The Carlo Little Night of Honour
Sunday 26th March 2006, York House, Richmond, London
When Carlo died on Aug 6th 2005, his musician friends and family were devastated. Not everyone could make the long journey from London, where most were based, to the North East of England for the funeral. Carlo's family wanted to honour Carlo in the best way they thought possible - through the music which he loved and lived for - and so the Night Of Honour was planned.
Organised by Gina and Warren from the Eel Pie Club, home of rhythm and blues in Richmond, London, where it all began, the event became a memorable coming-together of musicians past for one of the world's greatest drummers. Although his presence was so very obviously missing, the night was far from sad - it was a celebration of the great man who was Carlo Little.
When Carlo died, the Rolling Stones offered to help in anyway they could. The organisers decided to hold an auction of musician's items during the interval, and Carlo would have been flattered to know that the Stones' kindly gave 2 VIP tickets to their current tour, signed drumsticks, a photo and a football shirt from Charlie Watts, a signed Rolling Stones tour t-shirt, rare CD's and a plectrum from Keith Richards. Jeff Beck donated a rare programme, and items from Chris Farlow, Alan Clayson, Del Richardson and Julian Dawson made up a raffle hosted by the original 1960s Tiller Girls. Throughout the evening the audience were able to watch a rare TV performance of Carlo with the original Cyril Davies All Stars from 1963 at the back of the hall.
Before the music started, all of Carlo's family and friends were treated to a VIP reception in the Mayor of Richmond's suite - an extravagant room of gold fittings and plush carpets - with a wonderful buffet and wine, and with the Mayor as a special guest. Carlo would have been amazed by all the fuss for him.
All profit from ticket sales, the raffle and the auction were donated to South Tyneside Hospital, Ward 10, where Carlo spent his final weeks.
The event raised a total of just over £5000. Click here to read about how the funds were used at the hospital.
The Tiller Girls, stars of the charity raffle
Charlie Watts' football shirt was auctioned in the raffle
Recollections from the 'Night of Honour and Celebration' By Ged Peck
It was a surprising email I received from Carlo’s family. “We were wondering if you'd like to write a review of the ‘Night of Honour’ for the website… and we thought it might be nice if someone who knew him musically and is good with words should do it instead. It can be as long as you like, and we'll add pictures.”
My immediate reaction was, why me? Although I played with Carlo on and off in a number of bands in the 1960s with assorted studio sessions along the way, I more or less disappeared around 1972 and never saw him again until the year 2000. In February 2005 we had a long (surprisingly long) telephone conversation. I knew he was seriously ill, although you would never have known it from his cheerful disposition.
Did I say cheerful? Yes, he was, although for anyone who knew him from those early days, it was not a word that one would have associated with him. Carlo could be severe, domineering, helpful, undoubtedly funny when the mood took him, but your worst nightmare if you slipped up… but cheerful? At such a time, it made me realise how remarkable he was.
Dick Taylor & Phil May
from The Pretty Things
Pete Parks & Nick Simper
from The Good Old Boys
Wee Willie Harris
And then I thought, surely someone like Nick Simper ought to be writing this. Nick stuck with him as a friend since the 1960s, and gave one of the warmest and appreciative speeches at Carlo’s funeral last summer in South Shields. “…It can be as long as you like, and we'll add pictures.” I replied: “It needs a slightly different angle than ‘this or that person was there and it was great’ etc… if you don’t like it, don’t post it to the site…I’ll not be offended". No problem it seemed. Anyway, you don’t get many open-ended commissions like that… so why not do it?
I had a two hour drive to Richmond that night. It was wet, cold, and pretty dismal. Moreover, I would never have found the place without my SatNav. It got me thinking about how we got to gigs in the 1960s. I don’t ever recall anyone having a map. As usual, Carlo would take control of the situation, army style. “Right! Pull up over there!” he’d order the roadie. The van would screech to a halt, half frightening some ‘local’ whom Carlo had deemed as a walking signpost. “Is this the way?” he’d shout, the poor fellow thinking that he was about to be attacked. “IS THIS THE WAY!!” Carlo would repeat neglecting to mention where to, and at a significantly increased volume generally reserved for those who lived somewhat to the east of Southend. “Well…yes…I think so…” came the timid reply, only to be met by the van taking off at breakneck speed.
I laughed at the recollection as the SatNav calmly told me to turn this way then that…and without shouting. I’d arrived, although being someone who now likes to be in background, I quickly got a progamme and then hung about outside in the car listening to some football match on the radio.
