The Pub Rock Years - 1970s & 1980s

 

Life After Marriage. Carlo settles down and has a family but continues playing in pub bands and then builds a financially-rewarding catering business.

After work with The Flowerpot Men died down, Carlo realised it was time to support his new wife by settling down and getting a 'proper job'. One such venture into the real world involved his good bass-player friend from The Savages and The Flowerpot Men days Nick Simper (who had just left Deep Purple), and together they opened up a greengrocers shop on Ealing Road back in Carlo's native hometown Wembley. (Boxer Henry Cooper later did the same thing on the same road). The venture lasted but a year, during which time Iris gave birth to his first daughter Giselle in 1972. Carlo also attended the infamous Rock and Roll Show at Wembley in 1972, watching all his musical heroes from the side of the stage. He spotted Mick Jagger backstage but, after all these years and subsequent success of The Rolling Stones, was too shy to say hello! 

Screaming Lord Sutch performs live

Rock'n'Roll show, Wembley Stadium, 1972

Carlo and Nick Simper

at their shop in Wembley

Also milling around backstage at this event was Keith Moon. He bought Carlo a drink at the bar and they chatted about the Heavy Friends album on which they had performed together, and Keith was embarrassed to see that his name was bigger than Carlo's on the sleeve, even though he had only played a couple of numbers on it. Carlo also got to speak to his hero Chuck Berry that day, and they chatted for a while about the piano player Johnnie Johnson, amongst other things.

Photo: Carlo performs with Dave Sutch

Hollywood Music Festival at Madeley, Staffs in 1970

The greengrocer venture did not herald the end of Carlo's musical career. He joined yet another band at this time: Hurricane, which was put together by producer Mal Gray, and included pianist Freddie 'Fingers' Lee, guitarist Dave Wendels, and on bass Stuart Colman.  (Stuart and his wife Janet are Godparents to Carlo's eldest daughter. He later had success as a producer and had many hit records with Shakin' Stevens and others). Other musicians involved with the band included Dick Middleton and Matthew Fisher. The band were signed to Decca and recorded an album. Although their single 'Mama Was A Honky Tonk Woman' had good reviews, they did not manage to achieve further success.

Mama Was A Honky Tonk Woman

Hurricane, 1973

Shakin' an' Breakin'

Hurricane, 1973

Hurricane: Dave Wendels, Carlo, Freddie Fingers Lee, Stuart Colman

So by 1977, Carlo wasn't drumming at all. However, the pub at the end of his street The Hop Bine had advertised a gig that included his old pal Mitch Mitchell (Cream) on drums with singer Frankie Reid, so Carlo went along to say hi. Frankie asked Carlo if he would do some gigs with him, but Carlo was by then without a drum-kit, so Mitch offered to lend his. In 1978 Carlo got asked to play with yet another legend. "I received a phone call from the bass player and broadcaster Stuart Colman, who I had worked with in Hurricane, who said, 'get your gear ready - we're backing Carl Perkins at the Nashville Rooms in London in a couple of hours'. On 19th February, after arriving at the gig with Mitch's drums and meeting Carl Perkins, we rehearsed a couple of numbers, and were joined by Dave Edmonds on guitar and Geraint Watkins on piano. Later we did the show, including Edmonds' number one hit  'I Hear You Knocking'. This Carl Perkins gig was also recorded without me knowing". An album was released as 'Jet Propelled: The 1978 Comeback'.

After the Hurricane project came to an end, Carlo required a regular income. He got a full-time job delivering bread for Mothers Pride. This entailed rising at 3am, which had to be done at this stage because another daughter Emma was born in 1976. (He stayed in this job for 12 more years, until he was made redundant in 1986.) 

Carlo backs Carl Parkins and Dave Edmunds

London's Nashville Rooms, 1978

Carlo then began gigging again on a regular basis with his new friend Frankie Reid on vocals, Nick Simper bass (see photo), and guitarist Pete Parks (ex-Warhorse), both who were at the time in a band called Dynamite. From 1977 Flying Fox, as they were collectively known, performed rock and roll covers in the working men's clubs and pubs of West London, employing various singers after Reid's emigration to Australia (other regular singers were Jimmy Royal, Ronnie Harwood, and Marie Dunn, with Marie's husband Tony Hall playing sax). They all became very good pals, throwing lots of late-night parties and going on memorable holidays together with their families. Their set went down a storm wherever they played, as Carlo's driving beat had not been lost throughout the years. Sadly the venture came to an end in 1984 after internal differences although the original four did remain Carlo's closest friends.

Jezebel

Flying Fox

Mystery Train

Flying Fox

Carlo Little drum solo

Flying Fox

It was while he was with Flying Fox, in 1978, that  Carlo was asked by the owner of the 100 Club in London to perform a special gig. "One day I got a phone call from the 100 Club in London asking me if I would get a band together to back Roscoe Gordon. I asked Pete Parks on guitar, Nick Simper on bass, and Sid Philips on sax. We rehearsed with Roscoe the afternoon of the gig. At around 11pm, while we were on-stage, there was suddenly a buzz in the club. In had walked a big guy who knew Roscoe from way back, they were great buddies. He walked on to the stage asking Pete if he could use his guitar, then he the proceeded to go into a blues song. It was the great B.B. King! He had been in town and had just finished a gig at the Hammersmith Odeon. We performed about four numbers with him, slow blues numbers, and I briefly told him how good it had been before he left as quickly as he had arrived. The show was recorded and released on album without our knowledge. There is a photo on the wall of the 100 Club still today of B.B. King when he performed there and you can see me drumming in the background!" B.B. King's support, the Bobby Bland band, were also there, and Wayne Bennett their guitarist also played that night.

Carlo with BB King

100 Club, London, 1978

During the 1980s, Carlo had remained close to with Ronnie Harwood, whom he had met in one of the line-ups of The Savages and who had guested with Flying Fox regularly. In 1982 Ron, who had a talent for writing catchy ballads, had managed to convince Carlo's old pal Stuart Colman from the Hurricane days (who was by now a rock 'n' roll DJ and record producer for Bill Haley, Billy Fury and Shakin' Stevens) that his new tune You Drive Me Crazy would be a sure-fire hit for Shakin' Stevens. It was a million-selling single and won him an Ivor Novello award in 1981. By 1984 Ron was looking for another hit - and Carlo to work in music again after the Flying Fox split. So they formed a studio band Florida Sun, along with a record company called Sparkle Records, and recorded an album of Ron's songs with Carlo as producer. A single If Dreams Comes True was released and received a fair amount of airplay on Radio 2 , the music was not commercial enough for a hit. After another venture of trying their hands at Europop, under the name of Bandana (on Roger Whittaker's Tembo Records), the pair called it a day - and Carlo stopped drumming on a regular basis for the first time 30 years.

Florida Rock

Florida Sun, 1985

Crazy Daisy

Florida Sun, 1984

Senorita

Bandana, 1986

After being made redundant from Mothers Pride in the mid-1980s, Carlo started his own business supplying wholesale bread to caterers. This was quite successful, and he began to realise that there was probably never going to be a financial future for him in music. In 1991 Carlo continued the theme of catering and bought 2 hot dog/burger trailers, which he operated until 2001 with his wife Iris, at Wembley Stadium market. These ventures bought him more financial rewards than the music business ever did.