The Touring Years 1964-1969

 

Travellin' Man: life as a session musician on the road

After his spell on the R&B club scene, Carlo joined various bands that were brimming with musicians from the melting pot and roots of the now rapidly expanding British rock family tree. The mid-60s sound was fast progressing from beat to rock music, and Carlo was right in the thick of this. Life on the road touring often involved sacrificing the luxuries of home, but despite regular in-band fisticuffs and relentless cheap dirty digs it was sometimes worth it in terms of fun... 

Buddy Britten & The Regents: August 1964


Buddy Britten & The Regents were a Merseybeat group. Like Screaming Lord Sutch’s Savages, Buddy's band was a real breeding ground for many great young musicians such as bass players Johnny Vance (Vince Taylor & The Playboys) and Nick Simper of Deep Purple.

From 1962 to 1966, Buddy and his various backing bands released ten singles although none were big sellers in Britain.

Carlo was with Buddy for three months, alongside his friend bass player John Lawson (from one of the later line-ups of The Savages). According to Carlo, they didn't do that many gigs during this time, and they were mostly in and around London. One of the funnier times Carlo remembered with this band was after a gig at The Rink Ballroom, Swaddlingcoat: "we didn't have anywhere to stay so the promoter said we could sleep in the ballroom for the night. He locked us in and we tried to get comfy on the floor. But it was so uncomfortable that someone got up, found a bingo machine and we had a great laugh playing bingo at three in the morning!"

Buddy Britten >

The Echoes: October 1964 - May 1965


The Echoes were an English musical group established in London in early 1960 by singer Chris Wayne for the Conway Twitty, Johnny Preston and Freddy Cannon tour of Great Britain. Before Carlo joined them they had also toured with and backed Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis. When Carlo joined the band they had just returned from South Africa backing Dusty Springfield. Carlo: "all I can remember from this period is that the van was breaking down all the time, so there wasn't much fun to be had here".

Neil Christian & The Crusaders: June - October 1965

 

Neil Christian & The Crusaders had been a big club draw since 1960 (one of the earliest members was Jimmy Page). Similar in nature to that of The Savages, they played and packed-out dance halls up and down the country. Carlo: "By the time I joined them they were mainly doing weekend gigs, as work had temporarily dwindled for The Crusaders at this point". But Neil Christian's European hit single 'That's Nice' was just around the corner. The song charted around Europe and made him a minor star. Neil Christian and his wife Sandra, a movie make-up artist, later became Godparents to Carlo's youngest daughter Emma in 1976.

 

Line up: June - October 1965

  • Chris Tidmarsh

  • Mick Abrahams (Lead Guitar)

  • Alex Dmchowski (Bass)

  • Graham Waller (Keyboards)

  • Bernie Hetherington (Baritone Sax)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

Neil Christian >

It was during his time with The Crusaders that Carlo was asked to perform some sessions for the Immediate record label and its then house producer Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin). The tracks in question also featured Jeff Beck and Nicky Hopkins, who had just been given the all clear after his hospitalisation which had forced him to quit Cyril Davies' All Stars (read more about these sessions here).

Chuckles, 1965

All Stars featuring Jeff Beck

Down In The Boots, 1965

All Stars featuring Jimmy Page

Piano Shuffle, 1965

All Stars featuring Nicky Hopkins

Chris Lamb & The Universals: November 1965 - June 1966

 

Chris Lamb & The Universals were a 7-piece Showband fronted by trumpeter Chris Lamb, playing US bases and Irish clubs around Kilburn from 1963 to 1968.

Bill Parkinson: "After I left PJ Proby I auditioned with 30 other guitarists and got the with job with top Irish show band Chris Lamb and The Universals, this was a very good tight band with excellent musicians. On drums was Carlo Little, ex Rolling Stones. On vocals and trombone was Brian Keith lead singer with Plastic Penny, on keyboards was Paul Raymond who played with many bands, and on bass John Lawson. The sax player was Mort Sullivan, the leader Chris Lamb played trumpet. We played everything from the top 20 to themes like Laurence of Arabia and Tijuana Brass, and of course an array of Irish music.".

