The Savages Years 1960-1962
Original Outrageous Inspirators - The Original British Punks
6th February, 1960. Fresh out of the army and eager to catch up with old friends, new sounds and happenings Carlo, now aged 21, returned to his old haunt, The Kannibal Pot coffee bar in Sudbury's Harrow Road. All of his old pals had now moved on so he was all alone that evening. Finding he was the only person to select Rock & Roll on the jukebox, a young girl named Gill (Gillian White) asked, "are you Carlo?" Surprised, because he didn't know this person, he replied, "yeah. How do you know that?" "Because of the records you are playing", she replied. She must have known him from his reputation. Gill proceeded to tell him that she was waiting for her boyfriend, who also played the same records, and said they might get on well together because of this.
< Carlo aged 21
Soon after, the coffee bar door opened and in walked this guy with a long camelhair coat, 18 inch long hair, and a pair of goggles - minus the glass! "I said to Gill, 'Hey, look at him', and she said, 'Oh that's my boyfriend David (aka Screaming Lord) Sutch'. He was a strange looking guy and really stood out."
They were introduced and found they had much in common. Their strongest bond was the joint opinion of a dislike of the current British pop scene, which by this time was littered with tame pop stars such as Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Pat Boone. Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues, it seemed, was on rationing. There was only one thing for them to do. They decided to meet up again, with the intention that Carlo would try to get a Rock & Roll group together, with David tagging along, maybe with a role as manager.
David Sutch, early 1960's >
A few weeks later, now back at his old job, Carlo had purchased his first full drum kit. After checking Macarie's Music Shop in Wembley, the local music enthusiasts' hang out, Carlo and David were given a few local names to approach, eventually ending up with 16 year old classically trained guitarist Bernie Watson. According to Carlo, Bernie suggested 15 year old guitar/bassist Rick Brown (aka Fenson), who suggested 16 year old pianist, another who was classically trained, Nicky Hopkins.
The first collective band meeting was arranged in the rear hall of the pub next door to the Kannibal Pot, the Sudbury Swan. Carlo: "During a 12 bar rock and roll jam Bernie screamed his guitar loudly. Excited by his playing Sutch went crazy with his head, his hair fell down, the full 18 inches, and screamed his head off, 'Yeah, man!' It was such as funny sight that none of us could play any longer for laughing." Carlo then suggested that he try singing, but he said, "I'm not sure how." Carlo then said, "Well, I could teach you," and from then on he became the band's singer.
The original Savages, 1960
L-R: Bernie, Nicky, Rick, Carlo.
The group's name was registered by Carlo as a trademark.
Carlo's first full drum kit, 1960, which he later covered in leopard skin fabric. He taught Keith Moon to play on it, and used it in gigs with The Rolling Stones.
At this point in time Carlo was being influenced by drummers such as Earl Palmer, Sandy Nelson, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Ronnie Verrell, and sounds like Honky Tonk by Bill Doggett, and Bo Diddley, and King Curtis. And he had been practising so hard and got that much better, that in his parent's house the walls had cracked and chunks of plaster fell down!
Earl Palmer's drumming style
Sandy Nelson's drumming style
Three months later the new group had perfected enough songs for an act. The band made their first public appearances as The Savages at the British Legion in South Harrow and Carlo registered the band's name. The early covers included Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis. They managed to get one or two gigs a month, as the now famous Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages, during that same year at local halls and built up a small following. See the early gigs listing here. Soon after, Carlo was asked to join Dougie Dee And The Strangers, semi-professional, which he did from June 1960 to April 1961 (see right picture).
