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Voices from the past: Earl 'Speedo' Carroll

Kelsie Bonaparte Special to the AmNews | 12/6/2012, 3:45 p.m.
Beloved entertainer Earl 'Speedo' Carroll passes at 75

They don't call him "Speedo" for nothing-Earl Carroll is alive, kicking and ready to hit the stage.

Born and raised in Harlem, Carroll always had a special love of music and performing. There was no question that his second home would become the Apollo Theater.

It was in the early 1950s that Carroll fell in love with music and began joining various vocal groups. "I was always into doing street-corner doo-wop singing," said Caroll. "Every young man out of New York tried to do a little rock 'n' roll; a lot of them were successful and some fell by the wayside."

Growing up, Carroll used to follow Frank Schiffman, one of the co-owners and managers of the Apollo Theater. "I fell in love with the Apollo Theater; it was my second home," said Carroll.

Originally, he got together a group from school, calling themselves the Carnations, but it did not catch on.

"Everything was about birds at that time, but we figured we'd try flowers," Carroll said. "Then one of the guys in the group said, 'What's the best car America has to offer?' Everyone's eyes lit up and said, 'The Cadillacs.'"

Since 1952, Carroll has sung and worked in doo-wop, rock 'n' roll and R&B music. With a few hit records and plenty of stage performances, the Cadillacs had quite a success in the music business.

In the 1950s, Carroll worked with several artists who helped build the Apollo Theater's musical reputation. "You don't hear about them anymore. I'm a little disturbed about that," said Carroll, mentioning artists like Bo Diddley and the Orioles.

Due to trials and tribulations, Carroll has been in and out of the hospital but is looking forward to being discharged from the nursing home very soon.

He recently buried the last former member of the Cadillacs, Robert Phillips.

"I would love to do a show at the Apollo Theater for Black History Month, even one at the Schomburg or at Showman's. Tell them all Speedo is still alive and kicking!" said Carroll with a smile.