The Downliners Sect
with Pete French
of The Strawbs/Nashville Teens
The names were extensive, not to mention well-wishers who could not attend. There were Dick Taylor & Phil May from The Pretty Things, Rick Parfitt from Status Quo, Gordon Haskell (whom both Carlo and I had played with around 1967), Jackie Lynton, Wee Willie Harris, Vince Eager (whom I had backed in 1965 and never seen since), Dave Berry, Matchbox, The Good Old Boys with Deep Purple's Nick Simper, Mike Berry, Art Wood, Mickey Waller, Mick Avory (Kinks), Tommy Bruce, John Hawken (Nashville Teens/Strawbs), The Downliners Sect, Geraint Watkins, Tonto's Horse, Paul Neon & The Saints. The Rolling Stones office had also asked to be kept informed. Even more creditable was that the proceeds were to be donated to South Tyneside Hospital, Ward 10, where Carlo was a patient.
I rather sheepishly entered the VIP suite having been invited by Carlo’s family. I hardly seemed to know anyone, although it turned out that I’d worked with many. It’s just that we all looked older, and in my case, felt it. But the ‘spread’ was incredible. Food, drink…and more drink. I felt almost sad that I’d had to give it up a few years back.
A recollection about drink from the past. It was 1968, at Carlo and Iris’s wedding reception at Wembley. I’d turned up with Tony Dangerfield (pink suit, would you believe). Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was there, along with all of the original Deep Purple, the Flowerpot Men, and many others. We occupied one side of the hall, whilst Iris’s family were on the other. I felt sorry for them. I don’t think they had seen anything like it. Suede jackets with long tassles, skin-tight leather trousers, the pink suit, and a collective length of about six miles worth of hair. Carlo was nervous, and with good reason. He knew what this bunch of degenerates was like having worked with them. It was when the bar opened that all hell broke out. It was like a bunch of rugby players charging from one side of the hall to the other to consume everything on offer. After all, it was free.
Vince Eager with grandaughter Lottie
making her stage debut
Legendary drummer Micky Waller
I have to say that although the VIP suite brought all this back, it was nothing like that. People here were respectful; there was no elbowing each other out of the way like at some January sale. Even I was restrained…sort of. (Alright, I admit that I had three, yes three glasses of orange). I suppose we’d finally grown up. It had taken a long time. There was also a cameraman going round interviewing people. I was talking Carlo's daughter at the time and he asked her if she’d like to contribute some thoughts. His opening line (alright, he didn’t know) was a classic “who are you and why are here?” Cringing with embarrassment, I then got dragged in, talked about how Carlo would run everything on stage…and completely forgot to say how good he was!
So I’ll make up for it now. There is a famous photo on his website of me, Carlo, Nick, and Jon Lord, playing at some Munich club in 1968. Carlo is in the middle of his drum solo and I am half turned, watching him. Now mostly, when drummers do solos it is a good excuse to shoot off to the bar, but not one with Carlo. You watched and listened, because he always did something new to amaze you. We went down so well that the people we were backing (better not mention them here) made it clear that they were not too happy in following us. It was just the pure joy of doing something decent, and having a drummer like Carlo behind you, prior to earning your crust later on with insipid music and utter boredom. But that was the way it had to be, and undoubtedly the reason why Carlo turned down the Stones. He, and we, needed the money.
By the time the ‘Night’ got going more people began to arrive packing out the hall. However, it was the room to the rear that I found most interesting. A DVD was playing of Carlo’s old TV performances with the Cyril Davis All-Stars, a programme I remember watching myself in the early 1960s. Carlo could be seen, serious and concentrating as ever, as Long John Baldry and Cyril Davis performed. I watched it at least three times. The technique of the way he held the sticks, not to mention his other drumming mannerisms all came back to me. As I said, he was serious and always had an interest in improving. He was never satisfied with just doing the same things over and over.
Tom Nolan and Julian Dawson
The Good Old Boys, Carlo's best mates
It reminded me of the time in 1967 when he phoned up and said, “Rich is at Hammersmith. You coming, or what?”. The “or what?”, declaimed with extra emphasis, was Carlo’s way of saying, “You not interested or somethin’? Gonna waste your time instead are yer?” It was not so much a question, but more a comment on your artistic understanding, or possible lack of it. He meant Buddy Rich, of course, the great American jazz drummer and band leader. As far as I can recall, Carlo was not into jazz, but he knew a good drummer when he saw one, and you would not get anyone better than Buddy Rich. We went together, just the two of us. Obviously, everyone else was “wasting their time.” We sat there watching this amazing performance, and all through Rich’s playing, Carlo would be tapping his fingers on his legs in the manner of drumsticks, glancing sideways at me to demonstrate some finer point of the paradiddle. It was my one and only drum lesson.
