The Final Years  2000-2005

 

Never Stop Rockin'.

 

With all the resulting publicity and attention from his Rolling Stones connections, Carlo Little decided to reformed the All-Stars in 1999 with the original bassist and fellow early Stone Rick Brown. Art Wood of The Artwoods (and Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood's brother) replaced the late Cyril Davies as vocalist, with Eddie Armer of The Lonegans on harp, Alex Chanter on lead guitar, and Johnny Casanova on keyboards. Based in London, the band recreated the energetic R&B sound that once captured the imagination of impressionable teenagers back in the 60's. The Carlo Little All Stars headlined at the Rolling Stones Convention at the Brixton Academy and performed at the Ealing Blues Festival in July 1999, as well as performing a string of gigs at London venues to enthusiastic fans.

 

1999, The Carlo Little All Stars >>

Eddie Armer, Carlo, Art Wood, Johnny Casanova, Rick Brown, Alex Chanter

 

On Saturday 12th June 1999 Carlo and his wife Iris were invited by Charlie Watts to visit The Stones backstage for a second time, who on this occasion were performing at Wembley Stadium during the UK arm of Bridges To Babylon tour. Again, the boys were delighted to see their old chum from the 1960's, as was Carlo. He was selling burgers outside when he got the invitation to come inside!

Carlo Little All Stars, 'Can't Stop Rockin'
Brixton Academy, 1999

Carlo Little All Stars, 'Country Line Special'
Brixton Academy, 1999

By popular demand in 2000, The Carlo Little All Stars went into the studio to work on their debut album. Jeff Beck joined his old mate Carlo with the band for 3 of the tracks, including one of Jeff's favourites Mystery Train. Ronnie Wood guested on Country Line Special, and Long John Baldry sang Iko Iko. Keith Richard also wanted to appear on the album and he told Carlo by telephone, "I gotta play with that rhythm section, man!" but Keith's working commitments meant the session never happened. The band completed the album, entitled Never Stop Rockin', but it was not released until 2008 by Angel Air Records. 

Carlo and the rest of the All Stars in the studio recording the album

L-R back row: Art Wood, Rick Brown, Jeff Beck, Carlo Little, Alex Chanter

Front: Geraint Watkins, Eddie Armer

Carlo eventually sold his catering business in 2002, and he and his wife Iris decided to retire to the North East of England where she had grown up and still had family. He had not been well for a few months, with continuous chest infections, and had been in hospital for tests. Despite Carlo's ill health, in May 2003 they moved 300 miles from London to Tyne & Wear and a home with a swimming pool, his lifelong dream, and were excited about the future.

Carlo in his Wembley music room before the move to Cleadon, Tyne & Wear

By Spring 2005 it was all too clear that Carlo was gravely ill. He invited his best friends, the band The Good Old Boys, to Tyneside for a weekend of gigs hoping to drum with them, but frustratingly during the first gig Carlo was hospitalised again. It was the last time he would ever play the drums. A few weeks later he asked his consultant if he was able to take a holiday - his dream was always to visit America, land of Chuck Berry, Elvis, and Rock and Roll - but she said a journey of that kind would be too much for him. Carlo's health seemed to deteriorate then but again he never talked about it, never complained. When the anniversary of Screaming Lord Sutch's death in June came around again, his family tried desperately to talk him out of making the tiring 300-mile trip to London, but he was so determined to be there, to see his good friends in memory of David Sutch. Even on the day of the gig, clearly very ill and with his family begging him not to go, he was determined to be part of the music scene he loved. Many of his musician friends were at the gig that night. Too weak to play the drums, he sat bravely with his pint and chatting to everyone. It would be the last time his friends would see him.

Devastatingly, just two weeks after the move, with everything to live for and a new grandchild, Ruby, Carlo was told that he had terminal lung cancer. In true Carlo spirit, he did not wallow in the bad news, but instead soldiered on the very next day with a scheduled tribute night he had organised at the Ace Cafe in London in memory of his friend David Sutch; the now annual 'Sutch A Night'. His friends and family, however, were devastated.

 

Carlo spent the months from June to December 2003 having extensive chemotherapy. He was frequently hospitalised with low blood count-related infections, but never complained or talked about the cancer. He had told his consultant he would do whatever it took to fight it and never wanted to hear any bad news. By the end of the year Carlo was told that the chemotherapy "had worked for him", the tumour had shrunk and he was offered a month of radiotherapy just to make sure. Through 2004 Carlo tried to regain his strength after all the intensive cancer treatment. He again organised the 'Sutch A Night' tribute at the Ace Cafe for Screaming Lord Sutch in June, in memory of his friend, but frustratingly he struggled to play the drums as fiercely as before. Unfortunately in August of that same year the cancer returned, and again Carlo endured several more months of gruelling chemotherapy. Throughout this time he simply accepted the treatment, and never complained or talked about his illness.

A few days later Carlo collapsed at home and was admitted to hospital. He would never go home again. He was admitted to South Tyneside Hospital in Tyne & Wear on Saturday June 25th 2005. Surrounded by close family, for days Carlo fought for his life. On August 2nd 2005 he was transferred to a local hospice.

Sutch-A-Night, June 2005. The picture shows (left to right): Ali Barber (Roadie), Mark Freeman (The Rolling Stoned), Ali McKenzie (Birds), Pete Parks (The Good Old Boys), Tom Nolan (Eel Pie Club), Alan Barrett (The Good Old Boys), Carlo, Nick Simper (The Good Old Boys), Richard Hudson (The Good Old Boys/Strawbs), Michael and Rick (Tonto's Horse) and Art Wood (The Artwoods).

Carlo passed away peacefully at 2.05am on Saturday 6th August 2005 at St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow, with his youngest daughter Emma and his sister Carole by his side. Carlo tragically died of small cell lung cancer, the most vigorous. It normally kills within six months of diagnosis - Carlo had survived for over two years. Over the next few days Carlo received obituaries in most of the major UK broadsheet newspapers. He would have been honoured and flattered. Independent Obituary | Telegraph Obituary | Guardian Obituary

Carl O'Neil Little was cremated at South Tyneside Crematorium on Monday 15th August 2005. He made his last journey in a vintage Rolls Royce, perfectly fitting for a legendary drummer. Among the mourners at the humanist service were other 1960's musicians who had been such a big part of Carlo's life; among them his close friends Neil Christian, Tony Dangerfield and Nick Simper, the latter reading a fantastic tribute to Carlo as an invaluable British musician and friend. 
The Rolling Stones, Chas & Dave, and Paul Nicholas were among the very many who sent flowers. For the service one of his favourite tracks 'Honky Tonk' by Bill Doggett was played and ended with 'Country Line Special' by Cyril Davies All Stars, on which Carlo had performed in 1963. His heartbroken wife of 37 years, Iris, also chose the song 'Music' by John Miles for Carlo.

Music was my first love, and it will be my last
Music of the future, and music of the past
To live without my music, would be impossible to do
In this world of trouble
My music gets me through

 

A wake, a celebration of Carlo and his life, was held afterwards at his favourite watering hole, The Little Haven, at the mouth of the River Tyne and overlooking the North Sea. Many of his good friends attended and musicians played for him. Carlo's ashes were privately buried with his drumsticks the following day in Harton Cemetary, South Shields. Never stop rockin', Carlo.

Some of the many flowers for Carlo. 
A bouquet from the Rolling Stones is in the centre