 

 

Line up: November 1965 - July 1966:

  • Chris Lamb (Trumpet)

  • Mort Sullivan (Tenor Sax)

  • Brian Keith (Vocals/Trombone)

  • Bill Parkinson (Lead Guitar)

  • Ged Peck (Lead Guitar)

  • John Lawson (Bass)

  • Paul Raymond (Keyboards)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

Line up: July 1966 - September 1966:

  • Chris Lamb (Trumpet)

  • Mort Sullivan (Tenor Sax)

  • Brian Keith (Vocals/Trombone)

  • Bill Parkinson (Lead Guitar)

  • Tony Dangerfield (Bass)

  • Paul Raymond (Keyboards)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages / The Circles: July - December 1966

 

Carlo recruited his former band The Universals for a new set of dates with his old pal Dave Sutch. According to guitarist Bill Parkinson, Screaming Lord Sutch was very tight as far as money was concerned - a fact that probably contributed to Carlo leaving the band in the first place back in 1962. Most of the band only received £5 a night no matter where the gig was. They often travelled in one car and slept in the same room, while Sutch drove in his own car and had a bed to himself. Their first night as The Savages was a double gig; the first in Ware, the 2nd in Stevenage.

Bill Parkinson, lead guitar: "Carlo would use my Ford Consul car to transport equipment and eight men and woman to each venue to save him hiring a van, while Sutch travelled in his own car. The gig at Ware started to a packed hall with Screaming Lord Sutch nearly setting fire to the curtains during the song Great Balls of Fire! The music was fast and furious Rock and Roll, very loud, and half way through the next number he was dragged off stage by the crowd and seemed to float on a sea of people, ending up out the front door. Carlo and others chased after him thinking that he was going to be set upon by the local hard men. John Lawson the bass player and myself continued to play on stage and after a few minutes Sutch suddenly appeared back on stage and said, "where the F… is the rest of the band?" He somehow had got free and made his way back to the stage. Carlo returned a few minutes later saying they had got him, not realizing that he was back on stage ready to continue. We finished the show with fantastic applause, we then carried on to the following gig in Stevenage to complete the eventful night."

Savages line up: August - September 1966

  • Dave Sutch (Vocals)

  • Bill Parkinson (Lead Guitar)

  • Tony Dangerfield (Bass)

  • Paul Raymond (Keyboards)

  • Brian Keith (Vocals/Trombone)

  • John Lawson (Bass)

  • Carlo Little (Drums

The Circles line up: August - November 1966 

  • Brian Keith aka Brian O'Shea (Vocals)

  • Bill Parkinson (Lead Guitar)

  • John Lawson (Bass)

  • Paul Raymond (Keyboards)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

Savages line up: October - December 1966 

  • Dave Sutch (Lead Vocals)

  • John Bedder (Lead Guitar)

  • Tony Dangerfield (Bass)

  • Tony Marsh (Keyboards)

  • Peter Green (Tenor Sax)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

As a sideline during this time with The Savages, Carlo formed a new band called The Circles with some of the other members and they cut a record produced by Island Records impressario Chris Blackwell - the A side Take Your Time was a cover by Mr. Lee & The Cherokees and reached the top 30. Bill Parkinson went on the write the 1971 British hit single 'Mother of Mine', which reached number two in the charts.

Take Your Time, 1966

The Circles

Don't You Love Me No More, 1966

The Circles

Mother of Mine, 1971

written by Bill Parkinson

Lord Caesar Sutch & The Roman Empire: Dec 1966 - Apr 1967

 

A temporary aberration had Sutch calling himself 'Lord Caesar Sutch' and, for publicity in typical Lord Sutch style, he had the band dress as Roman Gladiators. The line-up included Richie Blackmore, and Matthew Fisher on keyboards who had recorded 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' with Procol Harum during his spell with The Empire. Matthew stayed with the Empire for financial security until the record took off!

 

Line up: December 1966 - April 1967

  • Dave Sutch (Vocals)

  • Ritchie Blackmore (Lead Guitar)

  • Tony Dangerfield (Bass)

 

The first gig they did was a benefit for the wife of the late Johnny 'Shakin All Over' Kidd, who had died in October 1966. Signed to the Robert Stigwood agency, they  supported Cream at Sussex University, Brighton, on December 15th 1966. 

Tony Dangerfield: "Ginger and Carlo knew each other and we shared what was a classroom as a dressing room and we pulled out all the stops that night. We got thrown off the next gigs with the Cream, they had us off straight away".  