In this room at the back, I soon got talking to Nick and John Kerrison of the Pirates. I remembered John from the 60s, but would never have recognized him but for the fact that he played in South Shields (very well, I thought) following Carlo’s funeral. Astonished at the turnout, he remarked, “Carlo would have amazed if could see this!” Nick, standing next to us, replied humorously, “No he wouldn’t! He’d have listened to what was going on and said ‘what a load of RUBBISH’!” We all laughed. It sounded dreadful in the circumstances, but those of us who knew him realised it was true. Carlo could be hardest of taskmasters.
Carlo was like that. He knew what was good and bad, and who was talented or “rubbish”. He knew how things should be done, and he’d make sure you knew too. He would personally organise Sutch’s entire stage act, often shouting orders whilst he was playing. My first gig with Sutch was in Wales. I don’t think we’d even rehearsed for it. Carlo would play and at the same time shout instructions to the rest of us. “Three steps forward! Now jump! Mind the axe!!” When we had finished I was quite pleased with myself. I’d got it right, Sutch looked pleased, and I’d avoided the axe. Carlo thought differently. “Ged, you were RUBBISH!” He’d then march off to dismantle his drum kit muttering something about being “sickened!”
Graham Fenton of Matchbox
Mark Freeman, The Rollin' Stoned
Paul Neon & The Saints
Now I ought to say something in his defence. Anyone who never knew him might think he was an egomaniac. Not so. He was right. Perhaps not always…but at least 99% of the time. In that way, tough though the ‘Carlo School’ was, we actually learned something.
As the bands continued to delight the audience, someone else came up to me whom I hadn’t seen for thirty-eight years. Former Georgie Fame bass player Tex Makins. Tex was the antithesis of Carlo (except that he was also very good); a happy-go-lucky, laugh-a-minute, didn’t-take-anything-seriously bass player. I played in a trio backing singer Billie Davis with Tex and Carlo, although Carlo could never work him out. That was the nicest thing about the ‘Night of Honour’ – meeting people you hadn’t seen for decades.
The interval consisted of an auction for Ward 10. The items were a pair of Carlo's drumsticks donated by his family; a pair of VIP tickets to see the Rolling Stones at any UK venue during the current tour; signed drumsticks, an album, football shirt and photo donated by Charlie Watts; Keith Richards’ guitar pick and signed rare albums; a signed t-shirt, album and book from all the Rolling Stones; a signed programme from Jeff Beck; signed CDs from singers Chris Farlow and Gordon Haskell; a signed George Harrison book from the music biographer Alan Clayson; a pile of 60's music CDs donated by DJ Dell Richardson from Radio Caroline; and brand new harmonicas and a signed CD donated by Nicky Hopkins' biographer and musician Julian Dawson.
Actually, I’d have liked the Nicky Hopkins CD. The last time I saw Nicky – a great pianist, friend, and genuine nice guy – was when we were both playing at the Empire Pool, Wembley. It was the time that Carlo (possibly) became the first person to utter a well-known obscenity on TV, thereby beating theatre critic Ken Tynan. (Look it up. It’s on Carlo’s website). As for the rest, if I mention that the football shirt (I think) went for £900, you can see how influential Carlo was. Even Wayne Rooney wouldn’t have made that. (Thinks: perhaps I ought to auction a set of my old guitar strings. Anyone offer me 2/6d? Alright…1/6d).
Neil Korner with Ray Phillips of
The Nashville Teens
John Idan of The Yardbirds
So the evening ended as it had begun, everyone running overtime, the stage getting more and more packed, and the audience seeming not to want to go home, although I was thinking about the drive back up the M1. I saw Carlo's daughter outside taking the fresh air. “This is it,” she said sadly. “There won’t be anything like this again.” I think not. Carlo might not have ‘made it’ in the traditional sense, but do you really think people will remember some of the pop dross that exists these days in years to come? Carlo had a major influence on the lives of the people who knew him although he never had the success he deserved. But he did something far more important. He was true to his art, was appreciative of real talent, was “sickened” by dross, and really couldn’t see the point of just going along with things because it was easy and undemanding.
In that sense, he was successful,and it was a success of far greater importance than being temporarily popular, but soon forgotten. That is why the evening was called ‘A Night of Honour and Celebration.’ He will be sadly missed by all of us who knew him, worked with him, loved him, and were helped by him. Ged.
Remembering Carlo at the Night of Honour
Carlos good mates Pete, Ged, Nick, Rick, Mick, Keith, John
Wee Willie Harris
Nick Simper | The Good Old Boys | Alex Chanter | Eel Pie Club | The Tiller Girls | Vince Eager | Julian Dawson | Alan Clayson | John Hawken | Nashville Teens | The Pretty Things | Dell Richardson | Matchbox | Tony Dangerfield | The Downliners Sect | Tommy Bruce | Mickey Waller | Paul Neon & The Saints | The Rollin' Stoned | Review of the Night | Video Clip