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Frances Nero (born 1943) is an American singer who, at the age of 22, became the first live performance contest winner in Motown Records's history. Topping out 5,000 contestants, she emerged victor in June 1965. She was awarded $500, a dozen long stemmed red roses, a recording contract for one year and the honor of being the first female artist signed to Motown's Soul label. The contest was sponsored by WCHB, the soul radio station in Detroit, Michigan; and Motown Records. She also took her place in history as WCHB's first live contest winner.
Nero was a one-hit wonder in the UK with her single "Footsteps Following Me" in 1991.
Nero attended Stephens-Lee High School where she performed with two bands simultaneously. The Famous Tams featuring William "PO Bill" Mills and The Untils, a group of Stephens-Lee's band members. Stanley Baird, Bynum Griffin and Clifford Cotton went on to play with such stars as Chuck Jackson and James Brown. Nero was the featured vocalist with both bands.
She married Johnny Nero, who was a native of Detroit. She went to Detroit after dancing to Marv Johnson, who later became a close friend. She was homesick and went back to Asheville, North Carolina, but after a few months she returned to Detroit and settled into married life. She gave birth to her second child on January 21, 1965.
A second chance
Nero after being shelved by Motown, asked for a release from her contract. After the release and Frances taking control over her career, her mother was stricken with diabetes and her legs had to be amputated. Nero cared for her mother until she died in 1978. Frances went to cosmetology school and began teaching the beauty trade.
In 1989, she was contacted by the UK producer, Ian Levine. Levine produced over 100 former Motown artists but Nero gave him his biggest hit of his career with "Footsteps Following Me". British Disc Jockeys dubbed it "the soul anthem of the nineties". The single also reached #17 in the UK Singles Chart.
1965 - Motown Records
- "Keep On Loving Me"
- "Fight Fire With Fire"
1968 - Shrine Records
- "Lady In Waiting" (duo with Gino Parks)
1993 - MotorCity Records
- "Footsteps Following Me"
- Footsteps Following Me
- The Best Of Frances Nero
- MotorCity Various Artists Albums
1996 - Aja Records
- "Love Ride"
- "It Ain't The Same Without You"
- Frances Nero Salutes Dinah Washington
- Frances Nero - Autobiography - Mountains, Motown & Motion Pictures