When a famed former Motown songwriting team offered Freda Payne “Band of Gold,” she feared that she was too old, at age 28, to record a song about a bride abandoned on her wedding night. “I thought that the song wasn’t about a mature woman at all but that it would better suit a 16-year-old girl,” Freda, 79, remembers.

But she was swayed. “The guys just looked at me and said, ‘You don’t have to like it, just sing it.’” “Band of Gold” became an instant hit and made Freda a star.

As a child, this Detroit native and older sister of the Supremes’ Scherrie Payne, learned about music by listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday records. “I would put my ear up to the speaker and really listen,” recalls Freda, who is also an actress and has enjoyed a steady career in musical theater.

Most recently, she added author to her accomplishments. Her memoir, Band of Gold, written with Mark Bego, is out now.

How old were you when you discovered that you could sing?
I was 12. I took piano lessons before that. My mother started me when I was about 6. The teacher wanted to see if I could sing well enough to be in a six-person ensemble group. I sang for her, and she said, “My God, you have a lovely voice!”

Was music a big part of your life growing up?
It was. I had an Uncle Johnny who had a record collection you had to be really careful with. He had classical records, jazz and blues. He introduced me to Duke Ellington’s music when I was 4 or 5.

Freda Payne Opens Up About 'Juicy' Relationships in Memoir, How Getting Older Has Been 'Challenging'

What do you think you would have done if you hadn’t become a singer?
That’s a good question. When I was 11 or 12, I wanted to be a doctor, but I was an average student. Then I thought I wanted to be a nurse, but I realized that I might faint at the sight of blood. So I don’t know what I would have done.

You sang recorded jingles as a youngster. Did you do any commercials that we might know?
I don’t really think so. I did one for Chevrolet, another for an Ohio beer company. It had something to do with having a Buckeye beer in your hand.

What do you consider your big break?
When I was 16, I entered a national talent contest called Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour. I was on the show, and I won second place. As a result, I got a writeup in Jet magazine, which was a big deal back then. That started things for me.

Berry Gordy Jr. started Motown Records in Detroit. Did you ever work together?
He wanted to manage me very badly! But he wanted 20 percent [of my earnings]. My mother was a very smart woman and didn’t think the terms he wanted were fair. So my mother wouldn’t go for it, and that was that!

Well, you did just fine without him! In the early 1960s, you were Leslie Uggams’ understudy on Broadway in Hallelujah, Baby! What was she like to work with?
I loved Leslie. She is very, very talented and very bright. And I did get to go on, whereas her previous two understudies never did.

Who else have you enjoyed working with?
I worked with the Smothers Brothers and Sammy Davis Jr. several times. I worked with Lionel Hampton’s band in Las Vegas, Victor Borge, Bob Hope and Bill Cosby. After I had success with “Band of Gold,” I worked with the Temptations and the Four Tops. Oh, and I got a chance to work with Sinatra at a benefit I did with him. That was great.

How did the success of “Band of Gold” change your life?
It enabled me to command a larger salary, but of course I learned with a larger salary, you have more expenses to pay! That’s why so many entertainers get into trouble with the IRS because when it comes time to pay their taxes, they don’t have enough money because they already spent their money! You need a good CPA.

Your son Gregory was born in 1977. Was it hard to continue your work as a performer after you became a mom?
It got pretty difficult. I remember once I had to leave my son because I was working on a show that was supposedly heading to Broadway. I needed all my attention on this show. I didn’t see my son for, like, four weeks, and that was a hard thing for me to do. My sister, Scherrie, if she wasn’t working or busy, she would come and keep him for a few days. She helped out a lot. I have a great sister. Scherrie is my heart.

What made you decide to write a memoir now?
Most fans know I’m from Detroit, but they will learn things about me and my sister and how we were raised. And then, of course, all the juicy stuff starts when I get to New York at 18. So people will learn about my romantic relationships. It’s my life and my journey.

Do you kiss and tell?
I do! I read Aretha Franklin’s biographies, but I liked [the unauthorized] one better because I knew they were getting into the real dirt. I’m not afraid to talk about the things that happened to me.

Do you listen to any of the younger performers today?
Yeah, I do. I love Adele. Her albums are so good.

Are there any mottoes that you live by?
Be kind to people. Treat every person like a king or queen and let the fools and idiots present themselves.

How would you describe this period of your life?
Challenging. I have a nice home. I have my dog and my TV — I am a big TV watcher. But things change, and as you get older your body starts to break down so you have to do everything in your power to keep yourself vitalized and healthy. I started doing yoga back in the 1970s, but I’ve had to back off of it because I’ve had a knee replacement. As you get older, you have to take super good care of yourself.