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Published on Oct 29, 2013

The core of the Cadillacs were two Harlem friends so close they were literally like family: Earl Carroll, orphaned at the age of 11, and Robert Phillips, whose family took him in soon after. While in high school, the two began singing with mutual friend LaVerne Drake (a male, despite the name) as the Carnations, and eventually added neighborhood friend "Cub" Gaining to bolster their harmonies. They developed quite a following singing slow, romantic numbers, inspired by their idols the Orioles, at the St. Mark's Church community dances on 132nd Street. Sufficiently encouraged, the Carnations entered a talent contest at their high school, P.S. 43, where they were discovered by Lover Patterson, who had worked for the Orioles and managed the Five Crowns.

Patterson was interested in taking them on, hooking them up with songwriter Esther Navarro, who had some talent agency connections of her own. But first the name, which was already taken, had to go; frustrated that the other groups had cornered the market on bird and flower names, they went with something more modern, choosing the name of the most popular luxury car around and dressing in flashy clothes to match. Navarro insisted on moving Phillips to bass, forcing Gaining to quit and replacing him with two members: the Five Crowns' James "Poppa" Clark and Johnny "Gus" Willingham. Navarro's first single she penned for this new lineup, "Gloria," is considered a classic of the genre, but it didn't sell. Their follow-up, however, an uptempo number named "Speedoo" after Carroll, actually became a bigger hit on pop radio than R&B.

At the forefront of the new rock revolution, the Cadillacs seem poised for massive success, but finding the perfect sequel to "Speedoo" proved difficult, and although influential DJ Alan Freed took them under his wing, making them one of the first black groups to tour before white audiences, the hits were hard to come by. An endless series of lineup changes helped the group maintain as a popular live act through the early '60s, but by that time Carroll had left to join a reformed Coasters. Both groups wound up on the oldies circuit for the next two decades, but Carroll left in the '80s to reform the Cadillacs for a car commercial. He continued touring with them until 2005, also maintaining his beloved day job as a custodian for P.S. 87 in Manhattan. He passed away in 2012

  • Category

  • Song

  • Artist

    • The Cadillacs
  • Album

    • Definitive Doo Wop, Vol. 5
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • WMG, UMG (on behalf of Turntable Recordings LTD); UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, LatinAutor, Warner Chappell, LatinAutor - SonyATV, SOLAR Music Rights Management, EMI Music Publishing, UMPG Publishing, CMRRA, Shapiro Bernstein, and 2 Music Rights Societies


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