First man to electrify the guitar was black - Jazz Legend Lauderic Rex Caton
In London, in 1997 I was a PhD student at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
I lived in a student Flat at 4 Handel St in London walking distance to Russel Square Tube. I
Learned that there were three apartments with older residents. I decided to give a small
welcome gift with my business card and a note on the back introducing myself.
“Uncle Lauderic” said he became curious about a girl with two master’s degrees, as he was
intellectual to his last day of life. I met all the next-door neighbours by going to their
apartments and knocking on their door. Uncle Lauderic was one of the two apartment
occupants who welcomed me.
We had contacted almost every day and spent a lot of time together with my eclectic
friends from university an also the neighbourhood. I also started to help with everyday
challenges, including giving his apartment a very much needed of a woman’s touch, with
good organisational skills, and a bit of love. Also, we organised a food service and a young
German General Practitioner that was literally across the street, who was a friend of mine.
Uncle Lauderic and me had two years of getting to know one another, going out together,
attending potlucks and Bar-B-Q’s at my garden flat, and generally testing our relationship to
see if it would withstand stresses, as it did. He enjoyed being around international young
people, and children. He loved children, especially babies!
Uncle Lauderic was not a loner. He enjoyed intellectual pursuits and his own company. He
was a vegetarian and a yogi. did not engage in small talk but thought about and care about
the big questions in life of Love, Loss, Spirituality, etc. Uncle Lauderic at 88, in his last days of
life at the near London hospital was writing in Sanskrit and doing complex maths.
For a part of the year, I went to South Africa to complete my infield PhD Research. I
communicated with Uncle Lauderic by phone, and he loved using his computer so we would
email one another. I missed him terribly. I would go back and forth from school in London to
my field work in South Africa. I noticed several times that Uncle Lauderic was not eating the
vegetarian meals that were given each day. I asked my friend, his GP to examine him. The
first time nothing was found. The second time some months later a lump in his stomach and
he was admitted to the hospital. For almost a week, tests were taken, and a decision was
made to do surgery. After speaking with the doctor, he assured me that Uncle Lauderic
would do well with the surgery and it was okay for me to go back to South Africa for some
I flew back to South Africa, arrived at my apartment, and called Uncle Lauderic at the
hospital. He said that they decided not to do the surgery. I was shocked. I told him that I was
coming back on the next flight back to London. Not even 24 hours in my apartment in
Pretoria I boarded a flight to London. As soon as I arrived, I went directly to the hospital. I
was told that it was determined that an operation was not possible after all. Instead, he
should plan to live his life until it was over. Uncle Lauderic had a favourite sister named,
Ortilia that he said he wanted to see. We called his sister and niece and told them that we were coming to Trinidad. So, I started to plan to get a British Passport so that we could go to
Trinidad and Tobago to visit his sister and family. I learned to my surprise that Uncle
Lauderic was not a British Citizen, he chose not to take the citizenship but to remain a
citizen of the birthplace of Trinidad and Tobago. We had to make passport photos to get a
rushed passport. The hospital staff allowed me to take Uncle Lauderic out of the hospital in
normal clothes to go to get his photo taken for his passport. We had several sets made, one
with his beloved French beret and one without his beret. We went back to the hospital, and
I stayed until that evening.
That night while sleeping at his apartment, I woke up many times, and could not sleep,
finally at three in the morning I called the hospital to ask how he was doing. They said that
they were trying to get in touch with me because he was asking for me and was in a lot of
pain that they were having difficulty relieving. I told them I would be there in 20 minutes.
I dressed quickly and ran to the hospital. I went to the ward and Uncle Lauderic was
conscious but in a lot of pain. We spoke a bit and I told him I was there and stroked his
head. Within less than 15 minutes of arriving at the hospital I held Uncle Lauderic hand as
he passed. He knew that he was not alone, and I kept my promise to be with him, love him
and maintain his memory throughout my days and beyond.
Within one day I arranged all for the certificates, health certificates, a musician casket,
flights to Trinidad and Tobago. We had planned to go, but with him alive. Now all has
changed, and I must arrange all that is needed once we get to Trinidad. Since it was carnival
season, we had challenges arranging all starting with the flights with everything in-between
including his funeral and burriel. Because of the carnival many roads were closed. Thus,
many people who wanted to attend his funeral were not able to.
Along with his favourite sister, Ortillia and many of his extended family we had a home
sending celebration that many call a funeral. As I as grieving and responsible for all from the
time Uncle Lauderic was in the hospital until we buried him, I remember very key feelings
and pictures of that day. The evening of the funeral I took part in the Madi-Gra with the
house that the grandniece of Uncle Lauderic. I walked and danced down the streets in a
celebration of the life of my adopted dad, I called Uncle Lauderic.
Now, almost 25 years later I am ready to not only tell Uncle Lauderic’s real story and honour
his life, but to also give the world back so much that he has left for the world to know that
included two books, “Viola’ and “The Transposition”, the music including “Java Joint”, and
the symphony, “The Sepia” that he wrote by hand for the BBC that was accepted to be
played live on the radio, until they learned that he was a “Jazz” musician. Together, we went
to various British Institutions to track down his history, his original music, recording, scores,
etc. We were told that there was “nothing.” To the contrary, he left us so much!
Uncle Lauderic was a husband who was musically gifted, intellectual giant, electrician,
curious, kind, loving, purposeful man who sought peace and purpose to his life. As his
“Adopted daughter” the one he said he waited all his life to have, it was my privilege to
know that man behind the stories that are far from the real man. He loved people,
honoured, and sought out relationships and was the first person in history to design and build a speaker (he was an electrical engineer) to carry the sound of his guitar as a matter of
survival, as the guitarist was always the first to be fired in a band because they could not be
heard very well. My “Uncle Lauderic” was the first to Electrify the Guitar, according to
MOJO Magazine ( July 1997) “He applied two hundred and forty volts tot the guitar – and
it was never the same again.”
Please enjoy this website filled with photos, articles, and tome of the memories not only of
a time in Jazz, but also a time in history, and one man’s life and his connections to history
that will be forever remembered.
Visit www.LaudericCaton.com to learn more!
By: Dr Ariella (Ariel) Rosita King,
“grand-niece” of Lauderic Rex Caton