The Cadillacs Biography

This vocal quintet, initially called the Carnations, was formed in 1953 in New York, USA, and comprised Earl Carroll (Gregory Carroll, 2 November 1937, New York City, New York, USA), LaVerne Drake, Bobby Phillips, Johnny Willingham and James ‘Poppa’ Clark, who also sang with the Five Crowns. The Cadillac’s debut single, ‘Gloria’, was released by Josie Records in July 1954, and although it did not chart at the time, it was later considered a doo-wop classic. Clark and Willingham were then replaced by Earl Wade (ex-Crystals) and Charles Brooks. Their next two singles, ‘No Chance’/‘Sympathy’ and ‘Down The Road’, failed to chart, but ‘Speedoo’, released in October 1955, did reach number 17 in the Billboard R&B charts. Meanwhile, the group’s dance steps were being choreographed by Charles Atkinson (aka Cholly Atkins), who later worked with a number of Motown Records’ acts. Following lucrative tours with Ray Charles, Fats Domino and others, in May 1956 Drake was replaced by James Bailey (ex-Crickets), and after two more unsuccessful singles the Cadillacs returned to the charts (number 11) with ‘Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer’. They returned to their roots with the wonderful ‘Sugar Sugar’ (not the song later made famous by the Archies) but by this time their original audience was confused about their direction. The group split in two early in 1957, with both parties continuing to use the name Cadillacs and remaining on Josie Records. Carroll, Phillips, Wade and Brooks became known as the Original Cadillacs, while Bailey hired Bobby Spencer (Harptones), Bill Lindsey (Starlings) and Champ Rollow to join his version of the group. After Bailey’s group flopped with ‘My Girlfriend’ and the Original Cadillacs flopped with ‘Lucy’, Bailey rejoined Carroll, Phillips, Wade and new member Caddy Spencer, and together they recorded ‘Speedo Is Back’. Their next single, ‘Peek-A-Boo’, reached number 28 in the Billboard R&B chart in October 1958, but the next year Carroll left the group (later recording as Speedo And The Pearls) and was replaced by a string of ex-members of the Solitaires. The Cadillacs then signed to Mercury Records, and in the next decade Curtis Williams, Ray Brewster and Irving Lee Gails all sang with the group, as did Carroll and Roland Martinez. They could not, however, match their former achievements. Reunions of the various formations of the Cadillacs have occurred from time to time, and even recorded a new album in 1997.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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