  • Matthew Fisher (Keyboards)

  • Joel James (Tenor Sax)

  • Carlo Little (Drums

Back: The roadie, Carlo, Sutch, Tony Dangerfield. Front: Joel James, Ritchie Blackmore

Left to right: Matthew Fisher, Tony Dangerfield, Ritchie Blackmore, Joel James, Dave Sutch, Carlo Little

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14 Jan 1967

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Liverpool University Engineers dance night, March 1967

Tony Dangerfield: "We had this photo shoot, Marble Arch in December and it's freezing cold. Dave said, 'I've got this great image coming up' and he opened the back of this truck and there's all this Roman Empire clothes, togas and stuff, and it was all cheap budget stuff, typical Dave. The helmets were all plastic. He said, 'right, get changed, we've got a photoshoot', and in those days we used to backcomb our hair. Ritchie tried to be inconspicuous and Dave runs off down Oxford Street with the big axe chasing us and Ritchie tries to sneak into a shop doorway. There's Christmas shopping going on and he's standing there freezing in this toga with this silly thing on top of his head and we weren't into dressing up anymore. It stopped the traffic in Oxford Street. We used to do an opening set about 20 minutes before Sutch came on" - from 'Black Knight: Ritchie Blackmore' by Jerry Bloom.

The band were booked in Europe, which included gigs at Jaguar Club Scala Herford, a residency at Kiel Star Palastalso, and a tour of Sweden.

Carlo: "It was thick snow when I went there with the Roman Empire. We were driven around in a big American 4-wheel drive with a little trailer for the equipment to go in towed behind. The promoter had sent a roadie to drive it. It had snow chains on the wheels, that's how deep the snow was. We did abut 10 days of gigs, and always went down well with the crowds, who were really excited. We met and talked to The Hep Stars in one of the dressing rooms, who later turned out to be members of Abba."

Tony Dangerfield: "We had to go over on the hydra-plane to Denmark. Dave decided we'd all get changed into the gear and he'd chase us up and down the gangway. The captain got us off and in the Customs Shed. The promoter hadn't arrived yet and they wouldn't let us in the country. Over there we had the big limo, the business. On that tour I think Purple People Eater had gone into the charts and we were promoting it. The roadie Arne said, 'I have the Walker Brothers, I have Spencer Davis, no trouble - you, trouble all the time!" - from 'Black Knight: Ritchie Blackmore' by Jerry Bloom.

Neil Christian & The Crusaders: April - May 1967

 

Following his first stint with The Crusaders in 1965, Carlo went back to this group again for a short tour of Germany on the back of the Christian's big German hit 'Two At A Time'.  Carlo: "Christian said, 'here's ten quid, I'll see you in Berlin'... and that was to cover everything for the band to get from Wembley to Germany! He went off in his new Mustang, of course!" So off they went on £10 expenses, having to rely on Carlo's un-trusty old Bedford van. It created a bad atmosphere for the whole trip. On the way Carlo had a fist fight with Tony while driving at 70 MPH, and by the time they got there they were so exhausted they fell asleep on a petrol station forecourt.

Line up: December 1966 - April 1967

  • Chris Tidmarsh (Vocals)

  • Ritchie Blackmore (Lead Guitar)

  • Tony Dangerfield (Bass)

  • Matt Smith (Keyboards)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

Neil Christian: "I just got them together to do this short tour with me. The record was doing very well, first week it went to number three, then number one, and we were doing all this promotional gear... some shows in Germany, live TV in Berlin and Hamburg. We'd done this recorded TV show and we in this restaurant to watch it on TV. We'd had our meal and when it comes to pay for it, an argument starts. I look at Ritchie and he starts laughing, and Carlo and Tony were arguing over a slice of bread. So I said, 'Look, let's not be silly, I'll pay for it', and a fight suddenly ensued between the pair of them in this restaurant. I rushed out, Ritchie followed me, we got outside and they looked the doors, kept them in there, all over a slice of bread!"

 

After the tour, they finished in Hamburg and went to the Star Club and Top Ten. The rest of the band decided to stay for a few days (they had busty women to keep them occupied) and Carlo went home, complete with their instruments in the back of the van. He didn't see them for YEARS after, and had sold their instruments! It was while in Hamburg, not long after these events, that Ritchie formed Deep Purple.

Bill Parkinson, former Savages guitarist: "Carlo Little wanted a riff to feature for his drum solo, so I played him a song I wrote called 'Lost Soul' - and he loved it. Richie Blackmore re-joined Screaming Lord Sutch and Carlo taught him Lost Soul. Ritchie renamed the song 'Mandrake Root' and used it on his debut Deep Purple LP. I had been told many times that while playing the song, Richie altered a couple of notes and Smoke on the Water was born". Nick Simper, original Deep Purple bassist: "Blackmore learned the melody note for note from Carlo Little".

