Earl “Speedo” Carroll, the lead singer of the influential doo-wop group the Cadillacs, passed away. The group’s biggest hit was “Speedo.” It was one of those songs that was such an enticing mystery to me as a kid. What the hell did it mean? This explanation, from his obit in the Times, shows just how evanescent and ephemeral creative inspirations can be. An off-handed remark led to a song we’re still listening to 60 years later:
“Mr. Carroll’s nickname and the song it engendered were born in the same breath. One day in 1955, he later recounted, the Cadillacs were performing at an armory in Massachusetts. As they were leaving, Mr. Phillips (another member of the group—rm) caught sight of a torpedo on display there.
“Hey, Speedo, there’s your torpedo!” he told Mr. Carroll, who had a somewhat pointy head.
“My name is Earl,” Mr. Carroll responded tersely.
During the ride home, the nickname, and Mr. Carroll’s testy rejoinder, flew around the car. By the time the group reached New York, some evocative lines and a jaunty tune had emerged.”
And here it is: