The Early Years 1935-1960

 

17 December 1938. Amid World War II and rationing Carl O'Neil Little was born in hard times
to Mabel Evans and Charles Little. 

Living in the Sudbury area of Wembley, Middlesex they managed to survive like any other suburban family, hiding in bomb shelters when the eerie drone of the air raid warnings invaded their short-lived peace. Like many other war babies Carlo and his sister Carole were sent away for evacuation. They travelled to the secure haven of Cardiff, Wales as refugees and stayed with Mabel's family there, the Evans', whilst his father was patrolling the streets back home as an ARP warden.

It was around this time that Carlo started to frequent the local Sudbury hang-out for any young man who was interested in music: Slim's. Slim (real name unknown) lived in a bed-sitter behind one of the local shops and was a tall thin sharp-featured man. As a multi-instrumentalist, Slim welcomed and encouraged any youngster with a musical instument to play and learn. It was at Slim's that Carlo met and became life-long friends with another local lad with a passion for the latest jazz sounds, Derek Addison. They would hang out together at the Ace Cafe in Wembley, sitting on the wall outside playing their guitars, or The Kannibal Pot coffee bar in Sudbury (where Carlo would later meet David Sutch).

Back in Sudbury, shortly after Germany were no longer a threat, Carlo attended the Sudbury Infants School and later on East Lane Secondary School (now known as Wembley High Technology College). A typical tearaway of his generation, Carlo was often in trouble at school for minor misdemeanors and his name can still be seen today, recorded several times in the high school punishment book, for receipt of the cane. When he left school his first job was an apprentice carpenter, and woodwork was a skill Carlo retained all his life.

All through his school years Carlo had always dreamed of playing the drums. It was just after he left school, by now working as a van boy at Kodak, that Carlo decided to buy some drums, simply consisting of a snare and high hat. 

Lonnie Donegan

'Puttin' On The Style'

Johnny Duncan
'Last Train to San Fernando'

Ted Heath Band
'Dragnet'

Lonnie Donegan encouraged literally thousands of young men to take up an instrument and a new music scene exploded in England. Carlo and Derek swiftly moved from jazz to skiffle and Derek Addison's Rhythm Katz was born, one of the first skiffle bands in North West London. They hired the hall at the back of The Swan pub in Sudbury (where Carlo would later form The Savages with David Sutch) for band practise and played their first unpaid gig in the pub; the mother of the banjo player later passing a hat round and raising the princely sum of 17s 17d for the band. Carlo's inclusion in The Rhythm Katz gave him the drive to practise hard at home, along with an opportunity to be part of a wave of gigs such as dances at local church halls and wedding and birthday events. 

Blackboard Jungle

1955 trailer

Elvis Presley
'Heartbreak Hotel'

Chuck Berry
'You Can't Catch Me'

While continuing with the skiffle for the months that followed, the group also tried experimenting with the new rock and roll sound. They bettered themselves by playing along to the furious beats of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, until Carlo had to leave his home town and be obliged to serve in the army in 1958, thanks to the UK National Service Act. He was gutted, to say the least. Everything was much too exciting to leave behind.

Carlo enrolled in the Royal Fusiliers, City of London regiment, Corps of Drums as snare drummer/bugler, very quickly becoming 'leading tipper' (head drummer). Throughout his time with them the battalion visited Kenya, Bahrain, Aden and Malta, performing at various ceremonies. Between duties he found time to continue to play Rock and Roll with a few friends for his own pleasure, imitating Elvis, Chuck, and The Everly Brothers.

 

Carlo was such a forceful drummer even at this time: "On parades, 'Drill With The Drum' was required. The RSM in command of the battalion (1000 men) would shout the order, for instance, "stand at ease." He would shout the first word "stand at" and on the "ease" I would hit the snare drum and the 1000 men would all move their feet together - BANG! What a feeling of power!"

Above - Carlo and Derek Addison's Rhythm Kats

 

Carlo second left in the Royal Fusiliers Corp of Drums during his National Service >

Carlo visited Kenya and Malta during his time in the army. He was eventually demobbed February 6th, 1960 and returned to his home town Sudbury. He was about to meet someone who would change his life forever.

Thanks to Derek Addison for information and photos in this chapter.

You can buy his excellent book Memories of Wembley - Growing Up in the Fourties & Fifties on Amazon.