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A Tribute To Clay Savage

by Bob Maickel

 

I am writing this tribute to Clay Savage, a very dear friend and fellow PSGA officer, with great sorrow. Clay served the Pedal Steel Guitar Association, as Treasurer, for 23 years. He volunteered to take on the responsibility when the position opened unexpectedly. He did such a good job as Treasurer, he was re-elected term after term. The fact that he was a retired bank officer was a definite plus.

Clay was an accomplished photographer who loved the steel guitar. His wonderful photos of steel guitar players taken at our steel events, as well as steel guitar conventions here and abroad, were admired by all who saw them. While Clay was the official photographer for this newsletter, his photos have also appeared in many other publications.

There are very few steel-playing photographers with Clay's talent. He was a very capable steel guitarist but refused to perform on steel in public. At a young age Clay experienced permanent damage to his left hand from injuries received in an auto accident. This condition made it difficult for him to maintain control of the bar as he played steel. I can verify that Clay was an excellent player. I am honored that he felt comfortable enough to play steel for me. He had a wonderful vibrato and was at home on both lap and pedal steel. He loved Hawaiian music, but was quite adept playing pedal steel no matter what music was involved.

Clay was fortunate enough to have taken lessons from Eddie Alkire. He felt comfortable playing the Alkire 10 string tuning and was an accomplished E-Harp player. He had no reservations about playing a 10 string E9th pedal set up. He enjoyed playing his MSA pedal steel, 6 string Rickenbacker bakelite, Jerry Byrd Excel fry pan and Excel double 8. Each of his instruments had a different tuning. Clay had them tuned to everything from E9th to B11th. He had specific song arrangements worked out for each tuning.

Clay and Lois Savage were our good will ambassadors at steel events. They were a magnificent team. They set up and manned our PSGA booth, greeting PSGA members, signing up new members, and making a lot of new friends who later became members. After Lois passed on, Clay continued to represent the PSGA at the various shows. He loved attending every show possible, with camera in hand, and had a special place in his heart for the Dallas show. The March 1997 Dallas convention was the last show that he was able to attend.

His plans to attend the Knoxville show had to be canceled due to increasing health problems and subsequent hospitalization. Clay had airline tickets in hand to fly to the HSGA convention in Hawaii, in May, but he was again admitted to the hospital having suffered a stroke. He passed away on May 15th 1997.

There are no words to describe what a pleasure it was to have known Clay. He was a unique individual with a warm personality. Everyone liked him. He did his part in promoting the steel guitar and all who play the instrument. He donated most of his free time to the PSGA. He traveled to all the steel shows at his own expense (as the rest of our officers have always done). He donated, without charge, all the wonderful photographs that we've printed in this newsletter. He kept meticulous track of the PSGA finances through thick and thin. He was always available to help solve a problem or give his valuable objective advice. We will miss Clay and will continue to carry on in his absence to the best of our abilities, as he would have expected us to do.

I know that Clay and Lois must be organizing a new steel guitar show, with Lois manning the booth and Clay running around taking "heavenly" photos of a band of angels.