The Cyril Davies
                                Rhythm and Blues All StarsOctober 1962. The Original Savages were split into two - but not for much longer. Following a spell in Hamburg Bernie Watson and Nicky Hopkins had been sacked by Cliff Bennett. Carlo Little and Rick Brown had also broken away from Screaming Lord Sutch. Knowing the fact that the great Savages were now all free, the R&B club scene legend Cyril Davies approached them all about starting a new band. This became Cyril Davies & The R&B All Stars; "the best British blues band of the early '60s" - Bruce Eder. From November 1962 they gigged in and around London, which was now evolving into an exciting, revolutionary music scene, packing out it's music clubs and dance halls. (See Rhythm & Blues: The Birth Of British Pop). This line-up was producing a raw mixture of Chicago R&B and Rock 'n' Roll, even bettering what they had produced as The Savages, with Cyril's amazing harmonica playing and Carlo's drumming whipping the crowd into a frenzy. They secured a residency at The Marquee club, and covers included 'Got My Mojo Working'. (Click here for Marquee Set List). The other musicians on the scene were in awe: 

The Cyril Davies All Stars with The Velvettes 
The Velvettes were Patience Gcwabe (Princess Patience Nyameka Gcwabe aka Princess Patience Burton), Eunice Mamsie Mthombeni aka 'Mumsy', & Hazel Futa, who had come to England on tour performing with King Kong the musical from South Africa in 1961 with singer Peggy Phango. Hazel was the former Miss South Africa 1955. After King Kong she sought political asylum in Britain, fleeing from apartheid and security police. She also acted in an episode of The Saint and died unmarried in London aged 57 in 1989. Patience also sang with Sir Victor Uwaifo and The Bluenotes and other jazz artists. She married in 1969 and died in London in 1991. Mumsy married jazz musician Jonas Gwangwa in London in 1963 before returning together to South Africa.

Eric Clapton:
"
They were a fantastic band. Bernie Watson was the first guy I ever saw bending notes and the first I ever saw playing a twin-cutaway Gibson semi-acoustic. He always sat down with his back to the audience; never stood up... a very mysterious man" (From Pete Frame's 'Rock Family Trees of the Early Sixties - The London R&B Explosion')

Keith Richards:
"
Ricky Fenson and Carlo Little, they were the ones who gave us the power shot...Ricky Fenson, bleached hair. His hair was black but was dyed peroxide blonde. Him and another guy called Bernie, they used to call Strawberry, the guitar player. I wish I could remember his last name. He would sit on the stage with his gloves on his head, on this peroxide thing, 'cause he had the same hairdo and Ricky Fenson. Bernie. What a guitar player. I thought, "Well, I might as well go home, this is ridiculous, this cat's so good." Cyril Davies put that band together - listen to a record called 'Country Line Special' by Cyril Davies' All-Stars, with Nicky Hopkins, Bernie, Ricky Fenson and Carlo Little..." - From biography 'Keith: Till I Roll Over Dead'

"Monday 14th Jan, 1963: Flamingo Club. Surprise!!! Rick and Carlo played. Without a doubt the Rollin' Stones were the most fantastic group operating in the country tonight (from his diary). Rick and Carlo! Little was a killing drummer, great energy. From time to time they'd sit in with us - that's when Charlie still wasn't with us, and it's why he decided to join the band, because he heard we had this red hot rhythm section. Ricky and Carlo, if they went into a solo, they would go into turbo max. The room would take off; they almost blew us off the stage they were so good. When Carlo set into that bass drum, this is what I'm talking about. This was rock and roll! That was the first time I got three feet off the ground and into the stratosphere" - From autobiography 'Life' by Keith Richards.

Hard up for a permanent drummer and bassist, the not-long formed Rolling Stones (Mick, Keith and Brian) asked Carlo and Rick to help them out with some gigs they had lined up, which they did in December and January 1962/3 (see the dates for 1962 here and 1963 here).

Ian Stewart:

"Brian was quite enthralled with Carlo. He'd never heard anything like it before. Brian wanted someone flash like Carlo Little because by then Brian was starting to see dollar signs" - From  'Keith Richards: Life As a Rolling Stone'

Letter below from Brian Jones to blues and soul enthusiast Dave Godin (Source: 'The Rolling Stones - Off The Record' by Mark Paytress, Omnibus Press, 2003):

102 Edith Grove, London SW10.

Dear Dave,
Herewith the tape on which you kindly agreed to stick some Reed gear. Couldn't out the blank side on the outside, as I didn't have a spare reel. The one side has Bo Diddley on most of it - it is an Extra Play tape, so you should easily be able to stick Rockin' With Reed, I Can't Hold Out and flip (Elmore) and your Reed singles (only ones which aren't duplicated on LPs) on it.
Also, Dave, if you possibly could grab hold of one, could you tape Just Jimmy, the latest Reed LP over Bo Diddly. But please don't record over Bo unless it is Just Jimmy.
This is really good of you mate - if there's anything we can do for you - let us know.

