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Electric Guitar Pioneer in the UKCopyright © 1999The Scotsman, 1999
Caton, LaudericLauderic Caton, a Trinidadian musician who was one of the first electric guitar players in Britain, has died in London at the age of 88. Caton had lived as virtual recluse since giving up music at the end of the Fifties, surrounded by electronic gadgets (in which he was something of an expert). He rarely ventured from his flat in Bloomsbury, although the writer and photographer Val Wilmer was occasionally able to induce him to visit old friends.
Prior to that withdrawal, Caton was a guitarist of considerable standing, in both Carribean music and jazz. He learnt the instrument as a child in Trinidad, and began performing in dance bands on the island, doubling on banjo, bass and saxophone as required. He made his way to London in 1940 (just ahead of the German invasion) by way of Martinique, Paris (where he worked with the Argentinian guitarist Oscar Aleman) and Belgium.
He was quickly in demand in London, playing with Cuban pianist Marino Barreto (in whose band he met saxophonist Louis Stephenson, a frequent collaborator and friend), and fronting his own jazz band at Jig's Club in Soho, a gathering place for Caribbean and West African expatriates. His reputation quickly spread, leading guitarists (the legendary Django Reinhardt dropped by to sit in on one occasion), would be guitarists (a youthful Hank Marvin once paid for a lesson) and fans to seek him out, notably with his trio with pianist Dick Katz and bassist Coleridge Goode at Soho's Caribbean Club, where the clientele included many celebrities of the day.
Caton was more technically and musically advanced than most players of the time on his instrument. The electric guitar was still a recent invention, and for many, the records and broadcasts which he made at this time with bands like the West Indian All-Stars or the Harry Parry Band provided their first exposure to it.
The singer and drummer Ray Ellington took over the Caribbean Trio, and Caton toured with the group for a time, but disliked life on the road, and quit the band. He worked with Louis Stephenson, among others, in the late Fifties, but had given up playing by the end of the decade, and began his gradual but seemingly contented withdrawal from social life.
Val Wilmer wrote recently that Caton, who had always been something of a loner, "began to devote himself increasingly to yoga and ascetic pursuits. He opted for celibacy following the break-up of his marriage, and this, he maintained, was responsible for him losing interest in music: he learned to play surrounded by women and could not continue without a muse."