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Music

How Carlo Little gave Keith Moon to the world

@josephtaysom

Understandably, Carlo Little is a name that you might not be all too familiar with. While he didn’t get to become a household name in the same way as his peers, without Little, then there’s no Keith Moon, the enigmatic and pioneering drummer of The Who.

When it comes to locations of drumming heritage, Wembley bats well above its weight. As well as being responsible for Little, the suburban town in north-west London also was the breeding ground that helped forge Moon, The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts, and Cream’s Ginger Baker. While the latter three are discussed among the all-time greats, Carlo is left as a footnote in the history books.

After returning from Military Service in 1960, Little thrust himself into the emerging blues scene of London town. One of the first bands he played with was The Rolling Stones. However, his role was never permanent, and when Brian Jones asked him to join them full-time, the drummer foolishly rejected his advance.

The late Watts would instead become their percussionist, and Little watched from afar as they wrote history. Instead, his band Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages’ tasted success on a much smaller scale.

While Little and his band were able to tour throughout Britain in the ’60s, he still needed to subsidise his income on the side, and this is where a young Keith Moon would come into his life.

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Following one performance with Sutch at Wembley Town Hall, Little was approached by Moon, who had attended the show as a fan, and asked if he’d be willing to teach him the ropes. He duly obliged, and after half a dozen two-hour lessons, which cost Moon 10 shillings each, he was ready to fly, and the two parted ways.

“A bloke I taught to drum, Keith Moon, who joined The Who, is now dead, killed by booze and drugs,” Little later said to The Guardian.

Speaking with The Independent, Little revealed the surprising moment when Moon re-emerged in his life years later. “I never saw him again until I caught him on the telly with The Who and they were in the charts. I went bloody hell – I’m still farting about and they’re on the telly and in the charts’.”

It was understandably challenging for Little as his apprentice was so revered while his talents were largely ignored. Meanwhile, he worked an array of civilian jobs such as a greengrocer, but he never let it get the better of him. He added: “I’m a little bit sorry about it, because I know I was well- regarded as a drummer among musicians. It comes a little hard, and you think ‘If I was that well-respected, how come I never got anywhere?’ How do you think I feel when I see Charlie up there tapping away?”.

However, while that thought occasionally crossed his mind, Little’s overarching emotion was one of gratitude that he didn’t have the same fate as Moon. “That’s one thing about all this. I’ve got a nice life, I don’t want for anything, and I’m alive. I’m happy with my life,” he concluded.

Sadly, Little passed away in 2005 from lung cancer aged 68. Despite his dreams slipping through his fingers and the missed opportunities, the drummer never allowed himself to be swallowed up by bitterness which is a poignant life lesson for us all.