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The Cadillacs

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The Cadillacs an American doo-wop group from Harlem, New York were formed in 1953 and are noted for their 1955 hit “Speedoo”.

The group came together as The Carnations, with lead vocalist Earl “Speedo” Carroll (November 2, 1937 – November 25, 2012), Bobby Phillips, Lavern Drake (bass vocalist), and Gus Willingham. As the group moved into the recording studios, James “Poppa” Clark was added as a fifth member, and the name “The Cadillacs” was given to them. The group’s first recording came in July 1954, with Josie Records #765, featuring Gloria and Wonder Why.

In 1955, Willingham and Clark left the group and were replaced by Earl Wade and Charles Brooks. At this time, the group first began to experiment with choreography, suggested by manager Esther Navarro. Later that year came the group’s biggest hit, “Speedoo”, Carroll’s nickname. Lavern Drake left the group in 1956 and was replaced by J. R. Bailey.

In 1957, differences in opinion caused the group to split. One group was initially known as The Four Cadillacs, with current bass J. R. Bailey, former bass Lavern Drake, and new members Roland Martinez and Bobby Spencer. The previous year, Bobby Spencer had written the “My Boy Lollipop” pop song shuffle for Barbie Gaye, which was played by Alan Freed and secured Barbie Gaye a spot in his 1956 Christmas Show opening for Little Richard. In 1964, an Ernest Ranglin produced ska version of the song became a multi-million seller for Jamaican teenager Millie Small and made producer Chris Blackwell rich, leading to further development of his Island Records label.

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