Without question, the Cadillacs have to be one of the greatest Rhythm & Blues vocal groups of all time. They had it all – great harmony, catchy tunes, sharp stage presence and superb choreography. And while many fans recognized their hit recording, “Speedoo” was about the group’s charismatic late lead singer, “Earl “Speedo” Carroll, few knew how he got the nickname. The Cadillacs (originally called the Carnations) began singing in 1953 while attending PS 139 in Harlem. After signing with manager Esther Navarro the group recorded their first record, “Gloria,” for Josie Records.
By Charlie Horner
Earl Carroll’s nickname at the time was “Speedy” through he much preferred to be called Earl. Earl revealed that group members used to tease him that his head was pointy. As the group was leaving a concert in an armory in Boston one night, Bobby Phillips pointed to a large artillery shell and said, “Hey Speedo, there’s your torpedo!” Annoyed, Earl angrily replied, “My name isn’t Speedo, it’s Earl. Mister Earl to you.” The group got in the car and by the time they reached New York City they had to song written. “They often call me Speedo but my real name is Mr. Earl…” Taking the background from the Regals’ “Got The Water Boiling” the Cadillacs had their choreographer, Cholly Adkins work out the steps for the song. Earl Carroll would use the signature hat and cane antics on the song for the rest of his career. As for the recording, the Cadillacs’ “Speedoo” went to #3 on Billboard’s R&B Charts and #17 on the Pop Charts. Earl Carroll would revive the character again in 1963. Then singing with the Coasters, Earl wrote and recorded “Speedo’s back in town. Earl “Speedo” Carroll passed away November 25, 2012. He will be honored by the East Coast Music Hall Of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award, on June 8, 2021 in Atlantic City.