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A Chameleon

Ryan Savage

Written By khari leigh miller

From Reverend Savage, to Pimp, to Dr Savage; a few of the many alter egos embodied by the chameleon that is Ryan Savage. Now settled in his character, he says Hastings saved his music career. “If I had moved anywhere else in this country, I would probably just be doing a bit of gardening now.”

The move to Hastings was a means of transition from his alter ego, Pimp, the predominant character throughout his twenties, to a more mature and sophisticated artist. 

The band Pimp had an interesting back story. Savage followed the works of reformed pimp and American author Robert Beck, aka Iceberg Slim. Also a musician, Beck made an album called ‘Reflections’ that was spoken word, mixed with a little jazz. Savage copied the album, playing it repeatedly in his Soho porn shop. He believes this helped him sell an enormous amount of porn at that time. Delving deeper into this character, he created the band Pimp. 

The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 created a new offence for publishing pornography, or obscene material, forcing sex shop owners, like Savage, to create the façade that their sex shop was actually a bookstore. His music was also in decline, calling for a change.

Far from a misogynist, Savage was never completely comfortable with his Pimp persona, although he admitted enjoying the sleazy lifestyle. Described as a car crash between Dr John and Professor Longhair during his Pimp days, Savage saw this artistically diverse town as an opportunity to change into a different character. 

“It’s not so much the playing, just being the character and being recognised as the character, its kind of nice.”

This new character, Dr Savage, gave him a new outlook on music. Initially, Savage had no intention of continuing in music, however he was seen as a wacky musician who dressed up to the nines, fitting perfectly with the theme of Fat Tuesday. Bob Tipler, one of the creators of the Fat Tuesday Festival, gave Dr Savage the opportunity to perform at the festival, as he admired his music style. Tipler believes the locals in Hastings were attracted to Dr Savage because he is an extrovert when he plays.

“He’s always a lot of fun to be around, and a very sharp cookie, which makes him such an interesting character.”

Savage embraces this Dr Savage character the most, proclaiming it as his favourite to date. But this does not stop this chameleon from exploring something new, as he is now working on a gospel acapella project alongside local Hastings musicians, Bob Tipler, Rufus Stone, Jeremiah Longshanks, and Tom Kelly. Inspired by The 5 Blind Boys of Alabama, he sees this idea as a new way for musicians to bare their souls. Taking away the amplification, effects and instruments allows the musicians to simply belt it out from the depth of their soul, so the audience receives much more.

Ryan Savage, a shy boy brought up in South Africa, now with the charm of an English gentleman, has used his alter egos throughout his life as a form of release, to be a mental extrovert. As he says, “when things are perfect, they lose their charm.” 

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