Cheers, Brian Jones.

PS. Was it you who wrote to Disc some time ago about R&B and mentioning the Savages and us? We never saw it, but we were talking to Ricky Fensen and Carlo Little the other night and they told us about it. We can't think who can have wrote it. Incidentally, Carlo and Rick should be doing quite a few dates with us in the near future. We can do with a solid rockin' rhythm section.
Hope you had a good Christmas.




The Flamingo Jazz Club, London - venue for the Stones' early gigs

Mick Jagger:
"
We used to have these other drummers, including Tony Chapman, Mick Avory, and Carlo Little... Carlo used to play these great fast eights, just like the early days of power drumming, the kind of thing that John Bonham used to play later on with Led Zeppelin. All the American drummers - DJ Fontana or JM Van Eaton, the drummer with Jerry Lee Lewis' band - were much lighter players. They came out of traditional country music backgrounds and did these little shuffles, whereas the drummers with Little Richard came from a kind of jump music background - "babadoom, babadoom" stuff - which they played very hard, and which formed the basis for drummers like Bonham and Keith Moon. When we played with Carlo Little he would put all this stuff into the band. It was very exciting to play it but Charlie had no knowledge of that so he just played with more of a jazz feel." - (From 'According To The Rolling Stones' Chronicle Books, 2003) 

"The first ever performance we did was in July at the Marquee Club in London and it was billed as Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. It was just me and Keith, Brian (Jones) and a backing band. No one else – no Charlie (Watts), he wasn’t even there. I remember it exactly. I was 19 years old. Ricky Fenson on bass, Carlo Little on drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano. They all told us to **** off when we tried to hire them but it was a big deal getting a gig at the Marquee because it was the hottest London club. It was a jazz club trying to break into blues. The gig was amazing – the drummer was going mad and Nicky was rocking his electric piano and I remember the crowd going absolutely wild. I was thinking as I was singing, they obviously have to book us again, this is the most rocking gig they’ve had in the Marquee ever. But they didn’t. They didn’t let us back in there for ages because rock was working-class, rubbish music. It didn’t exist on an intellectual level like jazz. They saw the future and they didn’t like it. That was our first gig and the people we wanted to get the point just didn’t get it".

But when Brian Jones begged Carlo to stay on he couldn't do it. The Stones were still only semi professional at the time and couldn't afford to pay the fees Carlo was now earning with Cyril. (So hard up were Mick, Keith and Brian at that time that Carlo bought Brian's Johnny Cash records from him to provide them with enough money for food!) Instead Carlo suggested that Jones contact Charlie Watts (Carlo wrote Charlie's telephone number on the back of a cigarette packet for Brian), and a few weeks later the Rolling Stones, now complete with Charlie and Bill Wyman, were given the chance to support the All Stars in the interval on Thursday's at the Marquee, the resident spot that had now been taken over by Cyril due to the stir he and the band were creating.

Bill Wyman:
An Advertisement in
                                              'Jazz News', 1963"After working with Cyril Davies and his All Stars one night I had a crack at copying the 'walking bass' style of their bass player Ricky Brown (sometimes known as Ricky Fenson). I remember Brian Jones looking round at me and saying, 'Hey, that's good. Where did you get that from?' At that moment I joined The Stones on a new level...All the Stones loved the Davies band; the way they interpreted Chuck Berry's 'Deep Feeling' had to be heard to be believed" - From his autobiography 'Bill Wyman: Stone Alone'

Ad from 'Jazz News', 9 Jan 1963

The VelvettesThe Stones performed the 20 minute break at the Marquee supporting the All Stars for about a month during January 1963, until Cyril Davies suddenly decided they weren't good enough for the rise in money they were asking for, and sacked them. Instead, he brought in Long John Baldry (an Alexis Korner protégé), and The Velvettes, three black 'chicks' who sang back-up vocals. Sometimes during the larger shows they would be brought on stage half-way through.

The Velvettes

It was around this time that all of the major record companies were after the new R&B sound. They could see the crowds loved it; the Marquee was only supposed to hold 500 but was opening up to an incredible 1000 people. Three months after the All Star band was formed they were approached by Decca and Pye. Cyril decided to go with Pye, as they were bringing out a new label called Pye R&B Series. A session was arranged for the 27th February, 1963, at Pye's Marble Arch Studio, with Peter Knight Jr. as producer. The highlight of the live gigs had been Cyril's own 'Country Line Special', so that was the obvious choice as their first single. "It took until the thirteen take to capture the excitement that was felt in the live performances. I felt that the stuffiness of the studio situation was holding us back, so by the last take, after the guitar solo, I did a big roll round the kit and pushed the whole thing forward right to breaking point!" This was the sound they had been trying to capture, and at last they'd done it!

Ray Davies, singer/songwriter with The Kinks:

"Country Line Special...it's the unsung British R&B classic. It said to me, this can be done in Britain, we don't go to America to get players..." - From an interview with 'The Independent' UK newspaper, 1994

Ritchie Blackmore:

"...an amazing solo, all distortion. It was like Hendrix on a good night." - On Bernie Watson's contribution, from an interview in 'Trouser Press' magazine, 1978.

The original Cyril Davies All Stars. 
L-R: Nicky Hopkins, Cyril Davies, Carlo Little, Rick Brown, Bernie Watson

 

An
                                                        advertisement in
                                                        'Jazz News',
                                                        1963

The single was released to rave reviews a couple of months later. People in the business were overwhelmed by the record, but for the public, who were buying 'Summer Holiday' by Cliff and other bland pop songs, it did nothing. However, pirate Radio Caroline DJ Jerry Leighton used the track for his theme tune for a while. 

While this was going on the Rolling Stones had managed to get themselves an audition on 'Jazz Club', the BBC's only R&B radio show, after Brian Jones had written a persistent letter (see it here). But the day of the audition, 23 April 1963, fell on a week day and the now-permanent members, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, could not get the time off their jobs to attend. Brian Jones looked again to Carlo and Rick, who would always happily oblige as long as there was a fee at the end of it! Songs including 'I'm A Hog For You Baby' (a Savages favourite) and 'I'm Moving On' were taped and later played to BBC Radio's light entertainment booking manager David Dore, who rejected the band on account that "the singer sounds too black"! (see the audition date here).

Closer to home, the All Stars were shortly never to be the same again. Nicky Hopkins became very ill in May 1963 and was not to work again until 18 months later. (When he returned to the music scene in 1965 he became the best-known session piano player in the business, playing with everyone from the Stones, Beatles (he played on 'Revolution'), The Who, and many others, up until his death in 1994). Shortly after in June, fed up with Cyril's famous temper and stubbornness, Rick returned to Sutch and Bernie teamed up with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.


Carlo and Cyril Davies, 1963, on Hullabaloo TV
                                                      show
Carlo and Cyril Davies appear on the TV show 'Hullabaloo' in 1963

This left Carlo and Cyril to continue promoting 'Country Line Special' with a new line-up that consisted of Geoff Bradford (guitar), Keith Scott (piano) and Cliff Barton (bass). The All Stars #2 got to perform the song in June on 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', the main pop show in the UK, and the BBC radio show 'Saturday Club', along with a residency on TV show 'Hullabaloo' (see right - the dates for these recordings can be seen here). On 'Saturday Club', which was broadcast on 6th July 1963 and presented by Brian Matthews, the band played numbers that were "typical of what we were doing at club gigs, but in shortened versions", according to Keith Scott in a letter to this website, "as the attention span of the average Saturday Club listener was short and sharp, especially through their portable trannies". A rare home-taped recording of this radio programme reveals the Saturday Club numbers as:
- See See Rider, guest vocals Long John Baldry
- Chicago Calling
- Country Line Special
- Roberta, guest vocals Long John Baldry
- Roll 'em Pete
The Cyril Davies All
                                          Stars #3

However, Carlo was not entirely happy with Cyril's insistence to play purist Blues all the time and suggested some changes to make the sound slightly more up-beat. After a row with Cyril about this he was sacked by August 1963, and returned to The Savages. Carlo was replaced by Mickey Waller, and the All-Stars #3 (see right) continued until Cyril's death from pleurisy on January 7th, 1964 (it was not leukemia like many have said). None of the All Stars had even known he was ill, although Nicky Hopkins had once heard a crash from Cyril's dressing room at the Marquee, and on going to investigate he found Cyril standing there with his fist smashed through a mirror and this look... "His eyes were really tight-shut, everything, tense in his face. You couldn't have moved him. He looked like a statue. You could see the pain in his face - not physical, but mental pain...he was built like a tank which was why I could never believe...he'd be the last person on earth you'd think would die." - From an interview with 'NME', 1974

All Stars #3 - L-R Keith Scott, Cyril Davies, Geoff Bradford, Mickey Waller, Long John Baldry, and Cliff Barton

Dave Davies, The Kinks:
"It was a tragedy that he didn't live to earn the acclaim he deserved, for he was a pioneer of rhythm 'n' blues in this country" -
speaking to Beat Instrumental, March 1965

Carlo in
                                      1963 playing with the All Stars Cyril Davies and The All Stars are now gone - but not forgotten. They were the pioneers of British pop. So why did they never make the big time? Carlo offers some light: "Cyril was a real blues enthusiast. Whenever we used to suggest playing something more upbeat, like in the style of Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley, the kind that really got the crowd going, he would say no. It took me weeks to convince him to let us do What I'd Say by Ray Charles, but when we did it the crowd went wild. John Baldry sung that one great with the Velvettes, but Cyril didn't really go for the commercial sound. Instead, the Stones filled the commercial R&B gap, and look where they are today..." (left picture: Carlo in 1963)

Rick Brown stayed with Screaming Lord Sutch for 6 more months, until January 1964, and went on to play with Brian Auger, Steampacket, and Georgie Fame until leaving the music business. Carlo continued to stay a bit longer with The Savages until May 1964. It was during this period that the Rolling Stones were really starting to make it in the charts, although they were still working hard, promoting themselves up and down the country, constantly performing the gig circuit. On 15 March, after a short holiday, the Stones' discovered that Charlie Watts had not yet returned as planned. With a gig to do in Kent, a last-minute search took place to find a competent stand-in.

Stones' associate James Phelge:

"After several names were mentioned they finally agreed that the experienced Mickey Waller would be an apt replacement if he was available. Another option was Carlo Little. Both had played with several well-known bands... either of the two would have been an adequate deputy as they both had familiarity with R&B. Mickey was currently on tour with rock star Marty Wilde but he was free that evening so he got the job". - From his autobiography 'Phelge's Stones'. More here.


In fact, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones had visited Carlo Little's house that day, to ask him about standing in for Charlie, but Carlo was away gigging with The Savages. When he returned home his mother told him that Mick Jagger had knocked for him! Therefore, it may be that they wanted Carlo first and had to make do with Mickey Waller because Carlo was away.

Long John Baldry (right) continued with the All Stars band after Cyril's death, and re-named them The Hoochie Coochie Men. Six months after, in June 1964, Baldry asked Carlo to join. It was here he backed their second-singer Rod Stewart, and made an appearance on Granada TV show 'Scene At 6:30'. After a difference in musical opinion (Baldry was another Blues purist), Carlo left and headed into the next stage of his life as the elusive Session Man...

The Hoochie Coochie Men in 1964
with Carlo on drums and Rod Stewart

 

 

HELP NEEDED: if anyone has any information on the whereabouts of guitarist Bernie Watson or knows what became of him after leaving the Bluesbreakers, please email us!

Click here to sign a petition to induct Nicky Hopkins into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

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Links

Carlo Little

Wikipedia | Discography with Cyril Davies All Stars |  Discography of Various Compilations with Cyril Davies All Stars | Rolling Stones Setlist, 1962 | Rolling Stones Setlist, 1963 | Marquee Set list
 
Cyril Davies
Rhythm & Blues: The Birth Of British Pop | cyrildavies.com | All Music Guide | Knights In Blue Denim | British Beat Boom | Wikipedia
 
Nicky Hopkins
nickyhopkins.com | rocksoff.org | rockument.com | All Music Guide | timeisonourside.com | warr.org | Overview | Wikipedia
 
Bernie Watson
Google
 
Rick Brown (aka Ricky Fenson)
Confessions of a Sixties Bassist | Interview at www.cyrildavies.com | Daily Mail article
 
Long John Baldry
Knights In Blue Denim | All Music Guide | The British Beat Boom | 45rpm.org.uk | Wikipedia | Guardian Obituary | BBC Obituary | Tribute
 
Others Mentioned
The All-Stars | Cliff Barton | Geoff Bradford | Rod Stewart | Eric Clapton | Micky Waller | Brian Auger | Georgie Fame | James Phelge | Alexis Korner | Jerry Leighton
 
The Rolling Stones
Official Site | Fan Club | Rocks Off | All Music Guide | Beggers Banquet | Setlists Archive | Keith Richards | Brian Jones | Mick Jagger | Charlie Watts | Bill Wyman | Ian Stewart | Rolling Stones Musical Influences
 
Related Bands
Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages | The Animals | The Artwoods | Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers | Blues Incorporated | The Graham Bond Organisation | Cream | Spencer Davis Group | Downliners Sect | The Jimi Hendrix Experience | The Kinks | Manfred Mann | John Mayall's Bluesbreakers | The Pretty Things | The Small Faces | Steampacket | The Yardbirds
 
Misc.
Rhythm & Blues: The Birth Of British Pop | 20 Albums That Shook The World | Pye International history | Pye_International releases | Country Line Special
 
Venues
The Marquee | Ealing Club Flamingo Club | Railway Tavern, Wealdstone | See Carlo Little's Links for more venues

 

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