did a private party a week ago here in L.A. at the Ronald Reagan Library, but we weren't singing together, per se. We both did our three or four songs and then at the end we closed out doing “I Will Survive” together. I've also recorded them. I've recorded like about 18 albums. Starting from the 60s on up until my last recording effort, which was a jazz album. It was on a jazz label called Mack Avenue and the title of the CD is Come Back to Me Love. We recorded it right here in Hollywood at Capitol Records in studio A. Live. It's all big band and strings. That was released in 2014. So that was the latest thing I've done.

Gina: Why is it that you two haven't performed more together?Here you are, two extraordinarily talented girls.

Freda: Well, we never considered ourselves sister act. We always had our separate careers because we were both, like you just said, two talented girls. We wanted to channel that talent for our own benefit. Because we felt that we were good enough to be a solo artist.

Gina: So it wasn't because you would fight too much or anything like that?

Freda: No, we did the fighting, believe me.

Scherrie: We still fight, we argue all the time.  When we were kids we would fight almost every day. We'd drive our mother crazy. You know, we do what sisters do.

Gina: You know, I think it would be to anybody's advantage in the area who would want to come up, who are wondering how good the show is going to be. What they don't realize is that they're getting a double whammy. They're getting two great talents rather than just one person.

Scherrie: And Freda is a master of her time recording Band of Gold. And also, a song I wrote- even before The Supremes I was with a group called The Glass House at Invictous Records- called “Crumbs Off the Table,” which is one of the songs I'll be performing. Dusty Springfield also recorded that song, and a couple other rock groups.

Freda: That was a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. That was like a funky, funky song. It almost kind of reminds me of something that Aretha Franklin would have done as well.

Gina: Are you going to perform on that one when you're here?

Scherrie: Yes, yes I will.

Gina: I want to ask you both- what do you think about music right now? What kind of contemporary music do you like right now? How do you think it has changed over time? What is your perspective on that?

Freda: I'm still partial to the music from back in the 80s, 70s. Especially the 70s and the 60s. I guess you might say I'm old school.

Scherrie: Songs back then had a melody, a definite melody you could sing along with. So many songs nowadays- not all of them- they just don't seem to have a melody.

Freda: I have to blame the new technical age of all the computers and all of the synthesizing and the artificial sounds that we hear. The music today it's very- especially in the pop vein- it's very robotic and it lacks a certain amount of beauty and melody. Every now and then you'll hear something that's like, Wow that's a great song. Wow that's a nice tune or that really resonates. I'd like to also mention that I was talking about the credits I had done before and I forgot to mention that I've actually done this play. It's a musical play and it's called Ella Fitzgerald First Lady of Song. I actually starred in that twice in regional theaters and I'm getting ready to do it again in 2018 in Wilmington, Delaware at the Delaware Theater. I'm starring in it as Ella Fitzgerald. It's going to be directed and choreographed by Maurice Hines. It's a funny thing, I went to a screening last night to see this movie starring Judi Dench about Queen Victoria and there was a Q&A and she was talking about how she was all padded and everything and I said to myself, Well thank God! Because when I do Ella I wear a fat suit and padded underwear and everything. Because Ella was mostly a large woman. Other than when she first started she was small but then she kind of packed on the pounds.

Scherrie: But after the performance Freda runs and changes her clothes and runs up to the lobby to let everybody know, I'm not really that big.

Freda: I would! When the curtain went down I would run back to the dressing room and put on my street clothes and I'd run out to the lobby, and I'd like to let people know that, Hey, I'm not that big. I'm still skinny!

Scherrie: I forgot to mention I participated in a musical called Dream Street. I forgot to mention that. Just fantastic. Another wonderful experience in my life. And then with the Former Ladies of The Supremes, Lynda Lawrence and myself. We toured all over the world performing with such wonderful groups, especially Motown groups like Dennis Edwards and his Temptations, Review, and other Motown acts. We just had a wonderful time. I think I've been to every country in the world except for Russia and China. So I've had a wonderful experience. A little girl from Detriot. I never thought.

Gina: After all these years of performing some of these songs for both of you, what are your favorite songs to perform?

Scherrie: Wow, that's a good question. Because the song list does change throughout the years. I'll be doing some songs from The Supremes. And I think my favorite is “My World is Empty.” I've always loved that song.  And I might do “Where Did Our Love Go.” Originally I heard it in Detroit. I was at Michigan State. I remember going to my Quantitative Analysis Chemistry class and I was passing a dorm on a shortcut. And I heard this song, this beat. So I went to the girl's room and I said, What song is that? I really like that. I didn't even know these girls. And they said, It's this new record from this group called The Supremes called “Where Did Our Love Go.” I think that was around 1964. And the other songs- I'll do “Crumbs Off the Table.” And I don't know if I'll do “Another Life From Now.” It depends.

Freda: On that note talking about “Where Did Our Love Go”- I was working with Quincy's big band at the Apollo in New York in Harlem. Quincy said, I want you to do this new song. It's number one on the chart. It's called “Where Did Our Love Go” by The Supremes. I said, Why do I have to do this song? He said, This song is number one. It's a hit song by The Supremes. That's why you have to do it.

Gina: Freda, what is your favorite song? What song do you still really enjoy singing?

Freda: Oh wow, I can't answer that. It's not really “Band of Gold,” even though, no matter what I do, if I do a whole jazz show, I'll still encore with “Band of Gold.” I do a variety of material. This year especially is Ella Fitzgerald’s 100 centennial birthday and so I've been doing a lot of tributes to Ella Fitzgerald in performing arts centers and jazz clubs as well. So I'll probably be doing some Ella material as well. And then, and then I'll be doing some songs I've recorded other than “Band of Gold” like “Bring the Boys Home.” And songs like “Cherish What Is Dear To You” or “Through the Memory of My Mind.” Maybe I'll do “The Road We Didn't Take.” And I'll do a lot of other songs. “Don't Mean A Thing” or “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Mack the Knife,” “How High the Moon.” I'll be doing a variety of songs. Scherrie and I will probably do “I Will Survive” together.