August 6, 2005 – Carlo Little aka Carl O’Neil Little was born on December 17, 1938 in Shepherd’s Bush, London and raised in Wembley, Middlesex where some of his townpeeps were Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and Charlie Watts. Apparently the town was a breeding ground for famous drummers.
In 1960 after coming out of the service, he met David Sutch and they formed The Savages with amongst others Nicky Hopkins who lived locally. Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages toured the UK and became known for their unique British rock and roll shows. The bulk of the band members, including Little, left in 1962 to join the Cyril Davies All Stars, and recorded a single “Country Line Special”, an instrumental track which influenced Keith Richards and Ray Davies in their guitar playing. He also played a few gigs with the young Rolling Stones and was asked by Brian Jones to join permanently before they hired Charlie Watts as their official drummer in January 1963. In 1998, during the Stones’ European tour, he was invited as an official guest backstage at one of their Paris concerts.
In July 1998 a British television company thought it would make for great TV if they could reunite Carlo with the Stones again, 35 years after their gigs together at the Marquee Club. Carlo agreed, feeling sure that Keith Richards at least would be thrilled to see the guy whose musicianship he had once so admired. The Stones were in the middle of their Bridges To Babylon world tour, which was now in France. So the TV company took Carlo and his wife Iris to Paris, hoping for an off-chance meeting during the Stones’ shows there. An interview with arranged with France’s biggest selling daily newspaper La Figaro and this did the trick. Someone in the Stones’ camp read it and showed it to Ronnie Wood, who demanded that someone get hold of Carlo and bring him to the shows. As a boy, Ronnie had been taken to see Carlo in the Cyril Davies band by his brother Art Wood, and the band had left a lasting impression on him (this was later relayed by Ronnie to Carlo’s daughter).
The TV producers were contacted, and they then surprised Carlo and Iris with backstage passes for the Stones gig that night at the Stade de France in Paris. When Carlo nervously walked into Keith and Ronnie’s dressing room the guys were delighted! They hugged Carlo, gave him a pint of whiskey and all chatted happily recalling the old days. Keith introduced film star Johnny Depp, who was also there: “come and meet Carlo Little, the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer in the world!” he said. Carlo and Iris also got to watch the show, and afterwards attended Mick Jagger’s 55th birthday party back at the hotel. They had a fantastic time, and Keith and Ronnie promised to keep in touch. The whole story was made into a special TV programme for Channel 5, and when broadcast Carlo was invited to perform with the Counterfeit Stones in the studio.
Carlo Little is also credited with giving Who’s drummer Keith Moon his sound and style. Little was the loudest drummer many had ever seen or heard, one of the first to ever hammer the bass drum. After a Savages show Keith begged Little to give him lessons. Initially Carlo said no but reconsidered after thinking he could use the extra money and told Keith “I can only teach you what I know”.
Little continued to work as a session drummer throughout the 1960s, and toured with The Flower Pot Men, Billie Davis and Neil Christian in Europe. He later auditioned for Deep Purple and Ian Dury but signed to Decca Records in 1973 as Hurricane with Stuart Colman and Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee.
Little played in pub bands throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until he reformed the All Stars in 2000. The band then included Art Wood on vocals, Alex Chanter (brother of the Chanter Sisters) on lead guitar and vocals, Johnny Casanova on keyboards and vocals, Eddie Armer on harmonicas and fellow former Cyril Davies band member, Ricky Brown (aka Ricky Fenson), on bass. Carlo and his All Stars recorded an album, which also featured Ron Wood, Jeff Beck, Long John Baldry, Matthew Fisher and The Chanter Sisters. The album, entitled Never Stop Rockin’, (the title track penned by Little), could not be released until January 2009, so he was unable to see the finished product.
Next to his musical activities, he worked as a bread salesman and entrepreneur until his retirement.
Little died of lung cancer in Cleadon, Tyne and Wear in 2005, at the age of 66.
For a magnificent insight into rock and roll and rhythm and blues in London in the early 1960s, Carlo Little posthumous website is a true treasure trove for as long as it will be up online. Every British invasion great one way or another plays a role in the early days.
“We had our heroes. The band, then, we were all trying to sound like… was it The Wild Ones?… what were they called… with Carlo Little and Nicky Hopkins? The Savages… that’s it, yeah. They were the band of the day, they were the band to emulate, because they used to do, you know, before Lord Sutch came on, they were like… a little blues set… and there was that fantastic Andy Rand [sic, Wren], who was a keyboard player, who would sing ‘Worried Life Blues’. It was astounding… that was our hero at the time… yeah… Carlo Little with the leopard skin drum kit (laughter)”.
From an interview in British Blues Review, August 1988
Tony Dangerfield – The Savages, bass, 1964:
“We couldn’t get hit singles but I don’t know where we could have found one from! We were too cult. ‘The Ripper’ is about as commercial as we could have got. We once or twice went in and did things with Joe Meek that were sort of bordering on commerical, but it didn’t work. Nobody had the heart. It could have blown the whole thing if we had a hit record, you know? The mystique would have gone.
The Liverpool bands were on the same bill as us but we completely blew them away, even with their hit records. Pretty boys in suits couldn’t follow that. We got banned from a lot of big chains of ballrooms, due to the act. But we never ran out of work.” – From Unknown Legends of Rock’N’Roll by Richie Unterberger, 1998.