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First man to electrify the guitar was black - Jazz Legend Lauderic Rex Caton

First man to electrify the guitar was 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 Weeks.

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.

Lauderic Rex Caton

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.

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 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 to learn more!

Written By: Dr Ariella (Ariel) Rosita King, “grand-niece” of Lauderic Rex Caton


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