I know – it’s been a while right? We’ve not been blogging as much as we normally do so apologies – but this has been a tough old month for all of us at Wampler HQ. We lost one of our own, a huge part of our community, a tone brother to us all, and a very valued and trusted member of the Wampler management team.
Alex Abernathy Clay tragically passed away on 23 March at the criminally young age of 33 from complications relating to his long-term and exceptionally rare blood condition. He leaves behind a loving family including his wife (and childhood sweetheart since age 15) Jessica, two amazing young boys, Tyler (8) and Grayson (4), and his parents Sam and Debbie and Brother John – all of whom have naturally been devastated by this. We all knew he was fragile because of his condition, but the speed at which this happened definitely caught us all off guard.
Alex had a huge amount of respect and love for Brian and Jason (and everyone at Wampler) and would often tell me this in private, and they would reciprocate the same feelings about him. He was so unsure of his own abilities but we all kept telling him he contributed way more than he realised. Alex was often the voice of sanity in the middle of some insane conversation, quite often the softly spoken comedian whose one liners could drop you in a moment, but always our little brother and I speak for everyone at Wampler when I say we miss you bro. In the fullness of time we will be releasing something extra special as a tribute to Alex but for now I want to share his last blog with you all which Jess has kindly forwarded to us.
Alex was a gearhead extraordinaire, we often enabled each other’s habits, and we loved and revelled in that! I bought a special edition Strat last year on a whim, and Alex was the only person who knew about it for a while, it was our shared habit, our secret consumer fix. When the Silver Sky came out from PRS Alex was all over it. I’ve lost count of how many he bought and flipped and re-bought – but he loved that guitar. Towards the end of last year I designed him a special t-shirt where I “cartoonised” a photo Jason gave me and made a Pokémon tribute t-shirt. Alex loved it, and was thrilled when he saw his friend, and fellow gear legend, Robert Keeley buy one online. That made his day. The photo of Alex wearing that shirt remains on my phone and always will.
If I learned one lesson from Alex it was to enjoy life every single day. He was dealt a tough deck by life, having endured a blood condition since he was 16 months old and multiple kidney transplants (the first coming from his Mom Debbie) since he was 2, but he enjoyed every day to the fullest and absolutely adored his family – especially spending time with Jess and the boys. It’s no exaggeration to say Alex was universally loved – everyone I have spoken with said words to the effect of “he was like my brother”. One of my fellow mods, Michael Clarke, summed it up the best when he said (in his own unique style),“He was like f**king Nanny Mcphee or Mary Poppins. There when you needed him and then off to help someone else”.
Below is Alex’s last blog. Its not finished but it deserves an audience. I’m already tearing up again, I’ve put off about writing this blog for about 2 weeks because it hurts, but it is needed. We will all heal as a community.
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog, and with all honesty it’s been based on the fact that I simply haven’t had anything I felt was worthwhile saying.
Many people saw the infamous “Nebula” Silver Sky that was unveiled at Winter NAMM 2020. If you’re not aware at his point, I’m a bit of a fan of the guitar itself. I need to preface this as I’m not affiliated with PRS in any way, I’ve just always been a fan of the brand.
The Nebula finish is an automotive paint considered a “flip-flop” paint, or sometimes a Chameleon paint job. You see it a lot on custom cars, and the color changes based on the way the light hits it. The Nebula was limited to 500 guitars total world-wide. By the time I had even checked on the idea of getting one, every dealer had sold out their preorders. If you frequent any guitar forums, you’ll know it got to the point where people were attempting to flip their preorders for a profit, many doubling the $2599 price tag ($300 more than the standard), and some got upwards of $6k.
I’m a fan, but I’m not THAT much of a fan.
I’m very much a fan of different colors, and my mood and tastes change about as often as a baby’s diaper. I’m one of those people where if I play a video game (I’m a huge fan of RPG’s) then I change my armor color or (if you’re a Star Wars fan) lightsaber color constantly based on the mood I’m feeling and the scenario. Nerdiness aside, that’s why the idea of the Nebula was enticing because it was ever-changing based on the light. On the flip-side of all of that, I’m also one that prefers to add a personal, unique spin on it if possible.
I’ve flirted with the idea of refinishing guitars for a while, but fear of the unknown has always made me leery of it. I made the mistake of attempting to refinish a Peavey Wolfgang in EVH stripes (but with blue, white and yellow) and absolutely ANNIHILIATED the guitar because I didn’t know what I was doing and it ended up being expensive firewood. Obviously if I were to do such a thing, I knew I needed a professional”
Alex considered both Jason and Brian to be his mentors so it is fitting that Jason writes the final part of this blog.
“I first ‘met’ Alex in November 2010, we were both members of the TDPRI forum and I had just designed my first logo for Wampler, the Paisley Drive. Alex was a massive fan of Brad and struck up a conversation and we quickly became friends – looking back now I realise he was one of my first ‘internet’ friends… The Paisley Drive is the pedal that bought Alex to the brand and he stayed with us throughout. In April 2015 Brian and I organised a special one-off pedal to go to Alex, the ambient pedal Brian designed for Brad that went on to become The Doctor. I made a special graphic for it that had his name on it, my absolute most cherished memory of Alex is the video Jess sent of him unwrapping it on his birthday…
It was shortly after this he joined our little team and worked closely with me on social media and marketing. I can honestly say that I spoke to him literally every day for almost 5 years which continued after I left Wampler, and every morning I wake up and am disappointed as there is no text from him waiting to be read on my phone.
I am so happy we got to spend a few days in each other’s company in January 2016 at Winter NAMM, I’ll never forget how he first walked into the restaurant we were meeting in, he was trying to play it cool, but was genuinely a little star struck (which is weird) to see Brian and team Wampler and it took him a little time to adjust, but once he did, it was like he had been with us forever.
Alex was the kind of person that left an impression, a positive impression – his lifelong blood condition that made him go through several kidneys and ultimately took his life was never an issue for him, he always worked through it without complaint, which always made me feel a little silly when I was under the weather and moaning about it.
If I take one thing away from my 10 years working for Wampler it is this… “Be more like Alex”.
Fly on brother, and we hope you found your Silver Sky.
Brian, Amanda, and the whole Wampler extended Family