Earl Carroll, LaVerne Drake, and Robert Phillips were already singing together in the early '50s as the Carnations, whose lineup also included "Cub" Gaining. Carroll and Phillips were nearly as close as brothers, Carroll having been taken in by Phillips' family after the death of his own mother. The group -- based in New York's Harlem in the area around 131st St. and Seventh and Eighth Avenues -- had an energetic approach to music, but somewhat threadbare harmonies, and they were popular at dances held at the local public school they all attended. Their main influence was the Orioles, whose slow romantic numbers went over very well with the group members and the audiences of the period. Carroll's own musical roots included gospel, specifically the Five Blind Boys, the Swanee Quintet, and the Soul Stirrers, but also R&B vocal outfits such as the Clovers, the Ravens, the Swallows, and the Five Keys.