Carlo and Dave spent many evenings together at the 2i's >
A new line-up was needed. Ken Payne, the bassist from the Strangers, was brought in by Carlo. Andy Wren (piano) had been auditioned; another one in. The audition for a guitarist proved more of an ordeal. Carlo: "Ritchie Blackmore, who could have only been 15 at the time, came along with his girlfriend and his dad. We heard about 7 or 8 blokes, but it was a toss up between Ritchie and Roger Mingay (aka 'Scratch & Scrape Bailey'). Roger just had the edge, because he was older and more experienced." The new Savages then became full-time professional, playing all over Britain's dance halls until September 1961, when the original members re-joined. There was much of this twoing-and-froing amongst the musicians, but it was the original line-up that is best remembered and most revered. This line-up also cut the Joe Meek-produced first single 'Till The Following Night'. The Savages most famous track Jack The Ripper, also Meek produced, was a big crowd pleaser but banned by all UK radio stations. Without much airplay the band remained a big club draw but did not hit the big time. See Jack The Ripper early Scopitone video here and live 1964 performance here (minus Carlo but with Ronnie Harwood and Paul Nicholas in the band).
Around the same time Sutch had auditioned at the famous 2i's Coffee Bar, and become such a hit that the 2i's manager Tom Littlewood put him on the road, backed by Vince Taylor's Playboys. After a while Sutch realised he had to have his own group again, and in April 1961 he asked Carlo if he would reform The Savages.
The White Stripes used to perform a cover of 'Jack The Ripper' in their live shows. Jack White said: "I got it as a teenager... I liked the way his vocals were very intense, but at the same time sort of 'blown off' as not that important. His ideas seemed very interesting to me because he obviously wanted to break some new ground... Joe Meek's work with him is pretty amazing, and I'm very fond of the track 'Til The Following Night' which has a great vocal track".
'Til The Following Night, 1961
Jack the Ripper, 1963
She's Fallen in Love with the Monster Man, 1964
Being a Savage involved a lot of one-night stands, a lot of cheap bed and breakfasts, a lot of travelling back from the middle and north of England overnight in run-down old vans never designed for such wear and tear, but it sure beat working in an office, and the rewards were, emotionally at least, if not financially, tangible. "There were a handful of other acts on the road too, maybe half a dozen," says Little. "None of us had big hit records, but you knew that if you came to see us you'd be entertained. It would be a good night out. There was nobody to follow or copy. You had all your records that you got your act from - Little Richard, Elvis, Chuck Berry - and you worked your act round that." But none of the other acts could hold a candle to the voluminous show that was Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages, one of the biggest live draws in the country during the early 60s. The band were arguably ahead of their time due to the heavy, amplified sound that they were creating at a time when the electric guitar had barely become established as a group instrument. See their gigs listing here.
Left to right: The Savages. Bernie, Sutch, Carlo, Rick and Nicky >
But much of the Savages' excitement emanated from the back of the stage where, as if by divine intervention, there sat a British drummer who understood what it took to play rock'n'roll. Over the years the line-up of the Savages would include some of the key musicians of the Sixties and Seventies, and their galvanising effect on others can only truly be garnered by talking to those who saw them. "They were the equivalent of a hard rock band today," says the Escorts' bass player Colin Haines. "They would grab you by the scruff of the neck and thrash it out. They were very dynamic and loud."
Rob Lemon had no doubt where that on-stage energy was derived from. "Carlo Little played drums in the UK like no one else. He was original like you can't believe. And it was all to do with the bass drum." "He was a fantastic heavyweight rock'n'roll drummer," says Gerry Evans, "and we were in awe of him. He used to hit the bass drum like you'd never seen. It was like a cannon, like a bomb going off when he hit it."
Carlo himself would hardly be the one to disagree. "When I hit something I didn't just tap it. I walloped it. 'Take that!' It hit you. It was impressive. Especially in those days, because I took it hard as it could go. We were the loudest band ever." Quite apart from their energy, disregarding their exhibitionism, ignoring for a moment their choice of material and even discounting the drummer who hit his kit with such a violent passion, these fellow musicians also on the scene had added reason to be inspired by - and jealous of - the Savages.
The Savages with (unrelated) singer Edna Savage.
She was once married to 50's pop star Terry Dene and died aged 62 in 2001.
