How we met: Lauderic Caton and Louis Stephenson

Jamaican saxophonist Louis Stephenson (85), first came to Britain in 1927 with the West India Regiment Orchestra, and became an influential figure in London jazz circles during the war. His friend, Lauderic Caton (82), who grew up in Trinidad, was a pioneering electric guitarist and founder member of the popular 1940s Ray Ellington Quartet. The pair lost sight of each other for over 30 years until 1988, when they met again at a club for old musicians. Louis is a widower with a council flat in Hackney, east London. Lauderic lives in a chaotic flat in Bloomsbury filled with electronic gadgets.

LOUIS STEPHENSON: The truth is that there's a lot of competition, as well as envy and suspicion between musicians. It's nice when you're playing with good ones and you get in that groove. But that's momentary. You're not living with the person, are you? But with Lauderic and myself, our friendship goes outside the band.

We met more than 50 years ago at the Havana, one of the London clubs where black musicians used to play. Lauderic came in, took his guitar out with this electric bit - the amplifier. The others said: 'What 'im doing?' When he started playing the melody, it was something new to them. Here he was, improvising, playing it like a saxophone] They didn't like it, but I said: 'You carry on.' I think he appreciated that, and we took it from there.

If you played music, you were supposed to be drinking and talking and smoking and womanising. Well, that's the image. But Lauderic wasn't like that, he was a homebody. He was one man just like myself - at ease in his own company. I looked on him as a sort of mentor, for he was much more educated than I was. I didn't know that he'd been a teacher in Trinidad. He doesn't tell you these things - you become aware of it because of his achievements. He has tremendous abilities. He used to make guitar amplifiers, then one day he said: 'Look, I'm going to make a television.' I said: 'You're joking,' but he was serious.

In the Fifties, there were all these little shops where you could buy the valves, and so on. Lauderic made his calculations, then he took me around with him to buy what he needed. One day, he said: 'Sonny boy, this is the moment of truth.' He stuck this aerial outside the window, and I saw the racing at Ascot]

Lauderic's been a devoted yogi for years. He fasts, sometimes for a week, just drinking water. One time I saw him on his prayer mat, standing on his head. It's just as well he's really physically fit, because he hardly ever leaves his flat. He just comes out now and then, looks around, then goes back in. He's got cable TV, and he listens to music. And he's always reading. He puts on his clock radio with the alarm to remind him to watch the Cosby Show, but he has no regular pattern. Day or night, it's all the same to him. He just sleeps when he feels tired.

There's been two phases to our friendship: Lauderic and I lost sight of each other for 35 years when I left the music business to work in a factory. Then, in 1988, someone asked me to this hotel in Holborn where the old musicians get together. Then, in walks Mr Lauderic. I saw the grey hairs and everything - well, we all look different from when we was bopping] After a while he said: 'I'm bored, shall we leave?' So we walked around to his place and I saw this typewriter-like thing there - a computer. I'd heard about it and its magical doings, but I'd never seen one before. He said, 'Try it, you can't hurt it.' He switched it on, and showed me the menu. And I was intrigued. He said: 'Why don't you get one?' So I did. Now I do all the correspondence for my pensioners' club.

This is what Lauderic has done for me. This little thing alone is a breakthrough. He's achieved something, getting me interested in something worthwhile at a time when, you know, I thought I'd be sitting at home, singing 'Old Rocking Chair's Got Me'.

LAUDERIC CATON: I was playing at the Embassy, the number one Mayfair nightclub, in 1940. We were all supposed to be Cubans, so we wore these bloody bright red frilly shirts. That was where I met Louis. He was playing the saxophone, and when one of the other musicians soloed, he'd shake the maracas. We became friends right away, and I can remember I told him I was 30 years old, and he said he was 33.

'Lauderic, have you ever been to the dogs?' he asked me. As soon as we went, I saw a black dog called Lazy Afternoon. I said: 'That's the dog for me.' Louis said: 'Oh no, that dog's on a left-hand track, and he can't run.' But I bet on it anyway, and I won. I sat down there, feeling good, and then I saw Louis, betting pounds 12 a race] That doesn't sound much now, but I was earning pounds 3 a week, so it was a lot of money, believe me.

Louis really likes sports. He even took me to a football business in Brentford in this English wintertime. But he enjoyed it, and naturally, being my friend, if it's something he likes, I'll go and see football. Otherwise I'm not going anywhere near the damn thing]

When I got my electric guitar, we were both working at the Havana. I carried my amplifier on to the bandstand and all of them said 'Don't put that thing by me]' Louis was the only one who didn't make a fuss. He's like that. But if he doesn't like something, he'll tell you straight off. That's why myself and him were very good friends. Some people will go and say what they think behind your back, but he'll come right out with it. Then Louis went and joined up. I don't know what the hell he did that for, but see, he'd always played music in a military band. Most of these RAF fellows were stationed at Uxbridge first, so he used to go there during the day, then come back and play each night at the Havana. One night, Louis fell fast asleep on the bandstand. When he woke up, he started playing again where he'd left off - but the rest of the band had finished that part of the tune and moved on]

After a while, the RAF posted Louis away to Oban and I'd only see him sometimes. But when the war finished, he came to see me one day with some other fellows, talking about forming a band. We used to rehearse around a broomstick for a microphone, singing. Two of them were on one side, and Louis and me on the other with my guitar. Louis is a very good singer, but the other fellows let us down and sang flat. Anyhow, at the BBC the producer said: 'Listen, Lauderic, if this is a joke, I'm not laughing.' I'd already spent all the money for our suits, but Louis could see what was happening. The band petered out, and Louis went and got aday job.

I didn't see him for quite a while but eventually we met up again, at the Coda Club, in Holborn. I only went because someone told me that Louis would be there. I felt very well seeing him again. He told me how his wife, Norah, had died, and I started thinking.

I know if a man stays home he'll die very quickly. Louis is not a fellow who is studious. He doesn't read books, and I told him he must learn this computer business. He used to come here every day. Maybe people don't like something academically, but they like it practically. That's how Louis is, and it keeps him going. After a while, something happened that made me feel hurt: Louis thought I was bringing him in every day to keep me company] He wrote me a letter about it. But I thought that doing something every day would be the best way for him to get a grip on the computer, so I told him to come whenever he likes.

I always say that if I win the pools, I'll buy Louis a car so he can get down here to Bloomsbury in comfort. When he comes, I put the horses on the TV. Louis must do his bet. He knows every jockey. He comes into my flat with his papers, and says who's going to win the 2.30. You see, that's how people become friends: you know their limitations, what they like and don't like. I'm not a gambling person, but I like to see the horses coming up on the rails. If Louis's horse is coming up, he feels very well. And then I feel well myself.-

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific