From Tot to Teen

Carlo aged 1
Carlo aged 2


Carlo aged 11

17 December 1938; amid World War II and rationing Carl O'Neil Little was born in hard times to Mabel and Charlie Little

Living in the Sudbury area of Wembley, Middlesex they managed to survive like any other suburban family, hiding in bomb shelters when the eerie drone of the air raid warnings invaded their short-lived peace. Like many other war babies Carlo and his sister Carole were sent away to the secure haven of Cardiff, Wales as refugees. They stayed with Mabel's family there, the Evans', whilst his father was patrolling the streets back home as an ARP warden.

Back in Sudbury, shortly after Germany were no longer a threat, Carlo attended the Sudbury Infants School and later on East Lane Secondary School (now known as Wembley High Technology College). A typical tearaway of his generation, Carlo was often in trouble at school for minor misdemeanors and his name can still be seen today, recorded several times in the high school punishment book, for receipt of the cane. When he left school his first job was an apprentice carpenter, and woodwork was a skill Carlo retained all his life.



All through his school years Carlo had always dreamed of playing the drums. It was just after he left school, by now working as a van boy at Kodak, that Carlo decided to buy some drums, simply consisting of a snare and high hat. 

It was around this time that Carlo started to frequent the local Sudbury hang-out for any young man who was interested in music: Slim's. Slim (real name unknown) lived in a bed-sitter behind one of the local shops and was a tall thin sharp-featured man. As a multi-instrumentalist, Slim welcomed and encouraged any youngster with a musical instument to play and learn. It was at Slim's that Carlo met and became life-long friends with another local lad with a passion for the latest jazz sounds, Derek Addison. They would hang out together at the Ace Cafe in Wembley, sitting on the wall outside playing their guitars, or The Kannibal Pot coffee bar in Sudbury (where Carlo would later meet David Sutch).

It was with Derek that Carlo joined his first band, the Downtown Jazz Band and rehearsals took place at the local youth club at Barham Park. Their first paid gig was in South Harrow, Carlo being so nervous that he had to visit the pub before he could perform in public. He had scraped some money together and bought his first bass drum from a second-hand shop in Willesden.

At this time Carlo and Derek were was listening to Frankie Laine, Ted Heath, and Carlo's favourite Johnny Duncan. Another of their favourites, Chris Barber's Jazz Band, were playing at Wembley Town Hall when Carlo was 16, and he just had to go along to see the man who's records he owned and loved. During the interval the band swapped instruments and the banjo player, Lonnie Donegan, took up the guitar, and proceeded to play a new sound Carlo had never heard before: skiffle - wow! He couldn't wait to return home and try out the new beat on his newly acquired drums. Surely the strongest musical sound that had developed in England up to this point, the skiffle boom was of vital importance in the development of the British music scene, for the reason that it was easily imitated by budding musicians. For the first time, Britain's pop music was out of the hands of showbiz professionals - anyone could have a go.

Carlo aged
                                            17   
Carlo aged 17


The Downtown Jazz Band, 1956




Lonnie Donegan
'Puttin' On The Style'

Johnny Duncan
'Last Train to San Fernando'

Ted Heath Band
'Dragnet'

Derek Addison's Rhythm
                                            Katz
Lonnie Donegan encouraged literally thousands of young men to take up an instrument and a new music scene exploded in England.
Carlo and Derek swiftly moved from jazz to skiffle and Derek Addison's Rhythm Katz was born, one of the first skiffle bands in North West London. They hired the hall at the back of The Swan pub in Sudbury (where Carlo would later form The Savages with David Sutch) for band practise and played their first unpaid gig in the pub; the mother of the banjo player later passing a hat round and raising the princely sum of 17s 17d for the band. Carlo's inclusion in The Rhythm Katz gave him the drive to practise hard at home, along with an opportunity to be part of a wave of gigs such as dances at local church halls and wedding and birthday events. 

Derek Addison's Rhythm Katz

It was during this time that a new sound from America was beginning to emerge. Rock and Roll had arrived and Carlo wanted more than a part of it: "It was a sound I'd never heard before; exciting rhythm and beat, snare drum right up there. That was it - I was hooked!". The excitement was fuelled when Carlo and Derek went to see the film Blackboard Jungle at the Regal picture house in Wembley. The originality of Rock Around The Clock, the song by Bill Haley that opened the film, caused pandemonium amongst those who went to see it to. It was like a breath of fresh air compared to the current stars of the British pop chart, who were crooners such as Rosemary Clooney and Frankie Laine.

All of a sudden music sounded fun. It expressed the way the youngsters felt, and imitated the sexual energy that had they had been forced to repress by their parents. The need for teenagers, like Carlo, to identify with the new emerging culture that accompanied rock and roll was immediate.

 


Blackboard Jungle trailer, 1955



Chuck Berry, 'Roll Over Beethoven'



Elvis Presley, 'Mystery Train'

Derek Addison's
                                                  Rhythm KatzCarlo in
                                                  the armyWhile continuing with the skiffle for the months that followed, the group also tried experimenting with the new rock and roll sound. They bettered themselves by playing along to the furious beats of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, until Carlo had to leave his home town and be obliged to serve in the army in 1958, thanks to the UK National Service Act. He was gutted, to say the least. Everything was much too exciting to leave behind.

Derek Addison's Rhythm Katz

Carlo enrolled in the Royal Fusiliers, City of London regiment, Corps of Drums as snare drummer/bugler, very quickly becoming 'leading tipper' (head drummer). Throughout his time with them the battalion visited Kenya, Bahrain, Aden and Malta, performing at various ceremonies. Between duties he found time to continue to play Rock and Roll with a few friends for his own pleasure, imitating Elvis, Chuck, and The Everly Brothers. Carlo was such a forceful drummer even at this time: "On parades, 'Drill With The Drum' was required. The RSM in command of the battalion (1000 men) would shout the order, for instance, "stand at ease." He would shout the first word "stand at" and on the "ease" I would hit the snare drum and the 1000 men would all move their feet together - BANG! What a feeling of power!"

Carlo was demobbed February 6th, 1960.

 


 

         Links

 
Skiffle
Wikipedia | Skiffle, Music of the Fifties | Chas McDevitt
 
Rock and Roll
Analysis of the song 'Rock Around The Clock' | The History of Rock and Roll | Origins of Rock and Roll | Essay1 | Chuck Berry | Bill Haley | Little Richard | British Rock & Roll | Wikipedia 
 
The 1950's
Blackboard Jungle(1) | Blackboard Jungle(2) | fabulousfifties.co.uk | British Rock and Roll TV | Teddyboys1 | Teddyboys2
 
Army Life
The Royal Fusiliers | The Peacetime Conscripts | National Service in the UK | Wikipedia
 
 

Thanks to Derek Addison for the information and photos in this chapter. You can buy his excellent book Memories of Wembley - Growing Up in the Fourties & Fifties on Amazon.

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