Two At A Time, 1967

Neil Christian

Neil Christian talks about

guitarists in The Crusaders

Mandrake Root, 1968

Deep Purple

After some shows in Frankfurt, Carlo took me to one side and told me of his ambition to re-unite with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. the two had worked together with Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages, and Neil Christian's Crusaders, remaining friends and keeping in touch. Blackmore now lived in Hamburg, and Carlo had arranged to meet him, to present an idea for a new band based on myself, Carlo and Ritchie. After the gig we met Blackmore at his flat, from where we proceeded to the famous Star Club for a beer and a chat. Carlo swiftly outlined a plan where the two of us would give Billie reasonable notice to quit, and then return to Hamburg, where we would base ourselves, and rehearse an act.

Billie Davis: June - August 1967

 

Nick Simper, bass: "I received a phone call from out of the blue. 'Nick?', enquired the voice on the phone, "Carlo Little here!". Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Here was one of my all time musical heroes calling me! Carlo explained that he needed a bassist for a trio that he was assembling to back singer Billie Davis, who'd had a top ten chart hit two years before. Now, normally I would have run barefoot over broken glass to work with Carlo, but his call had come at the wrong time for me, and I declined his offer. Several days later Carlo telephoned again, hoping that I had changed my mind.

Line up: June - August 1967

  • Billie Davis (Vocals)

  • Ged Peck (Lead Guitar)

  • Nick Simper (Bass)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

Once again, I turned him down. Finally I received a third, rather desperate sounding call, informing me that Billie and her group were due to open in cabaret the very next week, followed by a pleading request to "just help out" until a permanent member could be found. Carlo was putting me on the spot, and he knew it. Grudgingly I agreed to help out on a temporary basis, arranging to meet at his Wembley home the following day. Arriving at Carlo's, I set up my bass amp next to his drum kit in the front room where, together with a South African pianist named Neville, Billie Davis and her wonderfully named manager, Johnny Toogood, we proceeded to get to grips with the forthcoming act"...

The band headed out on tour Sunday, 28th May 1967. Carlo, Nick, Billie and Neville headed north for Bradford, where they were to appear for a week, first playing the tiny Paradise Club, followed by a later show at the larger Lyceum Club. Travelling with their equipment in Carlo's Ford Thames van, they chatted and got to know one another during the trip. Carlo did most of the talking, keeping them entertained with stories of life on the road.

 

I was to learn very swiftly that Carlo had a fear of being late for a show, probably because he never wanted to give managers or promoters the slightest excuse to knock the money! After the Paradise Club show, we skidded to a halt outside the Lyceum, a much larger night spot and with Carlo cracking the whip we set up our gear in double quick time. Performing the same show to a capacity crowd, Billie went down a storm, and so our debut was considered a great success. There wasn't too much to do in Bradford, apart from the occasional visit to the ice-rink where I picked up plenty of bruises, so a lot of the time was spent in the digs being musically educated by Carlo, who had brought along his reel-to-reel tape recorder with endless tapes of some of the greatest music I had ever heard. Stuff by everyone from Leadbelly to Link Wray, from Bobby Bland to Marvin Gaye. These were the sort of songs that you never heard on the radio, and Carlo would point out every nuance that made the tracks great, analysing each and every instrument in his enthusiasm. Carlo and I were worked together well and also to forge a genuine friendship. He presented a stern, rather forbidding exterior which often gave people the wrong impression, but the person underneath proved to be a warm and friendly character with a great sense of humour! Ged Peck was later brought in by Nick.

Carlo pointed out that all three of us had excellent pedigrees, and felt confident that we could attract plenty of well-paid work in Germany, just as other British bands were doing. He suggested that I handle vocals until a proper singer could be found, to which I agreed, although with more confidence than I felt! Blackmore seemed keen on the plan. After all, he had languished in Hamburg for some time without regular employment, so this could only be a positive move. He suggested a keyboard player who was also resident in Hamburg, another ex-Savage who Carlo knew well. As the time swiftly approached for us to depart for Frankfurt, we all shook hands in agreement, Carlo promising to let Ritchie know as soon as we were able to return. Leaving the Star Club, full of optimism for a successful future, we headed back home onto the Autobahn....

 

Read more of Nick's story on his website >>

 

Read Ged Peck's story >>

 

Billie Davis >

Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages: Aug 1967

 

The Billie Davis tour now having ended, and with the band looking for their next paid gigs, saw Carlo rushing out to find his old boss Dave Sutch, who employed them in yet another line-up of The Savages.

 

Nick Simper: "There was little doubt that Sutch’s act had suffered recently, mainly due to the fact that he was unwilling to pay for good musicians, often recruiting the cheapest available, but he always relished the chance to use Carlo Little, knowing that he added class to the show. David Sutch’s act had not changed in the eight years that he had been a top attraction, and I knew the collection of Fifties and Sixties rock n’ roll songs inside out. The difference with Dave, though, was that you had to brave fire, water and assorted weaponry whilst playing with the panache demanded by Carlo, who was also band leader and choreographer!

