As soul songstress Kaaren Ragland kicks back in her Los Angeles home, she reflects on a career that has seen her star as one of The Supremes with Mary Wilson and tour every corner of the world with her own successful productions.
The former theatre actress as well as vocalist would appear to have it all. However, Kaaren admits there is a certain something missing from her life.
The singer says that, as well as looking forward to performing before thousands of adoring Supremes fans when her Sounds of the Supremes show comes to the UK in November, she will also be very happy to re-acquaint herself with a Great British tradition. . .
“When the Supremes came to tour the UK in the late Seventies,” she says, “we were taken to the pub for lunch before a show. It was a concert in South Wales and the place filled up with miners and the atmosphere was like nothing I’d ever experienced.
There’s nothing that compares to it in The States and a relaxing pub lunch is something I’ll definitely be looking forward to when The Sounds of the Supremes visits the UK.”
Kaaren’s introduction to singing was playing the clubs in her home city.
“I was lucky enough to perform at weekends for over a year at The Improvisation – an LA comedy club,” she says.
Kaaren’s vocal arranger was famous jazz pianist and band leader Phil Moore – whose own stellar career took off when famed American singer, dancer and actress Lena Horne brought a very young Phil with her to MGM Studios. “Phil also arranged for The Supremes and when the opportunity to tour with the group arose he put me forward.”
Performing with The Supremes throughout the Eighties, Kaaren regularly toured the UK. And when the band hung up their microphones, she went on to travel the world with her own Sounds of the Supremes production.
Over the years the hit show has visited 70 different countries, bringing the authentic sounds of the Supremes to the stage.
“It’s fully choreographed – we can all move about a bit,“ laughs Kaaren. “And the show’s not a tribute, we like to think of it is an authentic experience for all Supremes fans.”
More than 20 top-ten Supremes hits feature.
“Theatregoers certainly get more for their money in the UK,” continues Kaaren. “You see, though The Supremes were huge in the Sixties on both sides of the Atlantic, they were far more successful in Britain than they were at home during the Seventies.
“So, as well as number ones like Baby Love, Stop in the Name of Love, Where Did Our Love Go and You Can’t Hurry Love, we also include hits like Up the Ladder to the Roof, Stoned Love and Nathan Jones on our UK dates.
“We get to fully enjoy ourselves performing all The Supremes hits.”
The trio – Kathy Merrick, Althea Burkhalter and Kaaren – are fully aware of the original group’s incredible trailblazing reputation.
“When I was growing up, The Supremes were icons to little black girls like me. They were the first group to fully cross over and become famous. They paved the way for so many other talented bands and singers.”
Several bands in particular – The Jacksons, Sister Sledge, Kool and the Gang and the Pointer Sisters – recently had The Sounds of the Supremes join them on their international tour dates.
With a select number of solo shows scheduled for the UK on the group’s next overseas excursion, Kaaren is looking forward to reviving her love affair with the Great British boozer.
Oh, and if you come across the star at your local pub, hers is a nicely-chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
THE SOUNDS OF THE SUPREMES
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2019
Falkirk FK1 5RS 7.30pm
01324 506850 falkirkcommunitytrust.org/whats-on/the-sounds-of-the-supremes