A hurricane, a guitar and the Texas blues

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter , Mary Cuervo

GALVESTON, Texas - An acoustic guitar that survived the wrath of Hurricane Ike only to surface years later was finally reunited with its owner, along with the story of a legendary Houston blues man. 

From the moment Kim Clemons laid eyes on a weathered Fender acoustic guitar at a League City auction house, she knew she had to find the owner. Clemons said it was the faded autographs on the guitar that triggered a feeling there was a deeper story behind the instrument and its owner.

Three weeks ago, Clemons contacted Local 2 and asked for help in tracking down the owner. At the time, the only clues were the guitar was found amidst the piles of debris left by Hurricane Ike in Chambers County and the autographs on the instrument appeared to have been written in the year 2000 to man with the first name of "Ashton."

Shortly after the story aired, it was passed around on social media and eventually the name Ashton Savoy came to light. Savoy was a Louisiana-born musician who left an indelible mark on Houston's blues scene before he passed away in 2009 at the age of 80.

"Playing with him was like coming home," said Tom McLendon, owner of The Big Easy blues club on Kirby near Robinhood.

McLendon helped fill the gaps of the story behind the guitar that somehow survived the winds and water of Ike intact. McLendon said the guitar was actually sold during an auction at his club in the year 2000 to help raise money for Savoy's medical bills. Savoy had been badly injured during a freak power line accident in Galveston in 1999.

To help fetch a higher price, the guitar was autographed by blues guitar legends like Rick Lee, Texas Johnny Brown, Steven Radney, Mark May, Oscar Obear, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Matt Leddy and Andy "Too Hard" Williams.

Tony Vega of the Tony Vega Band also signed the guitar.

"A lot of history on that guitar, a really special story," said Vega. "It's really surreal looking at that guitar."

The guitar was bought at auction by Robert Ellermann, who gave the instrument a prominent place in his home on Bolivar Peninsula.

"I looked at it every day, it was very special to me," said Ellermann.

When Ike roared ashore in September 2008, Ellermann's home was destroyed.

"The only thing I ever found was a number 14 billiard ball," said Ellermann. "I lost everything."

For more than five years, Ellermann had no idea the guitar he bought to help out an ailing bluesman had survived the storm.

"To float 18 miles away and be found, it's a godsend," said Ellermann.

The guitar was first found amidst the large piles of debris that washed across Galveston Bay and into the fields of Chambers County.

"It looked good and not beat up or anything," said Beth Newton, whose husband found the guitar while checking on wells after the storm. "We were just real surprised."

The guitar was then given to an auction house in League City owned by Lisa Gay and her husband. Gay said at first she tried to find out who may have owned the guitar but didn't have any luck.

"Never thought it would come full circle and it was such a great story," said Gay.

Clemons eventually found the guitar while searching for antiques for her business. After the story of her search for the owner aired on Local 2, and the identity behind the name "Ashton" revealed, Clemons arranged a gathering of all those who unwittingly helped reunite the guitar with Ellermann.

That gathering happened at The Big Easy; the same place where the guitar was first sold at auction and the club where Savoy's picture still hangs among the other great bluesman of his generation.

"We're a circle of friends now and it's because Ashton brought us together," said Clemons.

McLendon said the journey of this guitar only further enhances the legacy Savoy left behind.

"The fact this is now bringing Ashton back into the public memory I think is a beautiful thing," said McLendon.

Copyright 2014 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.