 

The highlight for me though was seeing Freddy Fingers Lee cartwheel across the stage, landing with his head on a cushion strategically place on the keyboard of the piano, whilst Sutch, standing on top of the piano would grab Fred’s ankles, holding him in hand-stand position. Fred would then play an amazing solo, Arguably playing better upside down than most pianists could achieve the right way up! Usually he would screw a car wing mirror onto the piano, thus allowing him to see the rest of the band with his one good eye. He also had a disconcerting habit of removing his glass eye band resting it on your shoulder, usually accompanied by the phrase “I’ve got my eye on you! For Ged and me, this period was an important part of our rock n’ roll education, an experience we would not have missed for anything!" Read more of Nick's story on his website >>

Line up: August 1967

  • Dave Sutch (Vocals)

  • Ged Peck (Lead Guitar)

  • Nick Simper (Bass)

  • Freddie Fingers Lee

  • Art Regis (Keyboards)

  • Carlo Little (Drums)

L-R: Nick Simper, Dave Sutch, Ged Peck, Carlo Little

The Flower Pot Men: Oct 1967 - Sept 1969

 

The Flower Pot Men had just had a huge hit in Europe with the single 'Let's Go To San Francisco' when Carlo joined them, and one of their first jobs was a UK package tour with other chart bands who included the Bee Gees, Keith West, Traffic and Vanilla Fudge. Carlo was highly impressed with the new 'heavy' sound of Vanilla Fudge and talked his band mates into checking them out, with a view to forming their own similar-sounding band later. 

 

Ged Peck: "We played the Finsbury Park Astoria only once, on Wednesday, October 4th 1967. During Fudge’s performance, the Finsbury Park management were trying to get them to turn it down to the point where there was a near mini-riot going on side-stage. Carlo physically stopped some guy from pulling Carmine Appice off his drum stool. The Fudge were thrown off the tour that night after just one gig… although they were very good! The whole thing was really scary".

Line up:

  • Tony Burrows, vocals

  • Neil Landon, vocals

  • Robin Shaw, vocals

  • Pete Nelson, vocals[2]

  • Ged Peck, guitar

  • Carlo Little, drums

  • Nick Simper, bass

  • Jon Lord, organ

Then after Nick and Jon Lord left for Deep Purple:

  • Mick Stewart, lead guitar

  • Tony 'Tex' Makins, bass

  • Gordon Haskell, bass

  • Billy Davidson, keyboards

  • Johnny Carroll, keyboards

During this time Carlo also met the legend Jimi Hendrix - in The Blue Boar cafe on the M1. "All the bands would congregate there on their way back and forwards from gigs," recalled Carlo. "It was just before The Experience hit the big time and they must have been touring to get themselves known. Mitch Mitchell the drummer used to come and watch me in the early days, and recognised me. He came over with Jimi and introduced me as 'the guy who started it all off for me' ".

The Flower Pot Men >

Performing many gigs up and down the country, the tour took them to the Latino Nightclub in South Shields, a small town just outside Newcastle in the north-east of England. It was here that 19 year-old Iris King worked as a croupier.  Struck by her beauty, Carlo asked her out, and they were married within 6 months! The wedding, at St Andrew's Church in Sudbury, Wembley on 20 July 1968, made the national newspapers due to the sheer number of pop stars that turned up. Noel Redding from the Hendrix Experience was there. Jon Lord played the organ for them (the church organ had broken down, so he plugged in his!), and Flower Pot singer Tony Burrows was Carlo's best man (he later had hits with song Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes and Beach Baby, plus others). Ged Peck on the wedding reception, which took place in an old hall at the back of the church: "On the one side were us - that is to say mainly band members in the most outrageous clothes and long hair - on the other were people who all looked well over fifty. Carlo was desperately trying to keep order. The culmination of the afternoon was where everyone got up on stage and the volume got louder and louder."

The Flower Pot Men.

The band in rehearsals and on tour, 1967-69.

Sunday Mirror, 16 July 1968

Sunday Mirror, 16 July 1968

Carlo with his best man Tony Burrows

Carlo with his best man Tony Burrows

Spot the pop star

Spot the pop star

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Carlo and his bride Iris King, 1968.

The wedding made the national papers.

Shortly after the Flower Pot Men tour ended, Nick Simper and Jon Lord took the Vanilla Fudge sound forward and joined Deep Purple with Ritchie Blackmore - but without the more dominating, older, and now-married Carlo. You can see Nick Simper talking about this period here.

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