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Cadillacs Singer Split Time As Custodian, Musician

Robert Siegel and Melissa Block remember Earl Carroll, the lead singer of the 1950s doo-wop group, The Cadillacs. Carroll died Sunday at the age of 75.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EARL CARROLL: (Singing) Well, now they often call me Speedo, but my real name is Mr. Earl.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

That's the voice of Mr. Earl Carroll with the signature song from the Cadillacs back in 1956. We've learned today of Carroll's death. He was 75. This tune, "Speedo," was based on Earl Carroll's nickname.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARROLL: Well, now they often call me Speedo, 'cause I don't believe in wastin' time. Well, now they often call me Speedo 'cause I don't believe in wastin' time.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Earl Speedo Carroll was from Harlem. As a teenager, he sang on street corners with groups of boys.

BLOCK: He became a regular on the stage at school dances with a group called The Carnations, and when they changed their name to The Cadillacs, they headed up the charts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARROLL: (Singing) Gloria, it's not Sherie. Gloria...

JERRY THE ICEMAN BUTLER: Speedo was one of those true joyous spirits that was always looking for a way to make people laugh and had a unique way of bringing that talent to the stage.

SIEGEL: That's Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, formerly of The Impressions. He first heard about Earl Carroll from a friend on the doo-wop circuit who gave Carroll a rave review.

BUTLER: You gotta watch this guy. The guy's magic on stage. I mean, just his whole persona is to try and please an audience.

SIEGEL: Carroll's vocals might have guaranteed him a life in music, but in the leaner days of doo-wop, Earl Carroll entered a different line of work.

PETER LINENTHAL: I didn't realize until we were working with him, you know, that he was the Speedo of the famous song.

BLOCK: That's Peter Linenthal, who illustrated a series of children's books called "That's Our School." Each book tells the story of a different employee at New York's PS-87.

SIEGEL: Carroll was the featured character in one book, "That's Our Custodian."

LINENTHAL: I was struck with how warmly he got along with the kids at the school. He would high-five them and they would come up and give him hugs.

SIEGEL: Linenthal says Carroll was reserved about his personal life, but he was a lively presence at PS-87.

LINENTHAL: He was loved at that school. You could see.

BLOCK: In recent years, Earl Carroll and the Cadillacs played on weekends, working around his day job as a custodian.

SIEGEL: And as Jerry "The Iceman" Butler told us, maybe that in itself says something about Earl Carroll as a person.

BUTLER: It says to me a person is a star whether people recognize that star or not. I mean, he was just one of those glorious human beings that people loved. And they loved him because of his talent.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARROLL: (Singing) Well, now, they often call me Speedo 'cause I don't believe in wastin' time.

SIEGEL: Earl Carroll died Sunday. He was 75 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARROLL: (Singing) Well, now, they often call me Speedo 'cause I don't believe in wastin' time. Well, I've known some pretty woman... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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