b. 31 August 1910, Arima, Trinidad, West Indies, d. 9 February 1999. Cited by some as ‘Britain’s first champion of the electric guitar’, Caton passed on his knowledge of that instrument, first imported into Britain shortly before World War II, to legions of students - some of whom would become world-famous. Among his most famous pupils, for one lesson at least, was the legendary guitarist from the Shadows, Hank B. Marvin.
After a brief spell in Paris and Belgium, working with American pianist Ram Ramirez, Caton settled in England in an effort to flee the Nazis. There he became a key figure in the emergent London jazz scene, playing alongside other electric guitar pioneers such as Pete Chilver and Dave Goldberg. Initially he was hired by Cuban pianist Marino Barretto for performances at Mayfair’s Embassy Hotel, where he met his lifelong friend, saxophonist Louis Stephenson, before introducing his electric guitar in the confines of small Soho clubs. There, at Jig’s Club in St. Anne’s Square, he was discovered by visiting US jazz luminaries Fats Waller and Duke Ellington. Four 78rpm records were subsequently recorded at the club in 1941, credited to band leader and trumpeter Cyril Blake - though Caton’s riveting guitar lines, quite unlike anything else available at that time, were the real attraction.
For the rest of the war Caton broadcast regularly on radio as guitarist with clarinettist Harry Parry’s band. However, more important in forging his reputation was his tenure at Soho’s Caribbean Club, as leader of a trio featuring pianist Dick Katz and bass player Coleridge Goode, who later became the nucleus of Ray Ellington’s Quartet. In this configuration Caton recorded a number of 78s for the Regal Records label. As the popularity of the electric guitar grew, Caton’s services as a maker of amplifiers became as sought after as his teaching skills. However, although he continued to tutor sporadically, by the 50s he had stopped playing guitar live, devoting himself to yoga and meditation. He remained in his flat in Bloomsbury, London, surrounded by his beloved electronic gadgetry and mementoes of the ‘gin mill’ London party scene.