Carlo: "We were such an excitingly loud, hard-hitting rock and roll band that wherever we played the audiences couldn't believe what they were hearing, and every town we played in we were getting the local young groups coming and asking our advice." At one such gig on June 25, 1962, Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages headlined at Wembley Town Hall. Keith Moon was among several hundred who attended the show. In fact, it was so crowded that many of the girls stood on the bench seats around the hall perimeters to see the band properly and promptly punctured the leather with their stiletto heels, causing a mile furore that made the local papers. Everyone applauded the opening act, Paul Dean (who later became actor Paul Nicholas) and the Dreamers, another bunch of local boys. And they went ape at the Savages.
Back in 1957, out of all the first wave of rock'n'roll, it was Little Richard's records that had featured the drums most prominently. If you turned them up loud enough - which meant risking your parents' wrath for daring to play the devil's music in the first place - you could actually hear the kick drum thudding away, and of all those singles, none has so prominent a bass drum as 'Lucille'. So of course the Savages, rock'n'roll historians despite their youth, opened their set with 'Lucille'. And the audience just stood there with their mouths agape. It wasn't the ludicrously loud orange shirts and the white boots that set the Savages apart so much as the sheer noise, particularly that made by Carlo Little on the drums - every component of which was noticeably bigger than those on the average kit - flailing away like he was trying to beat them up. It was also the visual impact of the singer. Sutch was the consummate performer. No matter what the song, he had a corny prop to go with it. So for Bobby Darin's 'Bull Moose', he put on a helmet with two foot long horns; for 'Blue Suede Shoes', he pranced around in boots several sizes too big painted lurid blue; during the group's self-penned single 'Till The Following Night', he found his way into a coffin; and on 'Great Balls Of Fire'...well, you had to laugh really: he jumped round the stage holding a biscuit tin alight. He generally terrified the audience alike with his reckless stunts, such as chasing people with knifes and axes.
Dave Wendels, Savages member May-Oct 1964:
"I'd come home with my guitar with dings and dents in it. I had to duck out of the way while he was rolling all over the floor and hanging from the rafters...every gig was an adventure. I mean, getting to the gig was an adventure. Sutch would stop the van in some little town, take out his axe - not a real one, but it looked real - and run out and chase the bass player around the local Woolworths..."
From an interview by Mike Stax in 'Ugly Things', Issue 12.
L-R: Ricky Brown, Carlo, Paul Nicholas
Left to right: Ritchie Blackmore, Rick Brown, unknown, David Sutch, Carlo Little, unknown
Savages promotional picture, 1964. Ritchie Blackmore is on the right
The Savages backstage, 1964. Charlie Watts can be seen on the left
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Screaming Lord Sutch
Rick Brown (aka Ricky Fenson)
Others of Interest
Ronnie Harwood | Chas Hodges | Casey Jones | Ray King | Freddie Fingers Lee | Ken Payne | Kim Roberts | Big Jim Sullivan | Clem Cattini | Chuck Berry | Hal Blaine | Johnnie Johnson | Gene Krupa | Sandy Nelson | Earl Palmer | Little Richard | Johnny Kidd & The Pirates | The Tornados | Vince Taylor & The Playboys
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Dave Sutch on Bernie Watson and forming the band: "Myself and Carlo Little were forming a band. And we were told about this great guitarist who was a legend around Wembley and Harrow, where he was playing. We went along to see him and we were completely knocked out with him. He could do all the Chuck Berry, all the Bo Diddley, all the early stuff, note for note, he was quick as greased lightning. So we said, 'Are you going to join the band?' He said, 'Ah, there's one little drawback. I've got a mate who wants to join the band as well'. We said, 'We don't really want anybody else'. He said, 'Well, he's not bad, he plays piano'. We weren't overkeen so we thought, well we'll just have this other mate of his for a while and then probably get him out. So we went to this school where they were rehearsing and saw this guy we were going to get lumbered with. And he later became the biggest legend out of the lot of them. His name was Nicky Hopkins. We couldn't believe it, there was this little baby-faced pianist and he was a genius!" (Taken from Sounds, July 22 1972).